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Is There an Impending War Between Russia and Ukraine?

Tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border continue to stir with the threat of a Russian Invasion 

In recent weeks, tensions between Russia and NATO have risen to their highest level. The U.S. and its European allies continue their attempts to deter a potential invasion of Ukraine. 

Standoff

Russian view: Russian officials have placed a heavy emphasis on the 2015 Minsk peace deal, which was  designed to end the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow-backed separatists in the contested Donbas region, following the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Kremlin has accused the Ukrainian government of not fulfilling their particular side of the agreement. Russian officials also sought assurances that Ukraine is never allowed to join the NATO military alliance, which is viewed as an Anti-Russia alliance. In a December ultimatum provided to the United States by the Kremlin, Russia demanded assurances that NATO would withdraw troops from countries that joined the military alliance after 1997. 

During a joint news conference, Russian President Putin asserted that he was opposed to NATO expansion in the east, “because it poses a common threat to us.”

Ukrainian view: Ukrainian officials have been criticizing the 2015 Minsk peace deal that was brokered after a string of military losses. The officials report that they will support the agreement only if it is restructured. Ukraine has also stated it is open to talking with the Russian government in a third country. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov reported, “Ukraine stands ready for negotiations in Istanbul, as well as in Geneva, Vienna or any other place that is impartial and doesn’t depend on one of the sides, namely Russia.”

Western view: The United States and its European allies have reportedly opposed the Minsk deal, but called on all parties of the agreement to fulfill their side of the bargain. Additionally, the Biden administration has rejected Russia’s demands involving NATO. Instead, the officials have called on Russia to pull back its forces from the Ukrainian border and halt its support for separatists in Donbas. 

Following the meeting with President Putin on Monday, French President Macron said that NATO’s open-door policy is vital, and the independence of former Soviet Union states such as Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova must be preserved. 

Military Strength 

Russian troops: Last year, the Kremlin began moving troops to regions bordering Ukraine. Western officials have reported a presence of more than 100,000 Russian troops in the region and Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia. 

Last week, military drills with its ally Belarus also began. 

The Biden administration reported that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine, possibly after Moscow creates a pretext by spreading images of civil casualties to increase tensions between the nations. Also, the U.K. has said that Russia plans to destabilize the Ukrainian government and install a pro-Russian government. A White House assessment reported that Russia had amassed around seventy percent of the combat forces required to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. If executed, this assault would be the largest land offensive in Europe since WWII. 

NATO forces: The United States has responded to the recent Russian aggression by deploying more troops to Eastern Europe. They have deployed around 3000 U.S. troops to NATO’s eastern flank. Before this, the Pentagon also put around 8500 U.S. troops on heightened alert. 

NATO allies have also been moving military hardware, with both Denmark and Belgium. This includes sending F-15 and F-16 fighter jets to the Baltics last month. Great Britain has offered to send resources and supplies as well. 

NATO has said that they would not send troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion. Although Ukraine is at the center of the dispute, the nation is not a NATO member, and hence not covered by the allegiance’s collective defense clause. 

Ukrainian forces: With the risk of a mass-scaled conflict, Ukraine’s political leadership has largely been downplayed. Ukrainian President Zelensky has been telling Ukrainians to “take a breath” and “calm down.” However, some officials have offered a more forceful reaction. The President has also taken steps to strengthen the country’s armed forces, bringing them from 250,000 active troops to about 360,000 troops. This fraction is only about a third or so of Russia’s 900,000 strong armed forces.

As tensions continue to rise, all signs point towards war. However it may develop, this conflict will have a profound global effect.  

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