The month of February was a turbulent one for the Ukrainian government in the year of 2014, especially after the president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from power after postponing Ukraine from joining the European Union. He fled the country after being voted out of office on February 21, 2014. In the middle of the chaos, the Russian Federation began to transport troops into Crimea, a strategic geographic area, under the guise of ensuring “proper conditions for the people of Crimea to be able to freely express their will.”
Crimea was annexed in a month, becoming part of the Russian Federation by March 21, 2014. A month after the annexation of Crimea, separatist movements in the Donbas, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine took up arms, fighting for their independence as over 50,000 casualties would be recorded in the following years, and the Russian Federation would supply the separatists, alongside assisting them in their efforts.
Although tensions have risen before in the region, they are coming to an all time high. In December 2020, Russia set out demands in a draft security pact. In that security pact, they demanded that the USA refrain from expanding further eastward in terms of NATO membership, and refrain from establishing military bases in any former Soviet states, which Ukraine is.
A military buildup occurred in the following days of the security pact, as Russian forces mobilized on the border, under the cover of “training exercises.” 100,000 soldiers rested on the border, as tanks and artillery units accumulated on the border.
Russian train loaded with BMPs, MT-LBs and T-80 tanks on the way to the border area with Ukraine on January 11, 2022.
Recently, tensions have begun to climb higher than ever before, as recent information disclosed by the US government revealed that the Russian Federation has plans to invade Ukraine, an invasion that Ukraine would not be able to fight back against successfully.
In hopes to calm tensions down, NATO and the Russian Federation entered negotiations, but they quickly broke down, due to multiple disagreements, including the inclusion of Ukraine into NATO.
Sergei Ryabkov, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, has stated, "If we don't hear constructive response to our proposals within reasonable timeframe & aggressive behavior towards (Russia) continues, we'll have to take necessary measures to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security." He also declared that if the United States government placed sanctions on the Russian Federation in the case of an invasion of Ukraine, it would be the equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties.
This is the closest to a major war that the European region has seen in decades, the last major flareup being the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990’s.
The future of Ukraine looks bleak, and it is certainly complicated. The United States could test Putin and see if the threat of retaliation is a bluff, or walk right into a trap, the latter seeming to be the closest to reality.
Top intelligence officials have discovered that Russia is preparing for a proxy attack on Russian forces, a proxy attack that would give justification to invade. National security advisor Jake Sullivan had this to say during a briefing on January 13, 2022. “Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating the pretext for an invasion.
A cyber attack also occurred on multiple Ukrainian government websites, as text on the websites read “Ukrainians!...All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect worse.”
In conjunction with Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, Russia has begun military exercises in Belarus, on the borders of Poland and Belarus, naming the exercises “Allied Resolve.”
Lukashenko told Belarusian state media, “These should be normal exercises to work out a certain plan for confronting these forces; the West, the Baltics, and Poland, and the south - Ukraine.”
In response to the buildup, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing, “We believe we’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine. No option is off the table.” A concerned State Department official told a CBS reporter that they were concerned about the recent troop movements in Belarus, telling the reporter it is “neither an exercise nor normal troop movement.”
It is a lose-lose situation for NATO, and most importantly, the United States. They either pull out, leaving Ukraine on their own, to stand against the giant Russian war machine, or stand by their ideals and support Ukraine, which could lead to an all out war between both nations.