On the edge of Europe and thousands of miles from the United States, Ukraine’s involvement extends far beyond its borders.
First of all, a Russian invasion would take the lives of 44 million Ukrainians. But its fate has enormous implications for the rest of Europe, the health of the global economy, and America’s place in the world.
It would raise concerns about the security of other former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. It would raise concerns about the strength of the post-1989 international order and the possibility of American influence over it. And it would risk increasing fuel prices around the world.
This is how Ukraine ended up at the center of a global crisis.
Why are Russia, America and Europe so interested in Ukraine?
Both Russia and the West see Ukraine as a potential buffer against each other.
Russia considers Ukraine to be within its natural sphere of influence. Part of the Russian Empire for most of the centuries, many Ukrainians are native Russian speakers, and the country was part of the Soviet Union until independence in 1991.
Russia was unnerved when an uprising in 2014 replaced Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president with a government that clearly faced the West.
Most of the former Soviet republics and allies in Europe have joined the European Union or NATO. Ukraine’s move away from Russia’s influence sounds like the final death knell for Russian power in Eastern Europe.
For Europe and the United States, Ukraine is important in part because they see it as a common force for its own influence and for Russian intentions in the rest of Europe. Ukraine is not part of the European Union or NATO. But it receives substantial financial and military support from Europe and the United States. Should Russia invade, it suggests Moscow may feel empowered to increase tensions with other former Soviet republics that are now members of the Western alliance, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Any Russian invasion would further threaten American dominance in world affairs. By winning the Cold War, the United States established enormous influence over the international order, but that influence has waned over the past decade and a Russian invasion could hasten the process. there. By reinforcing NATO, the United States can hope to slow that process, or even reverse it.
Ukraine was often in the news during the Trump administration. Why?
Ukraine is at the center of an unsuccessful attempt to impeach President Donald J. Trump in 2020.
Months before impeachment, Trump blocked $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. Soon after, Mr. Trump asked the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate discredited corruption allegations involving Joseph R. Biden Jr., then Mr. Trump’s most trusted Democratic challenger.
As a result, Mr. Trump is accused of asking a foreign entity – Ukraine – to illegally interfere in the US political system, and change state policy to help him personally. The impeachment vote narrowly failed.
Ukraine is also at the center of a scandal involving former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. In 2018, Manafort was jailed for concealing more than $30 million in consulting fees he received from Ukrainian financiers and government officials to advance the political fortunes of Viktor Yanukovych, the president. Pro-Russian Ukraine was ousted during the 2014 uprising. Mr. Manafort advised Mr. Yanukovych between 2006 and 2014, before he fled to Russia, and before Mr. Manafort began working for Mr. Mr. Trump.
Didn’t Russia invade parts of Ukraine?
Yes. After the 2014 uprising, Russian troops in unmarked uniforms invaded Crimea, a strategically important peninsula on the Black Sea. In a referendum condemned as illegitimate by most of the world, the region was subsequently voted by a majority to join Russia.
At the end of 2014, pro-Russian separatists backed by Russian troops and military hardware captured the eastern regions of Ukraine, establishing two rebel republics – in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. – which any other country still does not recognize.
Fighting continues today between the Ukrainian state and the separatists. For many Ukrainians, the threat of a broader Russian intervention in Ukraine is thus just the latest episode of an eight-year war that has not ended. And that war is likely to continue, whether or not Russia invades in the coming days.
What do Ukrainians want?
The threat of another Russian invasion has reinforced a growing sense of national pride and solidarity among Ukrainians, even among those who grew up speaking Russian.
Most recently in 2001, opinion polls showed that about half of Ukrainians supported leaving the Soviet Union. Today, more than 80% support Ukraine’s independence and more than half support joining NATO.
Despite anxiety courses across the country, life continues more or less as usual in most cases. Both civilians and government leaders say they remain calm amid foreign reports of an impending invasion, and some even say they doubt Russia will actually invade. But at the same time, more and more civilians are joining volunteer defense units and signing up for first aid courses.
How can Ukraine and its supporters prevent another Russian invasion?
Ukraine could promise to abandon all efforts to join NATO, or implement a pair of never-enforced peace agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 that are deemed in Russia’s favor.
Under the agreements, known as the Minsk Agreements, the two breakaway territories would rejoin Ukraine – but only in a federal system that could give the territories veto power over Ukraine’s foreign policy. .
But the Ukrainian government is handcuffed, at least in the short term. Abandoning the will of NATO would be contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine. And a December poll found that three-quarters of Ukrainians either completely reject the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, or want them revised.
The US and Europe have more cards. Washington could cut Russia’s largest financial institutions from the global financial system, crippling the Russian economy. Germany may stop deploying Nord Stream 2, a major new pipeline transporting Russian gas to Europe. The UK can place restrictions on Russian oligarchs with properties and assets in the UK.
Understanding the escalating tension in Ukraine
And then there’s the diplomatic route: The Kremlin insists the crisis is not just about Ukraine, but also about NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe, which Russian President Putin describes as a threat. existential threat to Russia’s security.
He wants NATO to withdraw from the region and ensure that neither Ukraine nor any other country there will ever join the alliance. President Biden affirmed that the United States is open to continuing to negotiate, but it will remain committed to the idea that every country should be free to choose its own alliances.
Why is Ukraine so vulnerable?
Despite Western funding and weapons, Ukraine is not actually a NATO member, and therefore cannot count on direct military support from the United States and its allies. The country’s military, although it has received hundreds of millions of dollars in Western aid in recent years, is still no match for Russia.
It is also surrounded by Russia’s allies and proxies – and by Russia itself. Russian troops are concentrated not only along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, but also along the Belarusian border, just over 50 miles north of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Russian troops are also stationed in Transnistria, a small and unrecognized breakaway region from Moldova, to the west of Ukraine. If Russian troops invade from some or all of these locations, the Ukrainian Army may be stretched too thin to be able to deploy an effective defensive force.
Future allies like Germany may also be wary of enacting economic measures to deter Russia. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian fuel, and Russia is Germany’s major trading partner.
What are the possible economic effects of an invasion?
Some of the world’s main grain supplies pass through the Black Sea, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, two major wheat producing countries. Military action could disrupt both grain production and distribution, increasing food costs for consumers around the world.
Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas, most of which is now shipped through Ukraine. Any disruption at either end of that supply chain would force European countries to look elsewhere for fuel, most likely driving up world oil prices.
Is it a certain invasion?
The United States and other countries say an invasion is possible within days, and have evacuated staff from the Ukrainian capital in preparation. But Ukraine and the US can still take steps to appease Russia. And Russia can still avoid an invasion.
The economic damage of Western sanctions, and the potential death toll of a protracted war in Ukraine, could be too great a price to pay for Moscow.
https://www.nytimes.com/article/ukraine-russia-putin.html Things to know about the crisis with Russia