Russia-Ukraine Conflict

The Russia-Ukraine war has been in news. Read here to discover more about the background, geopolitical factors, and the contemporary condition of the conflict.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing and lengthy conflict that began in February 2014 and is largely fought between Russia and pro-Russian troops and Ukraine. The conflict has been centred on the status of Crimea and portions of the Donbas, both of which are internationally recognised as being part of Ukraine. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine exploded particularly between 2021 and 2022, when it became clear that Russia was preparing an invasion of Ukraine. The issue worsened in February 2022, after diplomatic efforts to pacify Russia failed; the situation deteriorated further when Russia moved forces into separatist-controlled territory on 22 February 2022.

Why in news?

Russia gathered a massive number of troops near the Russia-Ukraine border generating apprehensions on an oncoming war between the two nations and possible annexation of Ukraine.

What led to the Russia-Ukraine Conflict?

In December 2021, Russia presented an 8-point proposed security pact for the West. The document was aimed at reducing tensions in Europe especially the Ukrainian conflict.

But it featured problematic measures such barring Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), restraining the further growth of NATO, blocking drills in the region, etc.

Talks on the draught failed regularly and tensions intensified with the  Russian force buildup near the Russia-Ukraine border.

The problem has captured global attention and has been called to be capable of igniting a new “cold war” or possibly a “third world war”.

History of Russia-Ukraine Relations

With over 6 lakh sq. km area and more than 40 million populations, Ukraine is the second-largest country by area and the 8th populous in Europe.

Ukraine is bordered by Russia in the East, Belarus in the North, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the West. It also has a marine boundary with the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

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Ukraine was ruled by a variety of empires, most notably the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union.

It won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Orange Revolution of 2004-05

Following Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, the country experienced a series of protests and civil disturbances nicknamed the Orange Revolution.

The Supreme Court upheld the demonstrators’ allegations of voter fraud and corruption, and the court declared the election results invalid. Following the re-election, Viktor Yushchenko was declared the winner. His campaign colours were orange, therefore the moniker.

Euromaidan Protests

In 2014, the country gained international notice as a result of the Euromaidan movement, also known as the Revolution of Dignity. The civil unrests were motivated by a desire to depose then-President Viktor Yanukovych and restore 2004 constitutional reforms.

Crimea’s Annexation

Crimea is a peninsula in Eastern Europe located on the Black Sea’s northern coast. The population is primarily ethnic Russian, but also includes Ukrainians and Crimeans.

Crimea was seized by Russia in the 18th century. Crimea became an autonomous province of the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution.

Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader and a native Ukrainian, handed Crimea to Ukraine in 1954.

However, the status of Crimea has remained a point of contention since then.

Russian forces were sent to Crimea in February 2014, following the Ukrainian Revolution. In March, a vote on reunification with Russia was held, with 90 percent of the population voting in favour of joining Russia. Russia formally annexed Crimea in March 2014, despite resistance from Ukraine.

Russia-Ukraine Minsk Agreements

Following the 2014 Ukraine revolution and the Euromaidan movement, civil unrest erupted in Eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions (often referred to as the Donbas region).

Russians constitute the bulk of the population in these districts, and it has been reported that Russia financed anti-government campaigns there. In the region, Russia-backed militants and the Ukrainian military have engaged in gun clashes.

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Minsk I

In September 2014, the Trilateral Contact Group of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed the Minsk protocol (Minsk I) (OSCE). It is a 12-point ceasefire agreement that includes measures for weapon removal, prisoner swaps, and humanitarian assistance, among others. However, the agreement collapsed as a result of both parties’ transgressions.

Minsk II

The parties signed another another accord, dubbed Minsk II, in 2015. It includes measures granting further authority to rebel-controlled zones. However, due to disagreements between Ukraine and Russia, the terms remain unimplemented.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s biggest intergovernmental organisation devoted to security, having United Nations observer status. Its headquarters are in Vienna, Austria. It is composed of 57 members from Europe, Asia, and North America. India is not a member of the organisation. Consensus is used to make decisions.

Its mandate encompasses problems such as armaments control, human rights promotion, press freedom, and fair elections. Its beginnings date all the way back to the mid-1975 Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The CSCE was renamed the OSCE in 1994. It was founded as an East-West forum during the Cold War era.

The Russia-Ukraine War in the Modern Era

The most recent episode of Russia’s troop display near the Ukraine border is interconnected with all prior episodes. Not only Russia, but also the US and the European Union have an interest in Ukraine.

While Russia and Ukraine have centuries-old cultural links, the US and the EU view Ukraine as a buffer between Russia and the West.

Russia is seeking assurances from the West that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO, which is anti-Russian in nature. However, the US is unwilling to concede to Russia’s demands.

The sudden escalation of hostilities is due to the following factors:

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Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s freshly elected President, has been tough on Russian sympathisers in the country and has worked against Moscow’s interests.

Perceived indecision in the US administration under incoming President Joe Biden, as well as Washington’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The enormous interest that Russian President Vladimir Putin has in Ukraine. According to Putin, Ukraine represents the “red line” that the West must not cross.

India’s Position on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

India has historically maintained a circumspect attitude toward the Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, India recently intervened in the dispute and urged for a peaceful conclusion through ongoing diplomatic efforts to ensure long-term peace and stability.

New Delhi and Moscow have a long-standing and trusting relationship, owing to Russia’s role as a key arms supplier to India.

India has placed itself at risk of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) by purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile defence system.

India, on the other hand, requires the US and EU’s assistance in balancing its strategic calculation.

Additionally, India refrained from voting on a United Nations resolution defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Even now, India is exercising patience in the hope that the crisis will be resolved peacefully by astute negotiators.

A Path Forward

The Russia-Ukraine confrontation is endangering the delicate balance the world is currently in, and its escalation might have numerous global consequences. There is a compelling justification for de-escalation, since a peaceful resolution of broken relations benefits everyone in the area and throughout the world.

With the assistance of other European allies such as the UK, Germany, and France, the US can play a critical role in resolving the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Negotiations and strategic investments should be directed at resolving the conflict in a sustainable manner.

It will not be sufficient to just smooth over the challenges; significant effort must be paid to structuring the military disengagement in order to limit the likelihood of backsliding.

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