Why Europe is closest to war in 70 years

Although on Tuesday, Russia said they plan “to partially pull back troops” from where some 130,000 troops have been deployed along the Ukrainian border, Europe is still under the shadow of war.

The west says they have not seen any evidence of withdrawals on Russia's behalf, leaving leaders unsure about how to proceed next.

Even if Russias pulls through with its promise of de-escalation, the issues that have created this standoff still remain unresolved.

Putin's most obvious goal for a Ukrainian invasion would be to increase Russia's sphere of influence in eastern Europe. He may also hope it would present Russia as a superpower and regain the once lost empire Russia had under the Soviet Union.

The roots of this crisis go back to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

When the union split apart in the early ’90s, Ukraine was left with the world's third-largest atomic arsenal.

The US and Russia worked hard to denuclearize the country. After a series of diplomatic agreements, Kyiv agreed to give hundreds of nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for security assurances that protected them from potential attacks from Russia.

However, this agreement was completely broken when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.

Due to fears of creating tension with Russia, the west was slow to produce a diplomatic response and supply Ukrainians with offensive weapons.

Ian Kelly, a diplomat who serves as an ambassador to Georgia said “It just basically showed that if you have nuclear weapons” — as Russia does — “you’re inoculated against strong measures by the international community.”

This reluctance from the West in 2014 potentially suggests to Putin that his goal of reclaiming some of the empire lost by the fall of the Soviet Union is possible.

The current crisis has been renewed after the 2019 election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky, initially a TV comedian, is relatively new to politics and diplomacy and thus may have appeared as an easy target for Russia. In Zelensky's campaign, he promised to restart peace talks to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, dealing with Putin directly.

The deal Putin put to Zelensky was to implement the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements. Whilst those deals would bring pro-Russian regions back unto Ukraine, it would create a “Trojan horse”, one expert said, for Moscow to wield influence and control.

These agreements would be impossible for any Ukraina president to accept, and so, despite pressure from Russia, Zelensky turned to NATO for help.

Zelensky has talked openly about joining NATO.

If Ukraine became a member, they would receive protection and security from Russia due to NATOs policy; if war is declared on one nation, it is declared on the whole union. This would make it extremely unwise for Russia to invade Ukraine if it was a member as it would have to deal with 31 powerful nations.

When President G.W.Bush declared support for the idea of Ukraine being a NATO member in 2008, it created expectations for Ukraine and “drove Russia nuts” according to Steven Pifer, an ambassador to Ukraine under President Clinton.

However, the reality of Ukraine becoming a NATO member is extremely unrealistic. Failing to meet the conditions of democracy and rule of law, they fail to have the unanimous acceptance of all 30 member countries, a necessity for joining.

This leaves Ukraine in a difficult position; their application for an alliance will never be accepted, irritating a potential opponent just next door, and they fail to have any degree of NATO protection.

For Russia, Ukraine appears like an easy target as NATO is currently in turmoil.

The US's diplomatic blunders that have been caused by Trump and Afghanistan has alienated their European partners. Whilst in Europe, the Brexit fallout remains an issue. Furthermore, Germany's new chancellor Olaf Scholz and the coalition Government is trying to establish Germany's foreign policy.

The west is also dependent on Russian oil imports, placing them in a difficult position.

Although NATO has threatened Russia with economic sanctions, if they are used they will harm NATO economies as well as Russia. Russia, unlike Iran or North Korea, is a major economy that is heavily involved with Trade. One potential impact of these sanctions may be cost-push inflation caused by the West's dependence on raw materials.

All in all, the situation in Ukraine remains, causing tension that may remain for years to come between Russia and NATO. Russia's next moves remain uncertain, and so only time will the events to come.


Sky news: Ukraine live updates

The Guardian: The edge of war: What, exactly, does Putin want in Ukraine

Vox: The increasingly complicated Russia-Ukraine crisis explained


Written by Charlotte Hurst

Research compiled by Charlotte Hurst


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