By Declan Carey
TENSION has continued to rise between Ukraine and Russia this month after diplomatic efforts between NATO and president Putin led to a stalemate.
Separatists have occupied Ukrainian territory since 2014 and reports of 100,000 Russian soldiers near the Ukrainian border have sparked fears of war.
Without further action, the next few weeks could lead to a serious escalation which would have consequences for the whole world.
Why is Russia threatening to invade Ukraine?
Putin claimed Ukraine is a product of the Soviet Union and ‘on the lands of historical Russia’ in an essay published last July.
Russian military action in Ukraine so far has focused in the Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
However, Ukraine has been an independent nation for over thirty years and has its own language and culture separate from Russia.
Some commentators argue that, more than anything else, a lack of action from western nations has emboldened Putin to continue his aggression against Russia’s neighbours including Ukraine and Georgia.
In an article for the Conversation, Tatsiana Kulakevich, assistant professor of instruction at the University of South Florida, wrote: “Putin’s decision to engage in a military buildup along Ukraine is connected to a sense of impunity.
“Putin also has experience dealing with Western politicians who champion Russian interests and become engaged with Russian companies once they leave office.”
In short, western alliances are not doing enough to stop Putin taking military action to expand Russia’s borders.
What will happen if war breaks out?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament that in the event of war Britain is prepared to deploy troops to protect NATO allies.
Reports have emerged of British weapons being transported to Ukraine to bolster defence in the event of a Russian invasion.
In a press conference on January 19, 2022, US president Joe Biden said he believes Putin is currently ‘calculating what the immediate, short-term, and the near-term, and the long-term consequences’ of war will be.
So far, the US has led efforts to negotiate with Russia but it is unclear whether American troops would be involved in the event of an invasion.
As Ukraine is not a NATO member, the military alliance and its members are not obliged to defend it.
This could mean Ukraine and Russia fighting a bloody and prolonged war on NATO and EU borders.
Will Ukraine become a NATO member?
Ukraine is a NATO partner and has been developing relations with the military alliance since the 1990s.
The NATO-Ukraine Commission was established following a partnership charter in 1997 to intensify dialogue and cooperation with Ukraine.
Despite progress, it seems unlikely that Ukraine will become a NATO member soon.
If Ukraine were a NATO member, it could trigger Article 5 – an agreement among members that an attack on one is an attack on all – forcing world powers to send troops to defend against Russia, leading to a further escalation in violence.
One of Russia’s key claims is that NATO has expanded eastward into its historical sphere including in the Baltics, and it wants reassurances that Ukraine will not join.
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