Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power in response to wide protests against him across the country. Since then Russia has been pushing rebels in the east and backing separatists who are fighting against Ukrainian forces.
In late 2021, Russia started to deploy large numbers of its troops near Ukrainian borders, and showcasing its military exercises with Belarus. Meanwhile Russia denied the claims made by U.S. and its NATO partners that Russia could invade Ukraine. On February 21, 2022 President Putin announced the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent regions in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s recognition to these two regions is a clear violation of 2015 Minsk peace deal. Soon after recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk as independent regions, President Putin ordered his Defense Ministry to send troops in these two regions terming it as the function of peacekeeping. The move was condemned by US and NATO members. According to the U.S., Ukraine was surrounded by up to 190,000 Russian troops including pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
On February 24, 2022 Russian military launched the attack on Ukraine from different directions, air and ground invasion by targeting the capital, Kyiv and multiple Ukrainian cities. Russian forces have taken the control of Chernobyl nuclear site and are also advancing towards capital Kyiv. Through air and missile strikes Russian forces are targeting Ukrainian military sites including air defense sites and naval bases, as well as civilian buildings.
For a long time Russia has been demanding its security guarantees and assurances from the west that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO and NATO expansion towards eastward. President Putin thinks, if Ukraine would join NATO, the alliance might try to recapture Crimea. In returns of firm guaranties Russia said it would defuse the tension. But NATO neither is accepting Ukraine’s membership nor rejecting it. As a result Russia is not in the mood of defusing tension, despite calls from UN Security Council, UN General Assembly, US and NATO members to Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine and pull back its forces from Ukraine.
Now Ukraine in fighting alone, its forces and civilians are dying. There is a fear among people and they are helplessness and trying to leave their country. The question is how long Ukraine will fight with the super power. The U.S. and NATO members are only condemning Russian aggression and announcing sanctions against Russia. The question is how far sanctions will put impact Russia. Europe is fully dependent on Russian gas and oil, the sanctions will have an impact on Europe and rest of the world.
Now President Putin is considering ousting the incumbent government of President Zelensky. His aim is to free Ukraine from oppression and “cleansed of the Nazis”. He asked Ukrainian army to overthrow Zelensky and take over. In an address to the nation President Zelensky said he and his family is target number one, of the enemy.
The Russian invasion in Ukraine is not only alarming for Ukrainian people, but also for the rest of the Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a turning point in Europe’s history.
The U.S. and NATO made it clear that they will not send their troops to Ukraine for fighting, but offered advisers, weapons and field hospitals. U.S. and NATO put their forces and fighter jets on high alert in the wake of possible threat to their member states. President Zelensky is continuously asking for help from its western partners against the Russian aggression. He said still we are fighting alone, we are left alone and the powerful countries of world are watching from far away. He rejected a U.S. offer of his evacuation.
President Biden does not want direct war with Russia as he said, “in front of us there is no terrorist organization, but world’s powerful military”. The U.S. is avoiding this because it has no border with Ukraine and neither is Ukraine a large trade partner, nor is it an oil rich country. Indeed, China is the largest trade partner of Ukraine and on the other side China has also good relations with Russia. The world should take serious steps to stop the Russian aggression and bring it to the negotiation table. If not, this war can spread to Europe and could convert into a third world war, which will never be affordable for the rest of the world.
Its seems that U.S. is repeating the same thing with President Zelensky’s government as they did with Ashraf Ghani’s government in Afghanistan. But Zekensky is still in Ukraine and fighting against Russian aggression. Russian people are not in the favor of war and they are protesting against Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. They are saying this is Putin’s war not the Russian’s, insisting that Putin is a dictator and oppressor. China has abstained two times from voting in the United Nations Security Council because of its strong relations with Russia; as Russian President was among the few world leaders who participated in the inauguration ceremony of Beijing Olympics. Though China is still not considering it a war — calling it a military operation — it can play a pivotal role to defuse the situation.
There are other countries like Turkey and Iran which can also play a role in defusing the tension. The countries that consider that they can play a role should step up to the plate before its too late. Although the delegation from both sides met at the Belarusian border, the meeting ended without any conclusion. Every coming day is horrifying, with the Russia side demanding acceptance of its sovereignty over Crimea, and the other side, Ukraine, pushing for its membership in the European Union. In this crucial time there is an urgent need for a ceasefire to prevent the human catastrophe. If UN, NATO and European Union, cannot prevent war and Russia succeeds in fully occupying Ukraine then this will be the largest collective failure since the League of Nations.
*The writer is an Islamabad based freelance and Researcher