The cause of Russia and Ukraine conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin is center stage as Russia launches what appears to be a wide-ranging attack and large-scale military operation against its neighbor Ukraine.

There have been multiple reports overnight of explosions, bombing and Russian military vehicles entering Ukraine from various parts of the border with Russia, although many reports remain unconfirmed.

The invasion of Ukraine is an event that many close followers of the president have feared for months, and indeed, years.

Putin had already gained the world’s attention earlier this week after he ordered troops into two pro-Russian, breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and recognizing them as independent states.

Western officials and analysts scoffed at Putin’s claim that Russian troops sent into the region will act as “peacekeepers,” saying that the latest move could be a precursor to a larger invasion of Ukraine.

Political analysts have been predicting that Russia could pull such a move for a while, given an ongoing conflict in the Donbas between separatists, backed by Russia, and Ukrainian troops.

Nonetheless, Putin’s actions now, with a larger-scale attack, come earlier and appear more wide-ranging than many expected.

Why Ukraine?
Heightened fears of a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine have been present for some time, and eastern Ukraine has been the location of a proxy war between the two countries.

Soon after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, pro-Russian separatists proclaimed two republics in the eastern part of the country: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic — much to the Ukrainian government’s consternation.

Since then, there have been ongoing skirmishes and fighting in the region, which is known as the Donbas, between Ukraine’s troops and separatists.

Germany and France have tried to broker peace deals between Russia and Ukraine, known as the “Minsk agreements.” And although the fighting in the Donbas has been punctuated by periods of cease-fire, both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of violating the terms of the deals and fighting has resumed.

The armed conflict in the Donbas, often described as “war,” has already had a high human cost, with 13,000 to 14,000 people believed to have been killed. An accurate gauge of the death toll is hard to reach, given the civil war-like nature of the conflict.

On Tuesday, Putin told reporters that the “the Minsk agreements were dead long before yesterday’s [Monday’s] recognition of the people’s republics” and again blamed Kyiv for their failure.

What does Putin want?
Essentially, the battle over Ukraine is a battle for influence and power. Ukraine’s government, now under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has pivoted toward the West in recent years, aspiring to join the EU and NATO and to move away from its post-Soviet orbit of Russia.

Putin, meanwhile, has decried the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a catastrophe and over his 22-year rule in Russia he has sought to rebuild Russia’s power base and sphere of influence over former Soviet states, like Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine — something of the jewel in the crown in the USSR, and a natural buffer state against Europe.

Putin has often extolled the historical unity of Russia and Ukraine and did so again Monday when he ordered troops into the Donbas.

Ukraine’s drift toward the West aggravates Moscow because it does not want to see NATO, or the EU, expand eastward to incorporate Ukraine despite there being no imminent prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of either body.

In December, Russia demanded legal assurances that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO but those demands were refused. Analysts have said Putin knew the demands would be rejected but was then able to say Russia’s security concerns had been ignored, selling this to the Russian public via the media, most of which is pro-Putin because it is either state controlled or has links to the government.

As such, it’s no surprise that Russian state media has repeatedly blamed Ukraine and the West for aggravating tensions in the Donbas region, accusing both of spreading misinformation and of ignoring Russia’s security demands.

Russia’s latest actions have drawn international condemnation, with the U.S., EU, Japan, Australia and the U.K. all announcing new sanctions on Russia, although the country has already lived under sanctions for its Crimea annexation, 2016 U.S. election interference, cyberattacks and more.

All-out war in mind?
Close watchers of Putin have long believed that Russia has prepared for more sanctions and that Moscow has a bigger plan in mind when it comes to Ukraine, a hypothesis apparently being proven by the latest events in Ukraine.

Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said in a research note Tuesday that Putin’s recognition of the self-proclaimed republics meant that he “gets to bear the cost of supporting 3.5 million generally poor people. He gets the sanctions impact. He pulls out of Minsk 2, so gives up his plan for a Federal solution for Ukraine as a means to stop its Western move. And he is internationally seen as a bad guy stealing territory from other countries.”

10 thoughts on “The cause of Russia and Ukraine conflict

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: