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The crisis in Ukraine between the Western camp and Russia

Introduction

Nowadays, there are growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, as the crisis of relations between them has entered its seventh year. Given the inflammatory situation in the region,  that threatens large-scale military confrontations, especially in light of the military concentrations of both sides on the border strip separating them, where it is witnessing a bloody conflict between the separatists, backed directly by Russia, and the Ukrainian government backed by the West. The complexity of the issue was compounded in its current phase by a kind of challenge among the new US administration and NATO and Moscow with regard to the Ukrainian file, which raises questions about the future of this crisis and the consequences of the current escalation, especially with the unequal balance of power between the two countries.

Tension .. causes and consequences:

The tension between Moscow and Kiev began after the arrival of pro-Western leaders to the power in Ukraine, following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych from office in February 2014 and his escape to Russia due to massive protests in the country. At that time, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, considered what was happening in his western neighbour as “a coup and armed takeover of the power” [1], as a result, he responded by annexing Crimea – where it is located in southern Ukraine and overlooking the Black Sea – through a unilateral referendum that took place in March 2014, which was not recognized by the United States of America or the European Union. In addition, the pro-Russian rebels managed to declare the Donsteq and Luhansk territories in the Donbass region as independent republics of Ukraine and loyal to Russia [2].

For seven years, clashes have been continuing in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine between government forces and the separatists backed by Russia militarily and politically. Although the Kremlin denied its support for them, claiming that Russian “volunteers” who are providing support to the rebels [3], as the confrontations have reportedly caused the deaths of more than 13,000 people since then, and until the beginning of 2021 [4].

The confrontations has escalated in the region over the past few weeks, following the killing of 8 Ukrainian soldiers by the separatist fire [5], amid trade of accusations between the two sides, as the rebels accused Ukraine of killing a child and wounding a woman in a bombing operation carried out by a drone in the village of Alexandreevsky, while the Ministry of Defense announced That the Ukrainian militants violated the ceasefire in the east of the country 21 times on April 2-2021 [6].

The unprecedented escalation between both sides constitutes a serious blow to ceasefire agreement regarding Donbas region, which signed in July 2020, and considered as a development to the “Minsk 1” agreement signed in 2014, and “Minsk 2” signed in 2015 with a French-German mediation to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and the separatists, Minsk 2 included the ceasefire between both sides, creating buffer zone, the withdrawal of the heavy weapons, and the release of all prisoners and hostages held since the start of the conflict from both ends [7].

Following these tensions, Russian has deployed 28 military battalions, comprising about 32,700 soldiers, on the borders with Ukraine and in the Crimea, according to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ruslan Khumchak, who accused Moscow of pursuing an “aggressive policy” [8], while Moscow justified These movements by saying that they are taking place within its borders, and aiming to “ensure its security, and do not pose any threat” [9] to any side. Russia stressed that the military exercises that it had carried out, aimed at responding to “threatening” actions by NATO [10]; In reference to the military exercise made by the Ukrainian and NATO forces near the borders of Belarus last September [11]. Russia has also carried out military exercises in the Black Sea in concurrence with the US’s announcement of sending two warships to the region in support of Ukraine [12], but Washington canceled this plan without explaining the reasons [13], and Moscow intends to close parts of the Black Sea to foreign military and shipping vessels for a six months. As Washington considered this step an “unjustified escalation aimed at undermining and destabilizing Ukraine” [14].

On the other side, Ukrainian forces have mobilized thousands of their soldiers on its entire eastern borders, and carried out military exercises near the border with Crimea [15], and announced its intention to conduct joint military exercises with NATO forces in the upcoming months [16]. In addition, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the front lines of defense to find out what was going on there, and called on NATO to accelerate the annexation of his country to NATO, considering this step as the only way to end the conflict with the separatists [17], while the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andrei Melnik called for the annexation of his country to NATO or regaining its nuclear weapons to strengthen its military position in the face of Russia [18].

Kyiv accuses Moscow of mobilizing its forces on the borders, raising alarm about a military action similar to what happened in 2014, which led to the annexation of the Crimea peninsula to Russia and a de facto separation of two regions in eastern Ukraine. It also accuses it of non-adherence to international agreements, and its attempt to disrupt the ceasefire that was approved on July 27-2020 [19], and recruiting its nationals living in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to serve in its forces [20]. As a result, it calls on NATO to respond politically to the Russian’s military concentrations off its eastern borders.

Russia is accusing Ukraine of planning an attack to regain territories from the separatists in the Donbas region, which violates the signed agreements, but the latter denied that [21], Moscow threatened its neighbour with “destruction” if it sparked a new war in the region [22], and called on it to stop “drafting new agreements and documents” to settle the crisis in Donbas and to implement the obligations stipulated in the Minsk agreements [23]. Moscow also warned NATO not to send forces to assist Kiev, and said: It would take “additional measures” if such a step was taken [24]. It also accused the United States and other member states of NATO of turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” [25] by increasing the arms supplies to the region.

In order to reduce the tension between the two sides, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with the presidents of France and Germany, to discuss reaching a new ceasefire agreement, and to discuss the security situation in the east of the country, and to end the “occupation” of the Ukrainian lands [26]. While Moscow has announced its withdrawal to its military equipment from their previous positions, stressing that “the surprise test achieved its full objectives, and its troops will respond appropriately to any developments near the country’s borders, ”while Washington affirmed that it“ closely monitors ”the withdrawal of Russian troops, and called on Moscow to translate its words into action [27].

According to a report made by the Wall Street Journal, the current situation in eastern Ukraine is a test for US President Joe Biden’s administration [28]. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrei Taran believes that Moscow’s goal from these movements is to store nuclear weapons in the Crimean peninsula, and control of water sources that feed the Crimea region, after Kyiv cut off most of the freshwater supplies in the region, which led to a water crisis [29].

The international positions towards the Russian’s military concentrations:

US President Joe Biden, during a phone call with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, expressed his concern about the “sudden military reinforcement” of Moscow along the Ukrainian border and in the Crimea peninsula, and he called on him to de-escalate the tensions, US President also stressed Washington’s firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and keeping its territorial integrity [30], while US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned Russia that acting recklessly or aggressively against Ukraine would have “costs and consequences” [31].

Moreover, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed the hope that the escalation in eastern Ukraine will soon be ended “as soon as possible” and that the conflict to be resolved through dialogue on the basis of the “Minsk” agreement [32]. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab described the Russian troop movements as a “threat to Ukraine” [33]. While the G7 ministers stated in a joint statement that, the Russian behaviour in Ukraine “undermines the regional sovereignty, integrity and independence” [34].

Germany and France, for their part, which are “mediating” between Russia and Ukraine, called in a joint statement that the two countries to “exercise restraint and the immediate halt to escalation” between the two countries, and called for an end to the restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of the special observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is assigned to following up the efforts to de-escalate tension [35]. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron threatened Russia to impose sanctions on it if it showed “unacceptable behaviour” such as invading Ukraine [36].

NATO called on Russia to end its military concentrations, and refrain from provocations, and also de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. It called on Moscow to end its support for the militants in eastern Ukraine, withdraw its troops from Ukrainian lands, and confirmed that NATO would continue providing political and practical support to Ukraine [37].

Crimea platform:

After seven years of the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the crisis came back again to the surface, especially after the Russian troops mobilized thousands of their soldiers in it, following a tweet by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuliba, in which he talked about the “three pillars” thanks to which Kiev hopes to restore the Crimean peninsula, these pillars are represented in the strategy of ending the Russian “occupation” of the island, and reintegrating and uniting the efforts of partners on the basis of the international “Crimean platform”, in addition the application of international law to the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the Crimea [38].

Kiev intends to hold the “Crimean Platform” summit next May-2021 in an attempt to discuss ways to “restore” Crimea from Russia, and invited a number of countries – including: Turkey, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, the United States, Kuwait and NATO – to join To the “platform”, while Moscow views the strategy of “ending the occupation of Crimea” as “an unacceptable threat of aggression against two entities of the Russian Federation,” referring to the Crimea peninsula and the city of Sevastopol located in it, and considered the participation of any state in the “Crimean platform.” “An infringement of Russia territorial integrity [39].

The Ukraine’s invitation to the “Crimean Platform” summit have been gained wide international and Western acceptance, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Ankara’s support for Kiev’s efforts to restore Crimea [40], and the G7 ministers, in a joint principled statement, welcomed the initiative, and confirmed that they did not recognize the “occupation”. The Russian Provisional Authority for Crimea [41].

Geographical location of Ukraine and its importance:

Geographically, Ukraine is the second largest European country, and is bordered on the northern side by Belarus, and Slovakia, Hungary and Poland on the western side, while Moldova and Romania is bordering it on the southwestern side, and Russia is bordering it on the eastern and northeastern sides. Ukraine has a coastline on the Black Sea, and on the Sea of Azov is in the southeast. the Republic of Crimea is located on the southern borders of Ukraine.

This important geographical location of Ukraine made it a link and an attraction point between the Russian camp and the Western powers camp, which acquires the country geopolitical and strategic importance for the West and NATO. It has also great importance to Russia in all respects; Whether historically, politically or economically. Because it has vast and huge military, industrial and agricultural wealth and capabilities, as it is the third-largest exporter of corn in the world, and the sixth-largest exporter of wheat, and possesses large natural resources of iron ore, coal, natural gas, oil, salt and other mineral resources. Ukraine is considered as the Back garden ”for Moscow, and its geographical location plays a large role in the transit of Russian gas supplies to western European countries.

Conclusion

Based on the above, it becomes evident that Russia rejects Ukraine’s membership in any Western bloc; Especially NATO, and considers any presence of NATO or the United States of America in the territory of Ukraine or the Black Sea a direct threat to its security and stability. It therefore decided to close navigation in the Black Sea for a period of six months, with the aim of preventing weapons supplies from reaching the area. It seems that the ambitions of Ukraine to join NATO urgently, are that raised the concerns of Russia and pushed it to mobilize thousands of its troops on its western border with Ukraine, in addition to its attempt to hold an international conference on Crimea, aimed at increasing political and economic pressure on Moscow to end the “occupation of Crimea.”

It seems that the United States of America and Western countries are wary of accelerating the annexation of Ukraine to NATO. The region is already standing on a hot tin roof. It does not seem in the interest of any side at the present time to be dragged into military confrontations, which could make the sides to the crisis resort to increasing the diplomatic means of pressure on Russia, while showing military force, not using it. As it would – if used – worsen the situation in the Black Sea region.

[1] https://bit.ly/2QHamsu

Russia Today, Putin: The situations in Ukraine are a coup and there is no need so far to use our troops in it, but it is possible to do.

https://bit.ly/3gKlZtQ

Al Jazeera, eastern Ukraine … an independent, suspended state.

[3] https://bbc.in/3n2MLyN

BBC Arabic, Russia warns NATO against sending troops to Ukraine as tensions escalate.

[4] https://bit.ly/3dw27sl

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Canada imposes sanctions on Russian companies and individuals over the Crimean case.

[5] https://bit.ly/3tC3gEu

Office of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky discusses with Justin Trudeau the critical situation in the Donbas and the support of the Euro-Atlantic integration to Ukraine.

[6] https://bit.ly/3tCHvUT

Al-Jazeera, Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing 20 military sites, and Moscow warns of an attempt to retake the Crimea.

[7] https://bit.ly/2Qkb7Ib

Al-Jazeera, the most prominent point of the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine.

[8] https://bit.ly/3xdM1va

Al Arab, Ukraine is an old, new scene of confrontation between Russia and the United States of America.

[9] https://reut.rs/3n1LW9s

Reuters, The Kremlin: Military movements near Ukraine are defensive and does not a pose threat.

[10] https://bit.ly/32W2eHH

Euro News, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister accuses Moscow of “publicly” threatening to destroy Kiev.

[11] https://bit.ly/3tvJkTD

The Middle East, military experiences between Ukraine and NATO near the borders of Belarus.

[12] https://reut.rs/2PbDgAU

Reuters, Russia and Ukraine hold military exercises and NATO criticizes the Russian troop buildup.

[13] https://bit.ly/3x6xq4Z

Anatolia, Washington informs Ankara of canceling the passage of two warships from the Turkish straits.

[14] https://bit.ly/3ekdjYe

France 24, Washington considers Moscow’s ban on navigation in parts of the Black Sea a “unjustified escalation”.

[15] https://reut.rs/2PbDgAU

Reuters, Russia and Ukraine hold military exercises and NATO criticizes the Russian troop buildup.

[16] https://bit.ly/3em66Hh

Al-Arabiya Net, tension is escalating on the borders of Russia and Ukraine … and military experiences from both sides.

[17] https://bit.ly/2QiuSQy

Tweet on Twitter for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

[18] https://bit.ly/3n2VFfw

Ukraine in Arabic, Melink: Either NATO accepts Ukraine’s membership or we regain our nuclear weapons.

[19] https://bit.ly/32AhGJ6

Office of the President of Ukraine, Deputy Head of Office of the President discusses the security situation in Donbas and Euro-Atlantic-Ukrainian integration with the head of the NATO mission in Ukraine.

[20] https://bit.ly/2P8q4N6

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine regarding the illegal recruitment of Ukrainian citizens in the Crimea to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

[21] https://bloom.bg/3tNAqBf

Bloomberg, Here is what provokes tension once again between Russia and Ukraine.

[22] https://bit.ly/2QKz2jR

Alquds Alarabi Newspaper, Lavrov: sparking a new war in Donbas will destroy Ukraine.

[23] https://bit.ly/32tPrMb

Russia today, Moscow warns Kiev over the Donbas and Crimea.

[24] https://bbc.in/3n5fanQ

BBC Arabic, Russia warns NATO against sending troops to Ukraine as tensions escalate.

[25] https://bit.ly/3egTMbk

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a Ukrainian minister accuses Moscow of threatening “publicly” to destroy Kiev.

[26] https://bit.ly/3v6VfaR

AFP, Ukraine calls for a quadripartite summit with the participation of Putin to discuss ceasefire.

[27] https://bit.ly/3exHXh6

Russia Today, Washington: We are closely following the situation at the borders of Ukraine after Russia announced the withdrawal of its troops.

[28] https://on.wsj.com/32xLiXS

Wall Street Journal, testing of Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border, poses a challenges to Biden administration.

[29] https://reut.rs/3aqUXUs

Reuters, before holding a meeting for NATO … Ukraine says Russia may stockpile nuclear weapons in the Crimea.

[30] https://bit.ly/3dymC7D

The White House, reading of President Joe Biden’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[31] https://arbne.ws/3n2c3x1

Al-Hurra, Washington warns of the “consequences” of a Russian “aggression” against Ukraine.

[32] https://bit.ly/3tDvEWF

Anatolia, Erdogan: We hope that the escalation in eastern Ukraine ends and the conflict be resolved through dialogue.

[33] https://bit.ly/3dzJ3JN

Tweet on Twitter by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

[34] https://bit.ly/3xerRBh

Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, G7 Foreign Ministers Statement on Ukraine.

[35] https://arbne.ws/3uXKZSi

Al-Hurra, after escalating the tension between Ukraine and Russia .. Berlin and Paris call for “restraint.”

[36] https://bit.ly/3ehA6UG

France 24, Macron is ready to impose “sanctions” on Russia and calls for “clear red lines” with it.

[37] https://bit.ly/3arXbTw

NATO, The NATO-Ukraine Commission addresses the security situation in and around Ukraine.

[38] https://bit.ly/3edQy8m

Tweet on Twitter by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulepa

[39] https://bit.ly/3edQFAO

Russia today, Moscow warns Kiev over the Donbas and Crimea.

[40] https://bit.ly/3tDvEWF

Anatolia, Erdogan: We hope that the escalation in eastern Ukraine ends and the conflict be resolved through dialogue.

[41] https://bit.ly/3xerRBh

Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, G7 Foreign Ministers Statement on Ukraine.

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