The main news event of the past week has been Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which seems to be a premeditated plan executed after years of preparation. It is clear that Russia has maintained a high level of interest in Ukraine since it annexed Crimea back in 2014, in retaliation for ousting the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. The motivation behind this major military assault is the perceived threat Ukraine might pose to Russia should it join NATO. For Putin, this would be unacceptable as it would allow NATO to acquire territories bordering Russia and therefore infringe on Russia’s sphere of influence.
There have been numerous attempts at diplomatic talks between Russia and Western leaders in an effort to de-escalate the conflict that has long been brewing, which were evidently unsuccessful. Western leaders such as French and American presidents, Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, held talks with Putin to negotiate a peace deal, but were never able to come to terms with Russia’s demands. The talks with Macron initially showed promise, but were unable to dissuade Putin from invading Ukraine which he declared in a televised speech as an act of self-defence.
Putin has advised Ukrainians not to interfere with the Russian mobilisation in the Donetsk region, and has threatened that all foreign countries who intervene will be met with a swift and unprecedented response. On the other hand, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, has urged his people to defend their country at all costs, stating that Ukraine is their home and does not belong to anyone else. He reiterates, to domestic and international audiences, that Ukraine is a sovereign state and that the invasion violates international laws and threatens global peace. While much support has been pledged by international bodies, such as the United States and the European Union, in the form of arms and aid funding, Ukraine’s military stands alone in its defence against a much stronger opponent.
As of the 27th February 2022, Russia has placed its nuclear forces on high alert, signalling to international audiences that it has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons. While many see this as a deterrent to other actors assisting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, it has increased tensions internationally. Any nuclear escalation presents a significant threat to global security.
Practical support for the Ukrainians has been provided through non-military methods, which the Ukrainian president has deemed inefficient in providing immediate support against the assault. Military intervention is being requested on top of the sanctions placed by the US and European states, the same sanctions that have dropped the Russian currency to a new low and has increased oil prices.
The Russian assault on Ukraine is dominating the media, and protests have erupted worldwide in opposition to Russia’s actions. The ICC has even initiated an investigation into the allegations of Russia committing war crimes against Ukrainian civilians. Only time will tell what plans Putin has in store, and how this act of aggression in Ukraine serves Russia’s interests. The invasion of Ukraine has polarised the international community and seemingly left Russia without allies, with the possible exception of China, which is now under pressure to act as mediator; Israel agreed to act as a mediator at the moment with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett travelling to meet President Putin and Zelensky. The stakes for mediation are high: commentators recognise this is the most significant military event to occur in Europe since the Second World War and caution that further escalation could mark the start of the third.