On 24th February 2022, Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, a European country of 44 million population, bombing its cities and nearing in on the capital, Kyiv, which is resulting in a mass exodus of refugees. But why did Vladimir Putin break the peace deal with his neighbour country and unleashed a war which is now called the “Ukraine Crisis”? Who is responsible for this unrest? Why Europe’s security is in Jeopardy? To understand the present let’s know the history and some facts. NATO-The north Atlantic treaty organization, as mentioned on its website it is a Political and Military organization of 30 countries such as the US, The United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and many more countries in eastern Europe. It was formed in 1949 after World War II. It guarantees the freedom and security of the member countries with the political and military approach. This military alliance agree to help each other. NATO in its explanation on its website says that it believes in promoting democracy. Article 5 of NATO says that if any member country is attacked it will be treated as a collective attack on the entire NATO countries and every member country will participate in that. On 24th February, President Putin said “Russia could not feel safe because they feel constant of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine”.Soon after that airports and military headquarters were attacked, tanks and troops invaded through Russia, Russian-annexed Crimea and its allied country Belarus.
Big cities have been bombed, neighbourhoods destroyed to the ground and millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes. And still, Russia has banned the terms like war or invasion, journalists are being threatened if they do not obey. For the Russian President, it is a “special military operation”. Many of the justifications and reasons he gave for war are false and ambiguous. He claimed that he aimed to protect people from bullying and riots and to aims to “demilitarisation and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. But there has been no killing or riots in Ukraine: it is a vibrant democracy, whose President is Jewish. Ukraine at various stages said and made it clear that it wants to join European Union and the defensive alliance NATO. In late 2021, Russia started deploying large numbers of soldiers close to Ukraine’s borders. President Putin repeatedly said that he is not planning an invasion, but then all the saying and the 2015 peace deal for the east was broken Russia recognised the areas under their control as an independent. As he was sending the military, he accused NATO of threatening “our historic future as a nation”.
Analysis of the issue
There has been this controversy about what happened in Baker-Gorbachev talks in February 1990. Some say that when Baker talked about NATO not to shift “one inch” towards the east he was simply referring to only East Germany, because none of the sides had thought about NATO expanding beyond that point. Many years later, words and statements from US officials and Gorbachev didn’t help to clarify this issue. But the historical record shows other things also. The contemporaneous notes, letters, speeches and interviews reveal that leaders of western countries were already thinking about expanding NATO at the time when February 1990 talks were taking place. When the Soviet Union was divided in 1991 the requirement of NATO was felt to both for the US to increase its dominance in Europe and for countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland which were recently recovering from communist rule. Hoping that the US and NATO can help them to come closer to the western countries which were developed and had a free and capitalist market. Believing NATO to be great emerging power and a big threat to its security, Russia never preferred NATO to come closer to its boundaries. In 1997 Russian president Boris Yeltsin tried to persuade American president Bill Clinton that no ex-Soviet Union nation would be included in NATO but Clinton refused the proposal.
The US through its financial power and diplomatic powers in NATO will be suitable to balance Russia’s anger over NATO’s expansion but this strategy completely failed. In two decades NATO expanded over three times as it included the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland simultaneously including seven more nations like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and at last Albania and Croatia and currently it’s a group of thirty nations. The more NATO tried to balance the situation in Central and Eastern Europe and tried to bring them closer to the western nations the more it upset the Russians. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 it was a major turning point for the Ukrainians and Eastern Europe. The aftermath of the annexation was that support for joining NATO started to gain more momentum among the Ukrainians even among the people who criticised the alliance before. President Putin in their mind has constructed that NATO is encircling their country and wants to overpower Russia. Ukraine is moving closer to the west is of no doubt but it is doing so because Russia is trying to annexe Ukrainian territory and wants to make Soviet Russia again. After annexing Crimea Russia itself scrapped the treaty signed with the US and the UK in 1994 which is called the Budapest Memorandum in which they committed to respecting the independence and sovereignty and the exchanging borders of Ukraine in exchange for denuclearisation of Ukraine.
Ukraine can be divided into two parts eastern and western parts with the east one being closer to Russia and the latter one merged in the European Union. Russia had regularly supported rebels that dominated vast areas of eastern Ukraine territories. In a while, Russia had recognized Luhansk and Donetsk regions as autonomous regions. Russia is a superpower while Ukraine is half of it and Ukraine’s defence budget is ten times less than that of Russia. Knowing the fact that it cannot overcome the huge Russian army it asked help from organisations like NATO which is known for promising defence alliances for all of its members.
Ukraine cannot immediately join NATO because for being eligible for membership of NATO there are some criteria to be fulfilled and after they are allowed to begin the process of joining through Membership action plan but NATO still had not granted that status and even have not been interested earlier too partly due uncompromisable political relations with its neighbour Russia. The current scenario is that Russian protests have made it immensely complicated for NATO to prefer Ukraine as its new member and have to rethink its open-door policy of joining. Ukraine’s dream to join NATO and Russia’sdream to annexe it started this conflict. But if Ukraine joins NATO it can trigger World War III which the US doesn’t want. The US doesn’t want to directly confront Russia. This has left Ukraine to fight alone in this war and the western countries can’t do anything rather than sanction Russia.
Author(s) Name: Nikhil Prasad Singh (National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi)