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The Situation in Ukraine 

By Political Correspondent Edmund Shryock 

In late 2021, Russia placed around 70,000 troops on the border with its neighbor Ukraine. This number would rise to about 127,000 troops by mid January 2022. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are on the rise due to the border standoff.

The United States responded to Russia in regards to their massive troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, on Wednesday, January 6. As a method to deter Russia from invading Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told reporters on Wednesday that the U.S. response “sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it.”

Reports from the Kremlin deny an attack on Ukraine, but blame NATO for expanding its influence in Ukraine posing a threat to the Russian Border. NATO, however, believes that Russia is in no place to invade Ukraine, and will face serious consequences and tough sanctions if they do.

The Escalation to the Ukrainian Crisis

The situation in Ukraine stems back to 2013, when Ukraine was working out a trade deal with the European Union (EU), but at the last minute suspended talks with the EU. This angered many Ukranians who were intent on having this deal with the EU, having them rise up in protest against this. 

Why did Ukraine suspend the trade deal in 2013?

Ukraine’s then-President Victor Yanukovych was an avid supporter of Russia. Reports of pressure from Moscow against Yanukovych making a deal with the EU was the reason Ukraine suspended the talks.

Ukrainians revolted against the government in anger against the influence that Russia had in their government. Eventually, they overthrew the government and removed Yanukovych from office, in which he fled in exile to Russia. He was replaced by Oleksandr Turchynov as “acting” Ukrainian President to Russia’s dismay. Russia came out in 2014 saying that they do not regard Turchynov as the legitimate Ukrainian President. He was succeeded by Petro Poroshenko in 2014, who was succeeded by Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019.

As Yanukovych fled Kiev, Russia set its sights on the autonomous peninsula south of Ukraine, Crimea. In March 2014, Russia invaded and eventually annexed Crimea (who had high loyalties to Russia) within a matter of days. Believing that it was acting in the best interest of Crimea’s Russian speaking citizens, Russia’s referendum “certifying” the annexation was not recognized by NATO or Ukraine. NATO placed economic sanctions on Russia as a response. 

Pro-Russian separatists declared their independence from Kyiv shortly after in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, prompting heavy fighting. This led to a cease fire agreement to be moderated by France and Germany in Minsk 2015. However, this ceasefire was violated numerous times until this day.

Why might Russia Possibly invade Ukraine?

Russia believes that Ukraine has broken the Minsk agreement and is stirring up tensions between the two countries. This was brought about as Ukraine has been receiving more support from NATO than it has in recent years. This is seen as a threat for Russian security as NATO support expands eastward.

This prompted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to demand agreements from NATO that would keep them from expanding eastward towards Russia. Putin believes that if NATO does not agree to these terms and continues expanding the way they have been these last few years, and that Moscow would have the “right to choose ways to ensure its legitimate security interests,” stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in December 2021. 

Ukraine’s Reasons to be Prepared for a Russian Invasion

Ukraine believes that they have the right to join NATO if they want to and Russia can not prevent them from doing so.

Also, a recent coup plot was discovered to overthrow the current Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky which led many Ukranians believing that Russia is trying to undermine the Ukrainian Government and put in a pro-Russian President. 

Finally, Ukraine believes that the recent energy crisis that is within Ukraine has been sparked by the Russians, leading the Ukrainian military to prepare for an invasion with NATO support. There may be possible sanctions to be placed on Russia, and numerous battlegroups in the eastern part of NATO’s reach and the Black Sea. As the U.S. has evacuated families of U.S. ambassadors out of Ukraine, they have placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “high alert.”

The world watches and waits to see what will happen next, as leaders discuss and negotiate the potential fate of Ukraine, trying to avoid the largest conflict in Europe since WWII.