The news is currently abuzz with stories and updates on the crisis in the country of Ukraine and the growing tension between Russia and other leading countries across the globe. What started as a conflict over land and resulted in years of off-and-on fighting between the two countries has become a worldwide crisis.
In March 2014, one month after Ukraine’s president fled the country and a new government took over, Russian President Vladimir Putin reclaimed Crimea, the peninsula that had belonged to Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union 23 years prior. This was done under the allegation that he was “protect(ing) Russia’s interests,” according to a New York Times article from March 18, 2014. Fighting between the two countries began less than a month after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, according to the Council on Foreign Relations Conflict Tracker.
The United States and the European Union became involved in the conflict when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing approximately 300 civilians. Investigations revealed the cause of the crash to be a Russian-shot missile, according to the Council on Foreign Relations Conflict Tracker and a New York Times article from July 2014.
The conflict in Ukraine slowed down until spring 2021 when the country once again rose to the forefront of global news.
According to a New York Times article from March 30, 2021, the war in Ukraine had recently intensified, beginning with the killing of four Ukrainian soldiers by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“The U.S. military’s European Command raised its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis – the highest level – in response to the deployment of the additional Russian troops,” the same New York Times article said.
Russian forces began to gather around the Ukrainian border in the fall of 2020, as stated by a Washington Post article from Oct. 30, 2021. Over 100,000 troops were in place by December, and Putin issued a set of demands to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. These demands included a ban on Ukraine entering NATO and “a reduction of NATO troops and military equipment in eastern Europe,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations Conflict Tracker. The U.S. and NATO rejected these demands.
On Feb. 2, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden approved the deployment of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops to join the 1,000 already in Germany who are heading to Romania, Ukraine’s neighbor to the south. A New York Times article published on the same day reported that Biden is not planning on sending troops into Ukraine but wants to communicate to America’s NATO allies that the U.S. is ready to act if needed. A New York Times article published on Feb. 3 reported that President Putin of Russia met with President Xi Jinping of China, and Jinping gave Putin his full support, agreeing with Putin that NATO expansion needs to end.
“Russia and China stand against attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions, intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext, oppose colour revolutions, and will increase cooperation in the aforementioned areas,” the official Join Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China said.
World leaders continue to practice diplomacy during this difficult time. On Monday, Feb. 7, international leaders met to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz while French President Emmanuel Macron met with Putin in Moscow. One of the results of these meetings was a vow by Biden to cut off a European energy pipeline if Russia sends forces into Ukraine, according to a Washington Post article from Feb. 7.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 8, Russia has announced the enactment of large-scale military drills near the border of Ukraine; deployed troops to Belarus, a country thousands of miles from Russia’s normal military bases and located directly between Russia and Ukraine; and placed warships on the Black Sea, according to articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post.
“If Putin were to unleash his full land and air military might on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the city might fall in 48 hours,” a CNN report from Feb. 5 said.
The entire world is watching, and American citizens have realized the increasing importance of keeping track of global politics.