Russia has been marching with more than a hundred thousand troops into Ukraine despite crushing economic sanctions and open militaristic threats from the West. Russia has decided to invade Ukraine due to its growing closeness to the West, particularly its joining NATO. Russia has accused the West and its cold-war adversary America of using NATO’s possible alliance with Ukraine to make inroads into Russia and influence its domestic and international interests. Without any fear of the consequences, Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, despite months of diplomacy attempts to de-escalate the situation of war.
Vladimir Putin- The Angry Russian Bear
By annexing Crimea and intervening in Syria, Vladimir Putin wanted Russia to claim its lost glory and restore its status as a dominant world power. Other than the fact that Vladimir Putin considers the breakup of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the last century, he determined to retake some sovereign states of the former Soviet empire. Although Russia and Ukraine share a common past, Ukraine has fought hard for its identity and independence. However, Vladimir Putin has made many historical claims about Ukraine while also professing it to be an “inalienable part of Russia.”
When Ukraine found itself moving away from its past connection with the Soviet Union to build new relationships with the West, Vladimir Putin was compelled to aide a separatist insurgency in Eastern Ukraine while attempting to reassert his country’s power. Instead of demoralizing Ukraine to stop its westward shift, Vladimir Putin’s stance drove the country to become one of the largest recipients of military aid from the United States and Europe. To tackle this growing closeness with the West, Vladimir Putin first amassed his military near the Ukrainian border for months, eventually declaring war on Ukraine in a “special military operation.”
After recognizing the pro-Russian breakaway region of Donbas as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, Putin’s justification for the war has been to provide aid and assistance to the leaders of the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk. With everything going on in Ukraine, the Russian bear is expected to grow more and more aggressive in a relationship of estrangement with the West, which he made clear on the eve of the Ukrainian invasion.
“Anyone who would consider interfering from the outside – if you do, you will face the consequences greater than any you have faced in history”.
NATO And Its Role In Ukrainian Crises
After the Second World War, NATO was created to provide collective security to its allies and control the growing threat of communism from the Soviet Union. Recently on 27 March 2020, when the Balkan state of North Macedonia formally became a NATO Member State, the military organization’s number exceeded 30 members.
As NATO is open to European states claiming its membership, Russia is hesitant to let its neighbouring country Ukraine join NATO. But it also seeks security guarantees from the West to avoid scenarios like the 1962 Cuban Missile Scare. Before Moscow declared war on Kyiv, Ukraine as a sovereign state and “a partner country” was set to join NATO and form a military alliance with the United States of America and its western allies. Russia sees this new security alliance as an eastward expansion of the West, where it could grow to become a severe security threat to its supremacy.
Although Norway shares a small border with Russia and has been a NATO member since 1949, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2004 first brought NATO to the borders of Russia. How much NATO remains an American-led alliance created to counter Soviet influence. Still, the organization has seemingly been interested in deterring Russian intimidation in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
NATO’S Trust Deficit with Ukraine
NATO promised Ukraine full membership in 2008, but it has been reluctant to grant it Ukraine, a former Soviet Union Country. Although Ukraine has sent troops to fight in NATO missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO stood still and silent even after thousands of Russian forces gathered outside its borders in preparation for an eventual invasion. Even after Ukraine replaced their pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych with a pro-Western government in 2014, NATO and European Union have been still apprehensive of Ukraine joining their western economic and militaristic alliance. The promise of NATO membership still stands unfulfilled, with no concrete road map for Ukraine to join NATO and European Union soon.
Ukraine Stands Abandoned By Its Western Allies
For a decade, the West has failed to do enough to ensure continued deterrence in the face of Russian aggression. NATO as an organization is not going to launch any military action in support of Ukraine, but some NATO members supply arms, ammunition, etc., other equipment to Ukraine. Condemnation and sanctions of the West alone are not going to stop Russia from capturing the major cities of Ukraine and taking the entire country under its control.
Without the military intervention of the U.S. and NATO, Ukraine will ultimately fall to Russia. Whatever the West has been doing, it has been ineffective to discourage Russia from taking Ukraine. As the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy right, said, “international inaction over Russian aggression in Ukraine would fuel the rise of instability and authoritarianism around the world”.
The West and its institutions have let the Ukrainian people down when they could have done much more to save both Ukrainians’ and Russians’ lives. After failing to honour the promise of the European Union and NATO membership for years, the West is still not willing to take more decisive steps to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression. The West reacted weakly to the 2014 occupation of Crimea, and they are repeating the same mistake with Ukraine. The West can’t claim that they did everything they could to prevent another invasion.
Even before the crises began, NATO members kept openly saying they wouldn’t actively send troops to defend Ukraine, allowing Vladimir Putin a free hand to do what he liked. When America refused to provide advanced weapon systems to Ukraine, it undermined its role as the most potent global protector of democracy. But how long can the West continue to absolve itself of its policy mistakes and broken promises? NATO and pro-democracy countries need to intervene militarily to save a European democracy from an unjustified invasion and occupation. Until the deterrence of the Western countries and NATO members keeps eroding, the Kremlin’s ambitions in Ukraine and Europe will only grow.