Russia-Ukraine conflict: Is Russia planning to invade Ukraine?

Russia-Ukraine conflict latest news: Russia has amassed tens of thousands of Russian troops on the eastern side along the Ukrainian border, raising fears that it could be preparing for a new military offensive against Ukraine.

Russia moving troops along Ukrainian border
Russia moving troops along Ukrainian border

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Joe Biden warned on January 19, 2021 that Russia will be held accountable if it invades Ukraine. Biden in a clear warning said that it is going to be a disaster for Russia if it invades Ukraine. He warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of significant economic consequences if such an invasion happens, saying that our partner and allies are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm to Russia and its economy.

Biden stated that Putin has never seen sanctions like the ones he has promised to impose if Russia further advances into Ukraine. He though stated that the level of punishment will depend on the level of invasion, suggesting that a "minor incursion" would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country. 

"But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine," Biden said. He confirmed that the United States has already shipped sophisticated defence equipment worth over USD 600 million to the Ukrainians and the cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for Russians is going to be heavy, real and consequential.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine on January 19th in a last-ditch effort to defuse tensions with Russia over Ukraine, warning that Russia could launch a new attack at "very short notice". Blinken met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during his visit and reaffirmed the unwavering support of the US to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Blinken will now travel to Berlin to hold talks with US allies and then will go to Geneva to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as no breakthrough was achieved following last week's negotiations. Blinken said that he strongly hopes that Russia can stick to a diplomatic and peaceful path when he meets the Russian Foreign Minister. 

Why is there tension between Russia and Ukraine?

Russia has reportedly amassed 100,000 Russian troops on the eastern side along its border with Ukraine, raising fears that it could be preparing for a new military offensive against Ukraine. The US and its allies fear another invasion of Ukraine by Russia, on the lines of Crimea in 2014. 

Though several rounds of talks have been held between the West and Moscow, no breakthrough has been achieved so far and the Russian troops continue to remain in the area. US President Biden expects that Putin will be moving his 100,000 troops soon. He said that he is not sure what Putin is going to do. "My guess is he will move in. He has to do something," Biden said. He further added that the Russian President is searching for relevance in a post-Soviet world, trying to find his place in the world between China and the West.

Is Russia planning to invade Ukraine?

Russia has constantly denied that it is planning a military invasion despite amassing such a large number of troops on its border with Ukraine. Russia said that the fears of the West are unfounded as it does not plan to launch an attack on Ukraine. However, Russia has demanded a list of security guarantees from the NATO bloc, including banning Ukraine and other former Soviet states from ever joining the NATO alliance. The Russian President also blamed the alliance for undermining regional security.

Russia's list of demands from the West:

Guarantees that Nato will not expand to Ukraine or other ex-Soviet nations

Guarantees that NATO will not place its troops and weapons in former Soviet nations

Western countries to not adopt an “aggressive” approach and abandon military activity in Eastern Europe. This demand means that the West will have to pull out its combat units from Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania.

These demands have so far been rejected by the United States and its NATO allies. 

Full-scale war likely?

Despite several rounds of negotiations between the West and Russia, there have been no breakthrough so far and the Russian troops continue to remain along the Ukrainian border. Russia has also offered no proof that it will not invade, as per US officials. 

Though Russian foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov assured that they have no plans to attack Ukraine during his recent talks with his US counterparts in Geneva, Putin’s recent statements have worried the West. Putin mentioned about “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” against West’s “aggressive approach” recently.

As per the US President, Russia could move in on Ukrain though it may not be a full-scale invasion. There are reports of Russia providing passports to 500,000 people in the rebel-held areas in Ukraine. Besides this, Russia is sending an unspecified number of troops to Belarus, in the nation's far east for a major military exercise. White House press secretary Jen Psaki described Russia's move into Belarus as part of an “extremely dangerous situation.”

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Background

Ukraine had become an independent country in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, Russia has always perceived Ukraine as a part of its social and economic sphere of interest. Both nations retained close ties after Soviet Union's collapse. 

Though Russia was one of the signatories of the Charter for European Security, where it reaffirmed the inherent right of each participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve, it began expressing its displeasure after Ukraine started growing closer to the West.

Ousting of Pro-Russia Ukrainian President

The Russia-Ukrainian crisis was triggered by the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was pro-Russia. Yanukovych had on November 21, 2013 suspended the preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union.

The decision, however, sparked mass protests in Ukraine, which slowly turned into a revolution that led to ousting of Yanukovych in February 2014. His ousting sparked unrest in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine from where he had drawn maximum support. 

Annexation of Crimea

Russia further instigated the wide unrest in the regions and Russian soldiers moved in and took control of strategic positions in Crimea, Ukraine's southern peninsula. Russia also supported rebels and separatists who captured large parts of Ukraine’s eastern region. 

Russia adopted a resolution to use military force on Ukrainian territory on March 1, 2014 and moved in and annexed Crimea in a military operation called 'Returning of Crimea'. Russia annexed the peninsula after holding a local referendum in which the Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation. 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea led to several harsh international sanctions including the removal of Russia from the G8 grouping. The violence between the Russia-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military has led to the killing of over thousands of people since April 2014. Despite attempts by European nations to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine through the Minsk Accords, all efforts to reach a satisfactory resolution have failed so far. 

NATO deploys combat units in Eastern Europe

NATO alliance deployed four battalions in Eastern Europe in Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia in April 2016 to prevent any future Russian aggression in any other part of Europe, especially in the Baltic region. Two US Army tank brigades also joined these battalions in September 2017 to further bolster the alliance’s deterrence presence.


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