Russia Ukraine relations


Recently, Russia recognised two independent republics out of Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk – Donbass region), signaling the inevitable war that followed

Russia Ukraine relations:

  • After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, the successor states’ bilateral relations have undergone periods of ties, tensions, and outright hostility.
  • In the early 1990s, Ukraine’s policy was dominated by aspirations to ensure its sovereignty and independence, followed by a foreign policy that balanced cooperation with the EU, Russia, and other powerful polities.
  • Russia and Ukraine have had no formal diplomatic relations since 24 February 2022.
  • The Russian Federation and Ukraine are currently in a state of war: the Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014 following the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
  • In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine across a broad front.
  • Relations between the two countries have been hostile since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, which toppled Ukraine’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych and his supporters, because he refused to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union that enjoyed majority support in Ukraine’s parliament.
  • Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government wished to commit the country to a future within the EU and NATO, rather than continue to play the delicate diplomatic game of balancing its own economic and security interests with those of Russia, the EU, and NATO members.
  • In 2004 the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia had joined the EU, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 (see Member state of the European Union).
  • The Russian government feared that Ukraine’s membership of the EU and NATO would complete a western wall of allied countries by restricting Russia’s access to the Black Sea. With South Korea and Japan being allied to the US, the Russian government was concerned that Russia was being ring-fenced by potentially hostile powers.
  • In the wake of the Revolution of Dignity, Russia backed separatist militias in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in a war in Ukraine’s economically important Donbas region, on its eastern border with Russia.
  • This region has a Russian ethnic majority. By early 2022 the Russo-Ukrainian War had killed more than 13,000 people, and brought some Western sanctions on Russia.
  • In 2019, amendments were made to the Constitution of Ukraine, which enshrined the irreversibility of the country’s strategic course towards EU and NATO membership.
  • Throughout 2021 and 2022, Russian military buildup on the border of Ukraine has escalated tensions between the two countries and strained bilateral relations, with the United States sending a strong message that invasion would be met with dire consequences for Russia’s economy.
  • On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, which prompted Ukraine to break diplomatic ties with its eastern neighbour.

When Did Ukraine Incorporate into Russia?

  • In the 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great (1762-96) of Russia absorbed the entire ethnic Ukrainian territory into the Russian Empire.
  • The Tsarist policy of Russification led to the suppression of ethnic identities and languages, including that of the Ukrainians.
  • Within the Russian Empire though, many Ukrainians rose to positions of prosperity and importance, and significant numbers migrated to settle in other parts of Russia.
  • More than 3.5 million Ukrainians fought in World War I on the side of the Russian Empire, but a smaller number fought against the Tsar’s army with the Austro-Hungarians.
  • Ukraine Becoming part of USSR: The World War I led to the end of both the Tsarist and Ottoman empires.
    • As a mainly communist-led Ukrainian national movement emerged, several small Ukrainian states sprang up.
    • Months after the Bolsheviks took power in the October Revolution of 1917, an independent Ukrainian People’s Republic was proclaimed, but a civil war continued between various claimants to power, including Ukrainian factions, anarchists, Tsarists, and Poland.
    • In 1922, Ukraine became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
      • The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government that had replaced Tsar Nicholas II.

Causes for conflict:

  • Balance of Power:
    • Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.
  • Buffer Zone for Western Countries:
    • For the US and the European Union, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West.
    • As tensions with Russia rise, the US and the EU are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.
  • Russian Interest in the Black Sea:
    • The unique geography of the Black Sea region confers several geopolitical advantages to Russia.
    • Firstly, it is an important crossroads and strategic intersection for the entire region.
      • Access to the Black Sea is vital for all littoral and neighboring states, and greatly enhances the projection of power into several adjacent regions.
      • Secondly, the region is an important transit corridor for goods and energy.
  • Protests in Ukraine:
    • Euromaidan Movement: Euromaidan (European Square) was a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began in November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”) in Kyiv, Ukraine.
    • The protests were sparked by the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend the signing of an association agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Separatist Movement:
    • The Donbas region (the Donetsk and Luhansk regions) of eastern Ukraine has been facing a pro-Russian separatist movement since 2014.
    • According to the Ukrainian government, the movement is actively supported by the Russian government and Russian paramilitaries make up between 15% to 80% of the separatists fighting against the Ukrainian government.
  • Invasion of Crimea:
    • Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in what was the first time a European country annexed territory from another country since World War-2.
    • The annexation of Crimea from Ukraine followed a Russian military intervention in Crimea that took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.
    • The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea have given Russia a maritime upper hand in the region.
  • Ukraine’s NATO Membership:
    • Ukraine has urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to speed up the country’s membership in the alliance.
    • Russia has declared such a move a “red line”, and worried about the consequences of the US-led military alliances expanding right up to its doorstep.
    • The Black Sea is bordered by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. All these countries except Russia & Ukraine are NATO countries.
    • Due to this faceoff between NATO countries and Russia, the Black sea is a region of strategic importance & a potential maritime flashpoint.

Russia’s demands

  • Russia has demanded a ban on further expansion of NATO that includes countries like Ukraine and Georgia that share Russia’s borders.
  • Russia asked NATO to pull back its military deployments to the 1990s level and prohibit the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in the bordering areas.
  • Further, Russia asked NATO to curb its military cooperation with Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.

The response from the West

  • The U.S. has ruled out changing NATO’s “open-door policy” which means, NATO would continue to induct more members.
  • The U.S. also says it would continue to offer training and weapons to Ukraine.
  • The U.S. is said to be open to a discussion regarding missile deployment and a mutual reduction in military exercises in Eastern Europe.
  • Germany has also warned Russia that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be stopped if Russia were to invade Ukraine.
  • The U.S. threatens Russia by imposing new economic sanctions in case of attempts of invasion against Ukraine.

Russia – Ukraine Crisis: Implications on India

What implications does the Russia – Ukraine crisis have on India? This is discussed in this section.

  • An invasion by Russia would put pressure on India to choose between the Western alliance and Russia.

  • Maintaining strong relations with Russia serves India’s national interests. India has to retain a strong strategic alliance with Russia as a result, India cannot join any Western strategy aimed at isolating Russia.
  • There is a possibility of CAATSA sanctions on India by the U.S. as a result of the S-400
  • A pact between the US and Russia might affect Russia’s relations with China. This might allow India to expand on its efforts to re-establish ties with Russia.
  • The issue with Ukraine is that the world is becoming increasingly economically and geopolitically interconnected. Any improvement in Russia-China ties has ramifications for India.
  • There is also an impact on the strong Indian diaspora present in the region, threatening the lives of thousands of Indian students.

India’s stand

  • India called for “a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond”.
  • Immediately after the annexation, India abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a resolution that sought to condemn Russia.
  • In 2020, India voted against a Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the UN General Assembly that sought to condemn alleged human rights violations in Crimea.
  • India’s position is largely rooted in neutrality and has adapted itself to the post-2014 status quo on Ukraine.

Way forward

  • The US along with other western countries is expected to revive the peace process through diplomatic channels in mitigating the tensions between Ukraine and Russia which would be a time-consuming process.
  • Experts recommend more dialogues between the west and Russia that exert emphasis on the issue surrounding Ukraine.
  • Ukraine should approach and focus on working with its Normandy Format allies, France and Germany, to persuade the Russian government to withdraw assistance for its proxies and allow for the region’s gradual safe reintegration into Ukraine.
  • The Russian military expansion in Ukraine can be prevented on the geoeconomic grounds that will hamper its trade in the region especially with the Nord Stream pipeline that can carve out a way of resolving the ongoing crisis as pointed out by an expert.
  • Ukraine’s internal disturbances need to be addressed to revive the Minsk II agreement for the development of peace in the region and dissolve the ongoing tensions.

Source: Indian Express

Related Articles:

  1. India Russia Relations
  2. Minsk Agreement

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