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Russia's Invasion of Ukraine : How Did We Get Here?

Russia's Invasion of Ukraine : How Did We Get Here?

Last month I, like many of you I imagine, woke up one morning shocked to find the Russo-Ukrainian crisis had escalated into Europe’s first major war since 1945. Having seen tensions ramping up over the past year I had assumed that Putin’s rhetoric was merely sabre-rattling, reflective of an increasingly desperate Kremlin, in need of another foreign policy crisis to distract the Russian population from a stagnant economy and rising living costs at home. But I was wrong. I had underestimated the lengths the Kremlin would go to rebuild the iron curtain, even if it comes at a great cost to all peoples of the former Soviet Union.

Looking back, it now appears obvious that a full-blown invasion of Ukraine was the natural next step in Putin’s plan. What was that plan you may ask? Well, Russia’s major foreign policy goal consisted of re-building a “buffer zone” of neutral or friendly nations around Russia to protect from potential NATO aggression as well as to satisfy the Kremlin’s ideological aim to project strength abroad and reclaim the title of a global superpower. This plan was formulated in the aftermath of the 1999 Washington Summit, where multiple former Warsaw Pact members either joined NATO or started the process of joining, 1999 also being the year Putin ascended to Power in Russia. The threat of permanently losing their buffer to NATO expansion forced aggressive action, first against Georgia in 2008 then Ukraine in 2014. Nevertheless, Russia’s incursions were limited to backing puppet regimes, be that South Ossetia or the Donetsk People’s Republic, never daring to directly engage a country in open armed conflict. That has now changed.

However, the immediate change has not appeared to be to Putin’s advantage, with Germany taking historic steps to rearm and neutral countries like Switzerland and Finland seeking NATO protection, it appears Putin’s gambit has backfired. Moreover, the crippling financial and economic sanctions placed on Russia have caused the Ruble to crash and led to Russia potentially defaulting on its foreign debt. Lastly, on the military front, as of writing this article, only one major Ukrainian city has been captured and repeated attempts to surround Kyiv have failed. However, in the long term is hard to see a Ukrainian military victory. This leaves the inevitability of a Russian occupation, which no doubt will see the rise of an insurgency and intense guerrilla warfare, leading to further death and suffering.

As long as Russian Ultranationalists occupy the Kremlin and NATO refuses to sign a formal agreement with Russia on geopolitical boundaries a continued escalation of the conflict into countries like Moldova seems inevitable. Nevertheless, there is by no means equal blame placed on NATO and Russia for this crisis, ultimately, NATO is under no moral obligation to do refuse entry to countries such as Ukraine if the democratically elected Ukrainian government chooses to do so, simply to placate a tantrum-prone Kremlin. Nevertheless, Russia is a nuclear power and therefore a conflict between NATO and Russia must be avoided at all costs and we mustn’t submit to those calling for a NATO-enforced no-fly-zone over Ukraine, ultimately the survival of the human race must come first. This suggests that despite the clear malevolence displayed by the Kremlin, a negotiated settlement must be reached, which includes the United States. Unfortunately, I can’t see another pathway back to peace.

Samir Sehgal

19 Mar 2022