Russia and Ukraine: A New Tone for International Relations

Written by: Kyler

Edited by: Chris

Visual by: Tatiana

Russian and Ukrainian tensions are approaching their boiling point as one of the most notable instances of Russian aggression occurred in October 2021 when Russian troops were mobilized en mass towards the Ukrainian border. By December, the mobilization process was lucid, with US intelligence interceding and hinting at the potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. Today, Russian-Ukraine discord is daily, even prompting a recent Geneva conference aimed at diffusing these multifaceted tensions that encompass military, energy, and security. 

Ukraine’s 2013 protests provide broader insight into the current political climate of both nations. The protests were ultimately caused by disagreement with the Ukrainian President Viktor Vanukovych’s decision to depart from the European Union (EU), echoing a very similar dynamic to that of Brexit. The protests put Ukraine in disarray, even resulting in the President fleeing during February of the following year. Ukraine’s weakened state ultimately galvanized Russia to take control of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Subsequently, the political strife spurred by Crimea’s seizing culminated in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of what was originally Eastern Ukraine declaring independence from their original nation. Thus, the region was heavily contested for multiple years with the population caught between Russian-supported separationist groups and the Ukrainian military. As years passed, other nations and alliances involved themselves with the dispute, such as NATO, the EU, brokers of the Minsk Protocol  (France and Germany), and the United States. However, Ukraine’s relatively “isolated” political disposition puts them in an awkward deadlock, as they are part of neither NATO nor the EU, so both alliances are not obliged to pull them out of the Russian sphere of influence. 

The potential Russian-Ukrainian conflict has tangible ramifications for US citizens, as the prospect of Americans possibly being sent to fight in yet another overseas conflict zone is certainly troubling for most, especially after just departing from one in Afghanistan. This has led   the Biden administration to call for the deterrence of Russian aggression. Overall, the US aims to mitigate Russia’s gradual empowerment of states, transforming them into “satellite states,” and thereby enlarging Russia’s network of influence. President Biden calls for immediate action in the event of a Russian invasion past the Eastern Ukrainian border. Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, advises taking direct action by presenting coherent evidence to the United Nations to gain its support. He heavily values international law and its esteem, realizing its capability to possibly end these Russian aggressions. 

Interestingly, this politically-charged conflict has consequences for energy too, as the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline has become a heated source of contention throughout the current border crisis. The pipeline would enable Russia to bypass Ukraine when supplying Europe with gas. Russia would thereby avoid the transit fees that compose around 5% of the Ukrainian budget, afflicting Ukraine financially. The US has warned Russia that they will block the opening of the pipeline in the event of an incursion, and has even begun negotiating with Germany, which supports the pipeline due to the benefits it stands to gain, such as heating for 26 million homes. However, despite their disposition for deliberation, many within Germany’s nascent coalition government have become divided by the ongoing crisis. Much of Europe is similarly disunited, leaving the outcome of this situation unknown for now.  

The events on the Russian-Ukrainian border set an ominous tone for international relations in 2022. Some have posited that, if left unchecked, the conflict could escalate into a potential World War III. While this prediction may be extreme, it nevertheless shows that this dispute is one to be treated with urgency and rationality. Hopefully, our world leaders will also recognize this, and reach a compromise that maintains the global stability so necessary for our world to thrive.