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Crisis in Russia-Ukraine relations and scenarios ahead

Crisis in Russia-Ukraine relations and scenarios ahead

Seven years after Russia’s military action against Ukraine in 2014 and annexation of the Crimean peninsula to the mainland Russia, the country’s recent military rally along the border with Ukraine and holding of numerous exercises by the two countries, once again has increased the likelihood of Russian military action against Ukraine.

NOURNEWS - With the reports of Western intelligence agencies on the possible intention of Russia to launch military attack on its western neighbor, NATO members also met in Estonia last November to discuss the issue. In addition to the NATO foreign ministers, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the organization, while supporting Ukraine, threatening that a possible Russian military invasion of Ukraine would be met with a strong reaction from NATO members. Moscow, meanwhile, says Ukraine and NATO by conducting joint exercises in the Black Sea, launching drone strikes on separatist areas and also building a missile system near Russia’s borders have threated security of that country and violated the Minsk agreement.

Russia pursues return of past glory

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the international system witnessed the relative withdrawal of Russia from the sphere of great and influential powers. But at the beginning of the 21st century, simultaneously with the gradual decline of the unipolar international system, Vladimir Putin put the long-term target for restoring Russia’s regional and international role and influence on his agenda. Two influential experiences of military action in Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014 are considered part of those targets for a country that sees the use of military force as a decisive tool in the international arena. In contrast, the West has made little progress in restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and Russia has been able to strengthen its position in the Black Sea region and restore its international prestige. In this sense, Russia is always seeking the return of its lost glory after the collapse of the Soviet Union; this is what Putin calls the greatest geopolitical catastrophe. Now, using military leverage, in addition to gaining concessions from the West, Russia has been able to persuade Biden to meet with Putin virtually to resolve the Ukraine crisis and achieve part of his target of becoming a respectable rival.

Calculation of costs and benefits

The Russia-Ukraine crisis, in addition to achieving Russia’s ambitious goals in the international system, has the potential to turn into a full-scale war. Certainly, the Russian president will calculate the costs and benefits of deciding to start such a war. Meanwhile, divisions on the Western Front, such as the dispute between France on the one hand and the United States and Britain on the other hand over the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, the gradual withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and its strategic and breathtaking rivalry with China as well as Russia’s bold and hassle-free entry into Syria, despite the presence of the West, are factors that could tempt Putin to embark on another high-profile adventure. Without a proper response from the West, as was the case with Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Russia could consolidate its dominance and influence over Ukraine. The influence that Moscow has been seeking since the beginning of the twentieth century. In return for those benefits, there will be potentially heavy and irreparable costs for Russia. Russia’s military action against Ukraine could lead to growing resistance in the country against the invading forces. Due to the military imbalance between the two countries with the start of the war, Ukraine’s strategy will most likely be to “resist and erode” the war. In addition, such a move could bring Ukraine and its public opinion closer to the West. This military action could also lead to the simultaneous mobilization of NATO against a common enemy for all its member states; an organization that has long suffered from an identity crisis. In addition, the commander of the British army, Nick Carter, has stated that Russia is the main threat to the country’s security.

NATO and Western Alliance

On the other hand, it should be noted that in the face of this crisis, NATO has posed a deterrent threat to Russia. Although it does not appear to be considering reciprocal military action in the face of possible military action against Ukraine, it will have several options ahead. Biden, on the other hand, may pressure Kiev to give concessions to the Kremlin while appeasing Russia. Although such a move could reduce tensions and end the current crisis, it is likely to increase Russia’s future ambitions, the collapse of the fragile democratic Ukrainian government headed by Zlinsky, and temptation of China to do the same with Taiwan. Another option is to offer a deterrent package in confrontation with Russia; measures such as threatening the country to financial sanctions, restricting Russia’s access to the international exchange system and swift, imposing sanctions on individuals, and freezing its assets in the West which is also the topic that the Ukrainian president has addressed. Finally, there is the option of creating minimal peace and stability between the two countries in a realistic way, through a balance of power and widespread strengthening of Ukraine’s military capability, which, given the imbalance in power between the two countries, is likely to be fragile.

Choices of Russia and NATO in Ukraine crisis

Russia, in facing with Ukraine, will have an ambiguous way ahead in order to repeat two previous experiences in 2008 and 2014. Russia, which once considered the Baltic states such as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, along with Ukraine and Georgia, not to be a threat against itself, in the past two decades, with its aggressive behavior, has led to the deployment of NATO member forces under Entranced Forward Presence (EFP) operation in those four countries; an issue that could be considered a desecuritization factor for Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s military power has increased from 2014 through Western aid, and US financial and military assistance to the country has nearly quadrupled. Thus, Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, NATO, led by the United States, while examining the costs and benefits of Russian military action against Ukraine, as well as the options ahead, must determine with their decisions that Ukraine is ultimately “part of the Western world” a “Russian-dominated country” or a “gray areas like Finland” in the past century; a country that Brzezinski, a former US national security adviser, believes Russia would never become an empire without it.

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