Understanding Ukraine-Russia Crisis : Timeline – UPSC GS2

Context : Russia has invaded Ukraine
Historical and Cultural links between Russia and Ukraine:
  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links.
  • For many in Russia and in the ethnically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.
  • As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally.
Root Cause: Enlargement of NATO
  • NATO is a military alliance of twenty-eight European and two North American countries that constitutes a system of collective defence.
  • Enlargement of NATO is the process of including new member states in NATO.
  • Since the German unification in 1990, NATO has added new members five times.
    • The alliance had 12 founding members in 1949, which currently has 30 members,
    • Members include three Baltic countries of EstoniaLatvia and Lithuania that share borders with Russia.
    • Members also include HungaryPolandRomania and Bulgaria, all of them being a part of the former Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.
What were 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.
  • Russia asked NATO to curb its military cooperation with Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
  • Russia not just wants to prevent NATO’s future expansion but also its retrieval from Russia’s rim land.
  • Russia has also asked for a written response by the U.S. to its proposals regarding security guarantees and official commitments for non-expansion of NATO eastwards.
What was NATO and USA’s response to Russia’s demands?
  • The U.S. has ruled out changing NATO’s “open door policy” that 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 for a discussion regarding missile deployment and a mutual reduction in military exercises in Eastern Europe.
  • The U.S. has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine or other military measures against Russia in the event of an invasion. However, it has threatened to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia in case of any military move.
What are the Minsk Agreements?
  • There are two Minsk agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, named after the Belarussian capital Minsk where the talks were held.
  • Minsk 1:
    • Minsk 1 was written in September 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, i.e. Ukraine, Russia, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with mediation by France and Germany in the so-called Normandy Format.
    • Under Minsk 1, Ukraine and the Russia-backed rebels agreed on a 12-point ceasefire deal, which included prisoner exchanges, delivery of humanitarian assistance, and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
    • However, due to violations by both sides, the agreement did not last long.
  • Minsk 2:
    • As the rebels moved further into Ukraine, in February 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE and the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement , now known as the Minsk 2 accord.
    • The new agreement had provisions for an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, OSCE monitoring, dialogue on interim self-government for Donetsk and Luhansk, in accordance with Ukrainian law.
    • It also had provisions related to acknowledgement of special status by parliament, pardon and amnesty for fighters, exchange of hostages and prisoners, humanitarian aid etc.
    • However, these provisions have not been implemented because of what is popularly known as the ‘Minsk Conundrum’. This essentially means that Ukraine and Russia have contradictory interpretations about the agreement.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine:
  • In 2014, pro-Russia rebels began seizing territory (with Russia supporting them through hybrid warfare) in Eastern Ukraine and in May 2014, the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.
  • Since then, these predominantly Russian speaking regions (more than 70% speak Russian) within Ukraine have been witnessing shelling and skirmishes between the rebels and Ukrainian forces leading to the loss of over 14,000 lives by most estimates, creating around 1.5 million registered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and destruction of the local economy.
  • Russia has now recognised the Ukraine rebel regions in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk – as independent areas.
  • Russia has invaded Ukraine.
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”.
  • This was India’s stand even during the Crimean crisis.
  • Immediately after the annexation, India abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a resolution that sought to condemn Russia.
  • In 2014, Putin praised India’s “restraint and objectivity”.
  • 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:
  • A practical solution for the situation is to revive the Minsk peace process. Therefore the West (US and Other western Countries) should push both sides to resume talks and live up to their commitments as per the Minsk agreement to restore relative peace on the border.
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