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    War in Ukraine 2022

    War in Ukraine | Why did Putin choose war?

    After recognizing the separatist Donbass region, Vladimir Putin launched a massive military operation in Ukraine overnight from Wednesday 23 February to Thursday 24 February 2022. How much are Western countries sanctions worth? Will the conflict escalate? Why did Putin choose war in Ukraine?

    At the end of a long diplomatic sequence, Vladimir Putin chose, on Monday February 21, to overturn the negotiating table, announcing that he recognized the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, then authorizing his army to return there to “keep the peace”.

    Then, overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, the Russian president announced the start of military attacks on Ukrainian territory. Explosions were heard in several Ukrainian cities and even in Kiev, the country’s capital.

    What are the roots of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

    A former Soviet republic that became independent in 1991, Ukraine is a “buffer state” located between Russia and Europe. Its 44 million inhabitants are divided: the majority is pro-Western, while a minority, Russian-speaking and living in the East, is said to be “pro-Russian”. In 2005, the election of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko marked the beginning of the rapprochement between Kiev, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (military alliance created in 1949 to counter “the Soviet threat”).

    In 2010, the new president, Viktor Yanukovych, “pro-Moscow”, refused to sign the association agreement with the EU.

    This decision triggers, in 2014, the pro-European revolution of Maidan, violently repressed by the police (about 80 dead), but which will eventually lead to the fall of President Yanukovych. A dismissal considered a “coup” on the Russian side. Also in 2014, Russia decided to support the separatists in the east of the country who had just proclaimed the People’s Republic of Donetsk, then that of Lugansk. The Donbass war then broke out.

    Vladimir Putin also took the opportunity to annex Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea. Annexation which will be approved by an overwhelming majority of the local population (more than 96%) following a referendum condemned by the international community. In the Donbass, the situation calmed down in 2015 with the Minsk agreements which formalized the ceasefire and made it possible for the two regions concerned to benefit from an autonomous status within the Ukrainian State.

    Why has the situation worsened in recent weeks?

    Since 2020, Ukraine has increasingly taken part in joint NATO exercises, which is seen as a provocation on the Russian side. They affirm that the West does not respect “the promise” that they would have made not to extend NATO towards the East.

    The last exercise, in the Black Sea, set fire to the powder. Vladimir Putin then decided to mass his troops at the border to exert pressure and bring the United States and NATO around the table to discuss a new European security strategy.

    “In December, the letter sent by Putin to the Americans remained a dead letter, says the expert. At the time, the United States and the EU were content to advance diplomacy on the question of Donbass where the conflict continues despite the Minsk agreements. They thought that settling this problem was the first condition for talking about European security.

    But, in the meantime, the key points of the Russians – that is to say the non-expansion of the in the East and the guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia would never enter – were categorically refused by NATO, so the most important points for Vladimir Putin were ignored. at the border and that’s where the diplomatic ballet started and the United States quickly talked about an invasion.”

    What are these separatist areas of Donbass? Why are they courted?

    By recognizing the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republics from Luhansk, Vladimir Putin sparked outrage in the international community. These two pro-Russian separatist territories – self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” in 2014, following two referendums – are located in the Donbass region, in eastern Ukraine.

    The area has been experiencing conflicts for eight years between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainians. Conflicts that have already caused more than 14,000 deaths.

    These self-proclaimed Republics are disputed because they are very important economically: they are home to many coal mines. Combined, they extend over almost 8000 m² (0.0030888173 Square Miles in terms of area) and have roughly the same number of inhabitants: between 1.5 and 2 million.

    While the Minsk Accords, signed in 2015, officially ended the clashes, ceasefire violations have continued. The Donbass war is actually a hybrid war that has never stopped.

    By recognizing these self-proclaimed republics, did Vladimir Putin undermine the Minsk agreements?

    The recognition of the two separatist entities by the Russian president hampers these agreements and raises the threat of an advance of the front line towards the West.

    This recognition will above all allow Russia to set up military bases in eastern Ukraine. It is true that, since 2014, it was obvious that the Russians were supporting the separatists militarily , but she denied it. There, it will be visible and official. Russian troops will enter the territory with a peacekeeping mission.

    Can the arrival of Russian troops in these territories following their recognition by Russia be considered as a Russian “invasion” in Ukraine?

    According to Joe Biden, the decision taken by Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of the separatist republics of Donbass and to send his army there devotes “the beginning of a Russian invasion”.

    On the other hand, we cannot currently speak of an invasion: Even if the first Russian convoys were seen in Donetsk, it is not a military invasion. The region was already under the influence of the Russia which delivered arms there, unofficially.

    If the Russians invade Ukraine, is there a risk of a world war?

    There is “a real possibility of war in Europe,” said Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, on Sunday. Germany has, for its part, accused Russia of endangering the security of Europe with “demands dating from the Cold War”. Concern is rising among Westerners.

    “A world war? We think it’s very, very exaggerated. The invasion of Ukraine militarily is, in my opinion, the last option on the Russian side. Vladimir Putin still leaves the possibility to Ukraine to sit around a table.

    Diplomatically speaking, everything is not closed. Russia will not come into direct conflict with Ukraine: “Russian public opinion will not follow its President. It is two different things to support a pro-Russian people by sending troops there for peacekeeping and to declare war on a cousin people.”

    How many soldiers are engaged in the conflict today (24 February 2022)?

    The Americans estimate that there are between 169,000 and 190,000 Russian troops in and around Ukraine. On the Ukrainian side, after announcing that he “did not need” foreign soldiers to face Russia, President Zelensky deployed nearly 100,000 soldiers to his borders.

    He also enlisted the reserve and civilians. The Pentagon has announced that it will send “in the coming days” 3,000 additional American soldiers to Poland to “reassure the NATO allies”.

    This will almost double the American workforce in this country, which usually hosts around 4,000.

    If war is ultimately not an option, what is Vladimir Putin looking for?

    The troops will continue to stay at the borders. One of the possible scenarios is to add fuel to the fire in this very unstable Ukraine to trigger a knockout, internal clashes. A kind of balkanization of Ukraine which would give the beautiful role to Russia which would intervene to maintain peace there.

    Can sanctions be effective against the Russians?

    Western countries began to hit Russia in the wallet. The strongest measure yet was announced by Berlin, which froze the Nord Stream II gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and promised “massive and robust” EU sanctions would follow.

    Russia has been under sanctions since 2014, recalls the specialist in the Russian world. They do not scare him. The Kremlin knows how to circumvent them and even derives certain profits from them, as in agriculture. Unfortunately, I do not really see how a change policy could come from Vladimir Putin because of these sanctions.

    Is the Ukrainian armament so obsolete that one wants to say it?

    Regarding military equipment, the Russians have more equipment, more modern, than that of the Ukrainian army. However, the latter “does not look much like that of 2014. It has been reformed and modernized. And then, it has weapons brought by Westerners and in particular the United States. We have American javelin missiles, weapons were also provided by the Baltic States and Poland, Germany and France as well. It’s quite vague and not very transparent.”

    Can Russia launch a “gas war” against Europe?

    The question of energy and gas in particular is crucial between Europe and Russia because it involves a double dependence. Russian GDP is 30% based on gas and oil. Europe usually imports 40% of its gas from Russia through Gazprom (30% since January). France, for its part, imports 20% of Russian gas to ensure its supply. Regarding hydrocarbons, Russia receives 50% of its currencies from Europe, whose overall energy bill, before the price spike, was around 300 billion euros per year. If either side cuts the tap, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Some analysts also see the current crisis as an opportunity for the United States to block the supply of Russian gas to Europe in order to favor American interests in a market where Qatar would also be a big winner.

    There is also a nuclear side between France and Russia which could give rise to retaliation from Moscow: French reprocessed uranium is sent to Russia to be recycled in Siberia in order to be reused in Russian power plants. and French thanks to contracts signed between Orano (ex-Areva), EDF and the Russian public company Rosatom.


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    Sources: PinterPandai, BBC, Aljazeera, Council on Foreign Relations, Financial Times

    Photo credit: Homoatrox / Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

    Main photo description: 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine – invasion of Ukraine by Russia starting on 24 February 2022.