Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have remained high since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Now, things could be getting tense between the two countries again, as military maneuvers by Russian personnel have been reported near the country’s border with Ukraine. Footage on social media that has not yet been verified seems to indicate that Russian forces are moving tanks and personnel into parts of the border region that have been hotly contested.
One such region, Crimea, was annexed by Russia in 2014. While the two countries officially have a ceasefire agreement, there have been numerous breaches of that agreement in recent weeks. While most of these breaches have been in the form of small arms fire, analysts around Europe and beyond fear that this could escalate into something much uglier.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has called on Moscow to both “cease the military escalation” and “immediately and unconditionally reaffirm its commitment to a ceasefire regime.” Russia, sounding much like a sibling crying out “I’m not touching you,” has defended its actions, saying that moving its own military forces within its borders is completely within its rights as a sovereign nation.
Experts on both Ukraine and Russia have noted that it’s impossible to rule anything out. In 2014, the invasion of Crimea was unthinkable to people living in Ukraine. That was only six years ago, and Russia is still under the same leadership now that it was then. As such, an invasion is not off the table for now.
Russia’s bold military expansion into Ukraine has sounded alarm bells for much of the West. While the Cold War ended in the 90s, the US is in no more of a position to allow its old rival to continue empire-building now than 30 years ago. Part of what makes escalation such a dangerous prospect is that Russia is in possession of nuclear weapons.
Any large-scale military actions by Russia could be countered by coalition forces from Europe and the US. However, such a move could draw Russia’s allies, including China, into an all-out war. This could threaten the global balance with nuclear war, a prospect that would likely result in mutually assured destruction for all combatants.
With any luck, Russia is only posturing. However, many politicians in Eastern Europe have made mistakes by underestimating Russia’s willingness to follow through on plans that seem far too bold to the rest of the world.