Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring the war to an end. Putin authorized an invasion of Ukraine over a month ago, sending troops into Ukraine illegally in a “special operation.” Ukrainian officials have accused the Russian military of committing war crimes by targeting evacuating civilians and non-military targets like hospitals and schools.
Russia’s diplomats have denied Zelensky’s request to meet with Putin. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, says that it would be “counterproductive” for Zelensky to meet with Putin right now. Zelensky says that he wants to end the war immediately and that Ukraine is open to remaining neutral and staying out of NATO.
Russia’s foreign ministry publicly claims that it launched the “special military action” in Ukraine to demilitarize its neighbor. US intelligence officials believe that Russia is using this operation as a show of force in response to Ukraine discussing membership with NATO, the military alliance created to oppose the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Ukraine is a massive country that borders Russia to the west and Poland to the east. It acts as a buffer zone between Russia and the rest of Europe. Ukraine is historically a peaceful nation, having famously given up its nuclear armaments in the pursuit of neutrality. Now, President Zelensky has indicated he’s open to returning the country to a neutral stance, but Russia’s president won’t hear him out.
Zelensky told reporters recently that the country could hold a referendum on NATO membership once the Russian military pulls back. This would allow the government to act on the people’s vote, showing the rest of the world where Ukraine falls in terms of neutrality. Currently, over 10 million Ukrainian citizens have been displaced by the war, so it’s unclear how they might vote in a hypothetical referendum.
Other European nations and the United States have pledged financial and lethal aid for Ukraine throughout the conflict. However, they’ve refrained from directly joining the fray, as they don’t want to escalate the conflict into a full-blown World War.
If the US launched a counterattack in Ukraine, it would likely spark the largest armed conflict since the Second World War. Some diplomats are concerned that the US might escalate these tensions after President Joe Biden gave a speech in Poland and stated that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”