Eastern Europe Braces For Refugees As Russia-Ukraine Conflict Simmers

The tension between Russia and NATO has further escalated this past week due to their conflicts regarding Ukraine. Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have warned their citizens to leave the country immediately and evacuated most nonessential staff. The U.S. has now temporarily relocated its embassy from Kyiv’s capital to a city in the West, Lviv, in preparation for a Russian invasion. While foreigners have been leaving the country, some Ukrainians have also planned for an imminent departure from their homeland, searching for peace and stability.

Just yesterday, President Zelensky of Ukraine issued a statement claiming that Western allies have identified February 16th as the possible date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Other officials, such as Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, instead believe that President Putin has not yet made a final decision regarding whether they will invade Ukraine. However, he does warn that an invasion is probable.

Poland, and Romania, which share a border with Ukraine, have been preparing for refugees, with border towns establishing temporary shelters and the government organizing refugee camps, as reported by Al-Jazeera. While this may be a temporary solution for the host countries, a permanent solution to house these refugees will be necessary and possibly fall under the jurisdiction of the European Union. Similar to how the Syrian Refugee Crisis was handled, this may mean each country within the EU will be allocated refugees to house and must provide for them under European Union policy.

If a Russian invasion is indeed underway, there is no way of predicting the number of Ukrainians who will flee the country for the West. While there are many pro-Russian Ukrainian nationals, particularly in the East, the vast majority of people in Ukraine would not favour Russia taking control of Kyiv. For most Ukrainians, life remains normal for the time being – until there is confirmation that the Russian army will indeed annex the country. However, if Putin has made his mind up and ordered such an attack, then there might be mass panic within the country and possibly a repeat of what had happened in Kabul just months earlier.

Still, it seems as though both the Americans and the Russians are hoping to resolve this conflict diplomatically instead of militarily. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has advocated for a diplomatic approach to the Ukrainian crisis. Earlier today, he even spoke with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and they have agreed to attempt to resolve the conflict through negotiations. Both sides know that military action will undoubtedly cause profound societal and economic consequences for all of Europe in the future, and I hope that both Russia and America will be committed to peace and stability in Europe.