On January 24th, Reuters reported that the tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border had intensified. Russia has currently stationed over 100,000 troops by the border of its former satellite state but is still claiming that they are not planning an attack. However, Russian leader Vladimir Putin is threatening a wider military incursion unless NATO commits to cease its eastward expansion. Global leaders are sending support to de-escalate the situation and many countries are also demanding their citizens to leave Ukraine. Many flights have been banned across the Ukrainian border. On Monday, NATO mobilized military equipment into Eastern Europe and Russia, fearing that it will invade its neighbor.
Tensions between Russia and NATO have reached a point of crisis. Putin is claiming that the U.S. and NATO have violated pledges allegedly made after the Cold War that the alliance would not expand into the former Soviet bloc. NATO has responded that they are following international security protocol by sending protection to Eastern Europe, continuously supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity. The Washington Post said all European leaders are involved and stand in total unanimity. The Russian government has multiple times claimed that they are not invading Ukraine, but according to NATO and the UN, their actions illustrate otherwise. According to CNN, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance.” He further said they will send a written proposal to the Kremlin later this week to find a way forward. Additionally, European Union President Ursula von der Leyen said $1.35 billion in emergency aid is being sent to help Kyiv meet financing needs due to the conflict.
According to Reuters, NATO is addressing the situation by putting forces on standby and reinforcing Eastern Europe with ships and fighter jets. So far, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, backed by tanks, air defenses, and intelligence and surveillance units. The Biden administration still seeks a diplomatic resolution but has now put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for potential deployment to Europe, steps typically reserved for anticipated armed action. NATO and the EU showing Ukraine support is critical, as the Russian government threatening to invade Ukraine is a danger to global security and calls for action from all allies. In recent years, NATO has not been involved in a situation this critical, but since the Russian government has yet to accept Ukraine as a sovereign state, they are forced to monitor Russia’s activity. Russia sees Ukraine as a bumper to its relationship with NATO, however, Ukraine sees Russia as a threat to its security and sovereignty, as it has already occupied parts of its territory.
NATO was founded in 1949 to protect against the Soviet Union, and the treaty explains that if one nation is invaded by a third party, all nations in NATO will collectively mobilize in its defense. According to The Guardian, Russian officials also claim the U.S. secretary of state in a discussion after the Cold War pledged to Soviet leaders not to expand the alliance’s eastern borders. The Washington Post reports that Putin is now demanding assurance from NATO that Ukraine would not join the alliance since the membership would increase the organization’s imprint along Russia’s borders. However, the statement was never written down in the final treaty, and NATO is stating that they have followed the treaty agreement signed by all parties in September of 1990. Meanwhile, Kyiv has affirmed its goal of eventually gaining NATO membership, and it holds yearly military exercises with the alliance. The Biden administration and allies state that Putin can’t deny Ukraine the right to join, although their admission seems distant.
Russia’s central motive behind sending thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border is calling for a reversal of NATO’s extension. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly accused the West of forgetting assurances, feeding Russia’s cynicism about international law. Global leaders are united in finding a diplomatic resolution to avoid conflict, and some NATO members are putting forces on standby. Several countries, including France, Norway, and Latvia, have advised against travel to Ukraine. NATO does not recognize Russia’s claims to Crimea and is committed to restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Sanctions will be ensured if Russia tries to invade Ukraine, but it is uncertain if that is enough for Putin to refrain. In this critical situation, all allies must stand united and support Ukraine in their aim for security and sovereignty from Russia.
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