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Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March of 2014, the majority of Ukrainians have supported a path towards NATO membership. This resolution to join the international organization stands in direct political opposition to Moscow and serves as a means for resolving violence in eastern Ukraine, specifically the regions of Avdiivka and Donetsk, where the lives of 10,000 people have been claimed by the atrocities of both sides. An announcement by President Petro Poroshenko, after his meeting with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, declared the possibility for NATO membership by 2020, stating that “Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and its future in the sphere of security” while concurrently pledging to “do all I can to achieve membership in the transatlantic alliance.” In order to achieve membership by 2020, Ukraine must rectify geopolitical conflicts in Crimea and Donbass, the sites of military conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian dissidents since the invasion. In response to these public statements and NATO’s growing presence in Eastern Europe, S400 air defence missiles have been deployed to Crimea, while combatant training has been declared by Russia’s defence military to occur on the front lines. This penchant for aggression may be understood as an attempt towards the reintegration of pro-Russian regions in order to subvert political order throughout Ukraine. Secretary general Stoltenberg has already demanded that Russia disengages thousands of troops, which they refuse to acknowledge the existence of.
Escalation may require further NATO assistance, which Ukraine previously received in the combating of a cyber attack that derailed technological infrastructure in June, damaging computer systems, factories and shipping activities. NATO has simultaneously urged Russia to put an end to violent upsurges along with its prolonged military and artillery presence along the front lines of battle. Most recently in the eastern regions, on both sides have endured severe human rights catastrophes, suffering through a power, heating and water shortage in the midst of freezing temperatures. A crisis of the civilian, military, and humanitarian kind; it is unclear what the deliberate proclamation of allegiance to NATO’s mission will do in regards to the current violence. Although the 2014 Minsk agreements called for a ceasefire, there have been frequent reports of destabilization through shelling, which has only increased casualties among all groups involved in the conflict. A state of emergency has been issued in the town of Avdiika, which has been the site of the worst violence in two years. Ukranian and Russian forces have traded accusations of starting the conflict, blaming each other for violating the Minsk deal.
NATO has promoted conflict resolution through military action since the disunion of the Warsaw Pact, justifying such approaches in the name of international security. Such precedents include the use of military force without the consent of the United Nations in the case of Yugoslavia in 1995. It is unclear whether armed presence by NATO will serve to expedite the process of Ukranian membership while bolstering military power against Russia. Ukraine’s commitment to maintaining territorial peace in order to fully gain entry into the organization may include a more combative presence, toeing a dangerous line with the aggravation of their opponent. Will the trauma to civilians that prompted this NATO affiliation to induce further military presence on the part of the organization in order to ensure “peacekeeping” solutions?