Ukraine Crisis and Russia, the US and Europe


When the Cold War ended in 1991, strategists hoped for the US-Russian cordial relations in a new age. In the beginning, all signs pointed toward a healthy relationship between these two superpowers. They worked together with Russian nuclear assets, cooperated to stabilise the Russian economy, and allowed the US-led military bloc North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( NATO) to expand in former Warsaw Pact members. Of late, these relations have taken a U-turn for the worse. As NATO has enlarged, Russia has objected to further expansion. When the US withdrew from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, Russia’s suspicion grew and thought that this would undoubtedly lead to an arms race. Russia opposed all the decisions of the US-led forces to attack Iraq in 2003. In 2008, Russia fought a war against Georgia, a US ally. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea province from Ukraine, leading to the US sanctions against Russia. Russia created Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to counter NATO in 1992. CSTO is a geopolitical, military alliance of six countries that came into effect in 2002. Current members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan.

Ukraine is the major country in eastern Europe borders Russia in the northeast and east. Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the West; Romania and Moldova to the south; and has a coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It spans over a geographical area of 603,628 km2,  with a population of 41.3 million, and is the 8th most populated country in Europe.[1] A fully independent Ukraine emerged late in the 20th century, after long periods of sequential control by Poland-Lithuania, Russia, and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). After the crumbling of the USSR in 1990-91, the Ukrainian SSR declared sovereignty on 16 Jul 1990 and then declared independence on 24 Aug 1991. With the suspension of the USSR in December 1991, Ukraine gained complete freedom. The country transformed its official name to Ukraine. It assisted in laying the foundation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an association of countries that were previously republics of the Soviet Union.[2]

The Eastern Ukraine conflict has undergone an impasse after it first exploded in early 2014; shelling and skirmishes continue to date. In October 2018, Ukraine joined the US and seven other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations in a series of large scale air exercises in western Ukraine. These drills came after Russia held its annual military exercises in September 2018, which was the largest since the fall of the USSR[3].

The widespread protests erupted in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv in November 2013 when then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to join the more significant economic integration of the European Union. When state security forces tried to quell the protests,  inadvertently drew an even more substantial number of protesters and intensified the conflict, President Yanukovych fled in February 2014. In March 2014, Russian troops wrested control of Ukraine’s Crimean area. Crimea joined the Russian Federation after the referendum. Russia cited the reason to protect the Russians in the Crimean. Further heightened the crisis and racial divide. And two months later, pro-Russian secessionists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine. [4]

Since 2014, there have been clashes between Ukraine military forces and pro-Russia elements in eastern Ukraine. However, Moscow had denied its involvement in the region yet, Ukraine and NATO have reported Russian build-up. In July 2014, the Ukraine crisis attracted the world media when a Malaysian aircraft was shot over the Ukraine airspace. Allegedly Russian missile brought down this aircraft. All 298 onboard this aircraft were killed. France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have since Feb 2015 attempted to stop violence through the Minsk Accords. The agreement includes a cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and complete Ukrainian government control all over the conflict zone. But, efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement and satisfactory resolution have been unsuccessful so far.

In April 2016, NATO decided to deploy four battalions to Eastern Europe, rotating the troops from  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to prevent future Russian aggression somewhere else in Europe, particularly in the Baltics nations. The US Army decided to t send two tank brigades to Poland in September 2017 to further reinforce the alliance’s deterrence presence. On 25 Nov 2018, Russian border guards detained three Ukrainian naval vessels and took twenty-four sailors into custody after stalling their passageway to the Sea of Azov. Such actions, which were regarded in the Western world as aggressive and threatening, could be construed as essentially defensive and aimed at preventing conflict in Moscow.[5]

The US-led NATO Concerns.

As per the opinion of the US-led NATO forces, Ukraine is sovereign, independent and steady, firmly steadfast to democracy and the rule of law, and is crucial to Euro-Atlantic security. Relationships between NATO and Ukraine date back to the early 1990s and have since developed into NATO’s most significant partnerships. Since 2014, cooperation has been strengthened in critical areas since the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine skirmish.

Right from the very start of the Russia-Ukraine battle in 2014, NATO has held a steady position in full backing of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally established borders. The US and NATO strongly denounce and will not acknowledge Russia’s illegal and illegitimate take-over of Crimea and condemn its provisional occupation. As a result, NATO Allies categorical to cease all civilian and military cooperation with Russia while leaving political and diplomatic channels of communication open. They also call on Russia to reverse its military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop restricting navigation in parts of the Black Sea, impede access to the Sea of Azov, and halt powering the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine.[6]

On 27 Aug 2021, the US White House announced in the run-up to Zelensky’s visit to Washington that US President Biden planned to provide $60 million to Ukraine in military aid through the Pentagon’s funds. The US supplies armaments to Kyiv and sends instructors to train the Ukrainian army. Ukraine received $350 million in US military aid in 2017 and 2018, $250 million in 2019 and $300 million in 2020. The country started receiving Javelin anti-tank systems after the administration of former US President Donald Trump consented to the sale of lethal weapons to Kyiv.[7]

Talks about how far the US would go to oust Russia in case of an invasion have certainly brought around the spirit of a new Cold War between the US and Russia. The US administration has been pondering how much military backing should be provided to Ukraine in the wake of the Russian provoking in the Ukraine crisis. In what would be a significant turnaround, senior Biden administration officials warn that the US might throw its weight behind a Ukrainian insurgency should  Russia invade Ukraine.[8] How could the US, which has just exited Afghanistan after failing in war against terror, support Ukraine’s uprising? This could lead to a new era of the Cold War.

Russia occupied Crimea in 2014. Since then, successive US govt has made efforts to limit military support to Ukraine, primarily defensive weaponry. The US has provided approximately $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank missiles and radar, enabling the Ukrainian military better to ascertain the sources and directions of artillery fire. The assistance has also included patrol boats and communications equipment.

The US established diplomatic relations with Ukraine in 1991, after its independence from the Soviet Union. The US attaches great significance to the success of Ukraine as a free and democratic state with a flourishing market economy. US policy is focused on supporting Ukraine in the face of continuous Russian aggression as it advances reforms to reinforce democratic institutions, fight corruption, and promote economic growth and competition conditions. The US does not, and will not ever, recognise Russia’s take-over of Crimea and endures working with our associates to seek a diplomatic solution to the Russian provoked conflict in eastern Ukraine. The US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership put in the limelight the importance of the consensual relationship and the continued commitment of the US to support enhanced engagement between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Ukraine.

What does Russia want in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin sees the current security architecture as unacceptable and dangerous to Russia. It is intolerable because it manifests a series of tightening military, political, and economic relationships between Ukraine and the West, and Putin sees the West as fundamentally hostile to Russia.

A list of demands Russia put across to the US needed to ward off the likelihood of an extensive military conflict in Ukraine. In a draft treaty delivered to a US diplomat in Moscow, the Russian government asked for a formal halt to NATO’s eastern enlargement, a permanent freeze on further expansion of the alliance’s military infrastructure (such as bases and weapons systems) in the former Soviet territory, an end to Western military assistance to Ukraine, and a ban on intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Speaking on 12 Jan after meeting in Brussels with a delegation from Russia as part of the NATO-Russia Council, Stoltenberg said the alliance would not agree to Moscow’s new security architecture in Europe but wanted to continue diplomacy. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty dt 12 Jan 2022).


Ukraine has struggled to take the independent path, but it is caught between a rock and a hard place. Geopolitically, it is wedged between Europe and the US on the west and a long time ethenic connection with Russia on the east. Western parts of the country support integration with Europe, whereas the Eastern parts prefer Russia.

The renewed Ukraine crisis is viewed as a part of the new geopolitical upheaval between western powers and Russia. This geopolitical situation would dominate international relations in the days to come. Russian aggression in Ukraine has triggered the greatest security crisis in Europe since the cold war ended.

The US-led Western world’s punitive actions since 2014 have not yielded any substantial results. The recent build-up of Russia along the border with Ukraine in 2021 has stoked fears that Moscow might be preparing for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which, however, Russia has categorically rejected.

Post-1990s, the world witnessed the emergence of the unipolar world, i.e. the US, however by 2006-08, this started fading away, and by 2014 China, Russia and many other countries, including India, surfaced on the world order.

The US mission in Afghanistan came to a tragic and chaotic end, further weakening the US’s position in the world order. Counterterrorism operations which started in Middle East and Afghanistan after 11 Sept 2001, are now discussed as part of the US defence policy. The rekindling of great power competition has led to a renewed emphasis on ‘grand strategy and the ‘geopolitics of the great power competition. The reinvigoration of Russia and the continued rise of China has created a new era of great power rivalry.

Russia is a resources economy, and Europe can not ignore this fact. If Europe and Ukraine think they have a future without Russia, it is a myth, nothing else. Underlying politics and the region’s history is very complicated, and Ukraine can not snub its old ally Russia. Meantime the US can keep burning Shale gas.

[1] WIKIPEDIA accessed on 16 Jan 2022.

[2] Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Accessed on 15 Jan 2022 Ukraine | History, Geography, People, Religion, Map › … › Countries of the World.

[3] Conflict in Ukraine | Global Conflict Tracker – Council on. › global-conflict-tracker › conflict. Accessed on 16 Jan 2022.

[4] Ibid

[5] Russia’s “Strategic Deterrence” in Ukraine – George C . › security-insights › russi. Accessed on 18 Jan 2022.

[6] Topic: Relations with Ukraine – NATO. › cps › natohq › topics_37768. Accessed on 18 Jan 2022.

[7] US military aid package for Ukraine to include lethal weapons. › world Accessed on 17 Jan 2022

[8] US Considers Backing an Insurgency in Ukraine – The New … › U.S. › Politics. Accessed on 15 Jan 2022.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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