#Editorial

Conflict in Ukraine

Mar 18, 2022, 1:40 PM

Since Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, fighting has caused over two hundred civilian deaths and pushed millions of Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries

—the majority of whom have arrived in Poland, a NATO country where U.S. troops are preparing to offer assistance to refugees.

In October 2021, Russia began moving troops and military equipment near its border with Ukraine, reigniting concerns over a potential invasion. Commercial satellite imagery, social media posts, and publicly released intelligence from November and December 2021 showed armor, missiles, and other heavy weaponry moving toward Ukraine with no official explanation. By December, more than one hundred thousand Russian troops were in place near the Russia-Ukraine border and U.S. intelligence officials warned that Russia may be planning an invasion for early 2022.In mid-December 2021, Russia’s foreign ministry issued a set of demands calling for the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to cease any military activity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to commit against further NATO expansion toward Russia, and to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO in the future.  The United States and other NATO allies rejected these demands and warned Russia they would impose severe economic sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine. The United States sent additional military assistance to Ukraine, including ammunition, small arms, and other defensive weaponry.

In early February 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered around three thousand U.S. troops to deploy to Poland and Romania—NATO countries that border Ukraine—to counter Russian troops stationed near its border with Ukraine and reassure NATO allies. Satellite imagery showed the largest deployment of Russian troops to its border with Belarus since the end of the Cold War. Negotiations between the United States, Russia, and European powers—including France and Germany—did not result in a resolution. While Russia released a statement claiming to draw down a certain number of troops, reports emerged of an increasing Russian troop presence at the border with Ukraine.  

In late February 2022, the United States warned that Russia intended to invade Ukraine, citing Russia’s growing military presence at the Russia-Ukraine border. Russian President Vladimir Putin then ordered troops to Luhansk and Donetsk, separatist regions in Eastern Ukraine partly controlled by Russian-backed separatists, claiming the troops served a “peacekeeping” function. The United States responded by imposing sanctions on the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline a few days later. On February 24, during a United Nations Security Council meeting to dissuade Russia from attacking Ukraine, Putin announced the beginning of a full-scale land, sea, and air invasion of Ukraine targeting Ukrainian military assets and cities across the country. Biden declared this attack “unprovoked and unjustified” and has since issued severe sanctions in coordination with European allies targeting four of Russia’s largest banks, its oil and gas industry, and U.S. technology exports to the country.

The United Nations, G7, EU, and other countries continue to condemn Russian actions and support Ukrainian forces. In an emergency United Nations session, 141 of 193 member states voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanded that Russia immediately cease its use of force in Ukraine. The United States has issued escalating sanctions on the financial assets of Putin and Sergey Lavrov’s, Russia’s foreign minister, removing Russian banks from the global SWIFT financial messaging system, and banning U.S. imports of Russian oil and natural gas. The U.S. continues to commit military assistance to Ukraine; following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Congress on March 16, Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance. NATO defense ministers are drafting plans to reinforce troops on the alliance’s eastern flank, bringing the total number of NATO troops and national armies to 180,000.

Direct negotiations between Russia and Ukraine continue with signs of progress but no formal agreement. Weeks after the initial Russian invasion, fighting continues in and around major Ukrainian cities, with attacks on hospitals and residential complexes.

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