Ukraine is a country that has been at the center of geopolitical tensions in recent years. The country’s conflict with Russia began more than two years ago, when pro-Russian separatists took control of Crimea and Russia annexed the region in March 2014. This was followed by ongoing civil war in eastern Ukraine and Russia's continued support for pro-Russian separatist fighters.
The conflict between Ukraine and its neighbor is fuelled by strong historical ties, religious differences, power politics, and economic concerns. The current situation shows the complexity of geopolitics and the challenges it poses to international relations in our globalized world.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine
Ukraine and Russia have had a long, complicated relationship. Ukraine was once part of the Russian Empire and became part of the Soviet Union after the 1917 revolution. When Ukraine declared independence in 1991, it was the largest country to break away from the Soviet Union.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is fuelled by strong historical ties, religious differences, power politics, and economic concerns. The current situation shows the complexity of geopolitics and the challenges it poses to international relations in our globalized world.
Why does the conflict exist?
Russia and Ukraine share a large maritime border, spanning more than 1,300 kilometers. The two countries historically had a very good relationship, as did the Soviet Union and its successor the Russian Federation. Their cooperation has, however, been fading since the early 2000s, when the Ukrainian government moved closer to the EU and started the process of integration. Many Ukrainians saw this as an effort by their country to distance itself from Russia. This, in turn, triggered Moscow’s irritation.
In recent years, relations between the two countries have deteriorated further. After the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, protests brought in Viktor Yanukovych as the new Ukrainian president.
What are the consequences for Ukraine?
Ukraine is not only a neighbour but is also geographically linked to Russia, the most powerful country in Eurasia. Russia’s influence over Ukraine has not stopped growing since the annexation of Crimea and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Ahead of the 2015 UEFA European Football Championship in France, the United States and the European Union were particularly concerned by Russia's violation of Ukrainian airspace with fighter jets. Earlier, the US government had imposed sanctions on a number of individuals involved in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military's victory in 2015 in the War in Donbass has had a significant impact on both domestic politics and international relations.
What can be done to resolve this situation?
A key issue for the international community is the desire to maintain political stability in a country with a population of 46 million people. At the same time, the Russians are deeply worried about the outcome of Ukraine's political and economic reform agenda. These geopolitical developments have been a major concern for many businesses operating in Ukraine.
Russia is Ukraine's main trade partner, with one-third of Ukraine's trade going to Russia. Russia accounts for more than half of Ukraine's natural gas exports, and up to 90% of Ukraine's wheat exports. Russian oligarchs control many of Ukraine's largest enterprises. The country's recent political instability has prompted business leaders and politicians in both countries to reassess their position in the world, with many cashing in.