Russia invading Ukraine? Some thought it was simply a whisper in the wind of conspiracy theories. Others claimed it was right on the money. Others suspected it was simply a ‘bluff’ to scare people into protecting their money and to cause stocks to stir. However, the invasion is all too real, frighteningly tangible and set to impact the world.
Here’s a succinct explanation as to how we got here, and how we’re being impacted.
1. Why did Russia and Ukraine have tension initially?
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, some former Soviet Union countries gained sovereignty. Within those countries, such as Ukraine, various regions opted for independence – causing domestic conflicts.
Some experts have indicated that Russia under Vladimir Putin, has always seen these countries as still belonging to Russia. As Fabrice Pothier, former director of policy planning for NATO expressed as per AlJazeera, “Putin… wants to rebuild Russia’s empire.”
Ukraine’s ties to the West, particularly when supporting NATO, were not favoured by Russia. Ukraine has been dubbed a “puppet of the West” by Putin, who has often opposed and criticised NATO.
A major conflict between the two states (Russia and Ukraine) occurred back in 2014. Rebels within Ukraine received backing from the Russian military, which caused tensions to reach boiling point, predominantly in the Eastern regions. This was the 2014 invasion, where “big swathes of the east” were seized as the BBC reminds.
The conflict came to something of an ‘official resolution’ with the agreement of the 2015 Minsk Peace Accord, which promised something akin to peace between the two states. The world fearing nuclear conflict breathed in relief at the time, however, conflicts have continued ever since. Now, almost 10 years later, even the illusion of ‘peace’ has crumbled to dust for similar reasons.
2. Why did recent tensions emerge?
In December last year, the build-up of Russian military troops intensified tensions between NATO, Ukraine and Russia. The build-up of troops presented as doing ‘training exercises’ followed Ukraine pushing to join NATO and was seen as a smokescreen.
Demands were made on both sides. Russia wanted a guarantee that NATO will hold no military activity in Eastern Europe. The United States responded with the warning of sanctioning should an invasion occur.
3. Things take a turn in intensity
Things took a worrisome turn early this week after Putin acknowledged the independence of two separatist regions in Eastern Ukraine according to TIME. More military troops were ordered by Russia to support the separatists and maintain peace. Of course, supporting the separatist regions would allow Russia to send troops and weapons there ‘freely’.
The sanctions became less of a warning and more of a reality with each move.
Americans were ordered to stop investing and doing business with the separatist regions too under this position, causing cracks in the stock market. Those regions are Donetsk and Luhansk in the East. Until now these so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk have been run by Russian proxies, says the BBC.
4. The Invasion becomes official
The United Nations Security Council responded by setting up an emergency meeting earlier this week at Ukraine’s request as an invasion appeared unavoidable.
The announcement of a Russian-led invasion was announced on Thursday, February 24.
Watch the moment Russia’s President Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine’s Donbas region, warning other nations of consequences if they interfere ⤵️
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 24, 2022
Reports express that Ukrainian regions sporting weapon strikes have been targeted. Several Russians and Ukrainians have lost their lives, as per Al Jazeera. Citizens were called upon to fight by the Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and martial law has been declared. Already, the destruction has been rapid, with numerous warplanes already destroyed.
NATO has opted to boost its land, sea and air forces via its Eastern Flank. Finland has already made preparations for Ukrainian refugees.
Experts express that diplomatic measures to maintain the situation are not viable options right now.
As for Europe, Boris Johnson has called the events “catastrophic” via his official Twitter.
5. How are we being impacted?
While the conflict between Ukraine and Russia may be oceans and thousands of kilometres away, South Africans may indirectly bear the brunt of the conflict. Earlier last week, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe indicated that the crisis would likely lead to a surge in petrol prices as motorists brace themselves for a fuel hike in March with an increase of R1.
The warning may be playing out just as the Minister predicted, with the rand falling in the early morning trade as the Russia/Ukraine crisis saw a global sell-off, as per BusinessTech.
The price of Brent Crude oil has been incredibly unpredictable this past week due to the rising tensions between the two European nations but surged more than 3.5% past $100 a barrel earlier today for the first time since September 2014.
“Escalation of tensions in Ukraine will exert upward pressure on global inflation through higher energy prices – Russia is a major energy exporter – but also food prices, so we expect to see higher core inflation that will last longer,” said Carlos Casanova, section economist at Union Bancaire Privée.