Conflict between Russia and Ukraine could lead to war

Matthew L. Self

Across the Pacific Ocean in Eastern Europe a potential war is brewing between the nations of Ukraine and Russia, a war that could potentially see United States and NATO involvement.

Hostilities have been blooming between the nations of Russia and Ukraine since the annexation of the territory of Crimea on the border of the Black Sea in March of 2014. Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and subsequent integration of the territory into Russia by 2015, has been highly criticized by many national leaders who consider it to be a violation of international law and Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Since the annexation of Ukraine in 2014, there have been tense interactions between the Ukrainian and Russian military forces on their respective borders.

Recently, the two nations engaged in a short naval conflict on Nov. 25 in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Three Ukrainian vessels, two small navy patrol boats and a tugboat, attempted to pass through the strait but were intercepted by Russian naval vessels that captured all three of the boats. A brief gunfight erupted between the Russian and Ukrainian vessels before the encounter ended.

Both Russia and Ukraine have shared different accounts of what happened during the short battle. From the Ukrainian perspective, the strait is still considered to be international waters and they refuse to request Russian permission to travel through it. From the Russian perspective, the strait is now considered to be Russian territorial waters and the Ukrainians did not ask for proper permission to travel through it, leading to the confrontation. A total of six wounded individuals was reported on the Ukrainian side of the battle.

Ukraine has requested aid from the U.S. and NATO due to the recent developments on the Kerch Strait and on their border with Russia. Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s requests for warships to be sent to the Sea of Azov would only likely add fuel to the fire as the situation deteriorates further between Russia and Ukraine. His declaration of martial law on the border territories of Ukraine and Russia have already caused a heightening of tensions between the two nations as it is.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced recently that the declaration of martial law was necessary for the protection of Ukraine.

“Martial law doesn’t mean declaring a war. It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting Ukraine’s defense in the light of a growing aggression from Russia,” Poroshenko said.

The border regions between Russia and Ukraine are the regions with the most discontent for Poroshenko and his policies. They are known to harbor many Russian backed separatists as well, people that Russia used to usurp Ukraine’s hold on the territory of Crimea in 2014. Many also believe that the president’s use of martial law is a move to improve his plunging approval rating among voters before the next election cycle in late January 2019.

Ukraine has been lobbying for admittance into NATO’s ranks for some time and, if it was granted membership, would mean that NATO members and the U.S. would likely be drawn into any potential conflict between the two Eastern European nations.

The deteriorating situation in Ukraine leaves many questioning what the next year will bring, further Russian annexation of Ukrainian territories, more armed conflicts between Russian and Ukrainian military forces or something equally disastrous are all possibilities. The situation in Ukraine will need to be observed closely in the coming days as a war between Russia and Ukraine will undoubtedly bring in other nations to mediate the conflict.