Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in 2014 with the covert invasion of Crimea, has escalated into a full-scale invasion and occupation of parts of the country since February 2022. The war has caused tens of thousands of casualties, displaced millions of people, and threatened the security and stability of Europe and beyond. In this blog post, I will try to explain the causes, consequences, and challenges of this ongoing conflict.
What are the causes of the war?
The war has its roots in the historical, cultural, and political ties and tensions between Russia and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics that share a long border and a complex history. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence and pursued a pro-Western course, while Russia sought to maintain its influence and interests in the region.
The war was triggered by a series of events in 2013-2014, known as the Euromaidan protests, which erupted after then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the European Union and opted for closer ties with Russia. The protests led to Yanukovych’s ouster and the formation of a new pro-Western government in Kyiv. Russia viewed this as a coup and a threat to its strategic interests, especially its naval base in Crimea.
In February 2014, Russia sent disguised troops to seize Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula with a majority ethnic Russian population and a long history of Russian rule. A controversial referendum was held in March 2014, in which Crimea voted to join Russia. The annexation was widely condemned by the international community as illegal and illegitimate.
In April 2014, Russia-backed separatists began an armed uprising in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, where many ethnic Russians and Russian speakers live. The separatists declared the establishment of two self-proclaimed republics: the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). The Ukrainian government launched an anti-terrorist operation to restore its control over the territory.
A series of ceasefires and peace agreements were signed between Ukraine and the separatists, with the mediation of Russia, France, Germany, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The most important of these was the Minsk II agreement of February 2015, which outlined a roadmap for ending the conflict, including a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weapons, an exchange of prisoners, local elections, constitutional reforms, and restoration of Ukraine’s control over its border with Russia.
However, none of these agreements were fully implemented or respected by either side. The war continued at a low intensity for several years, with occasional flare-ups and violations. According to the UN, more than 13,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 wounded since 2014. More than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced and another 1 million have fled to neighboring countries.
What are the consequences of the war?
The war has had devastating humanitarian, economic,social,and environmental impacts on both Ukraine and Russia. According to the World Bank, Ukraine’s GDP contracted by 7.8% in 2014 and by another 9.8% in 2015 due to the war. The country also faced high inflation, currency devaluation, fiscal deficits, external debt pressures, and banking sector instability. Although some recovery has been achieved since 2016 with the help of international financial assistance and reforms, Ukraine remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Russia has also suffered from economic sanctions imposed by the US, EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, and other countries in response to its aggression against Ukraine. The sanctions have targeted individuals, entities,and sectors involved in or supporting Russia’s actions in Ukraine.