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Russia and US Lock Horns Over Ukraine Border

This Eastern European country is a flashpoint for a global power struggle.

By:  |  December 14, 2021  |    742 Words
GettyImages-1232559465 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits southern frontline near Crimea border

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits southern frontline near Crimea border (Photo by Presidency of Ukraine / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden recently held a virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders talked about a disagreement on Ukraine, a country that sits on Russia’s border.

Since April 2021, Russia has been sending soldiers and weapons to its border with Ukraine. It’s estimated there are about 90,000 Russian troops along the boundary, as well as tanks and heavy artillery. This has caused a stir on the world stage because it seems Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine.

It appears not much was resolved at the presidents’ meeting, but what’s the big deal about Ukraine?

A Border Dispute

GettyImages-1358611862 Joe Biden

President Joe Biden (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Today, Ukraine sees itself as an independent nation. It belonged to the Soviet Union (now Russia) for several decades, but when the Union collapsed in 1991, it declared independence. Most countries recognize Ukraine’s independence, but Russia disagrees. In February 2020, Russian official Vladislav Surkov said, “there is no Ukraine. There is Ukrainian-ness … But there is no nation.”

According to author Dr. Björn Alexander Düben, today’s Russian leaders believe “that Ukraine is not a country in its own right, but a historical part of Russia.” That’s because, over time, land in Ukraine has been part of Russia.

But today, Ukraine considers itself an independent republic, and most of the world agrees.

Why Is the United States Involved?

So, if this is a matter between Russia and Ukraine, why is President Joe Biden getting involved?

The U.S. and Russia have been rivals since the end of World War II, competing for influence as two of the world’s most powerful countries.

ukraine map GettyImages-641462710

(Photo by: Encyclopaedia Britannica/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The U.S. and Europe work together through NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to limit Russian influence. NATO is a military alliance between the U.S. and over 20 European countries. According to NATO, the group’s goal is to promote democracy and “to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.”

Over the years, there has been debate over whether Ukraine should join NATO. This would make the country closer to the U.S. and Europe – something Russia doesn’t want.

Fighting Over the Border

In April, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia was acting aggressively toward Ukraine by building up its military along the border. He said Russia was just taking “all the necessary measures to ensure security of its frontiers.” Peskov added that “the Russian troops have never [taken] part and are not participating in armed conflicts on Ukraine’s soil.” He claimed, “The Russian Federation transfers the Armed Forces on its soil as it wants to. This should not concern anyone, and this is not posing any threat to anyone.”

However, the Russia/Ukraine border has seen fighting not too long ago. In 2014, pro-Europe groups in Ukraine clashed with pro-Russia groups. The two factions fought violently. As a result, Russia sent troops into Ukraine and annexed the Crimea region, claiming most of the people there wanted to re-join Russia.

Two other border areas, Donetsk and Luhansk (aka “Donbas”), declared themselves independent from Ukraine. Russia sent its army to support the Donbas rebels. There was no clear outcome for the area and fighting still breaks out from time to time.

Even on the day of President Biden and Putin’s video call, there was a skirmish between the Russian-supported rebels and the Ukrainians.

Any Solution to the Ukraine Problem?

After the meeting between the two presidents, has anything changed? Not really. The U.S. and Europe are still worried that Putin plans to invade Ukraine. Putin is still worried about NATO.

The U.S. has threatened to hurt Russia by cutting it off from making money. Officials said America could prevent Russia from doing business with other countries. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European Allies would respond with strong economic measures.”

Meanwhile, Russia has said it will not withdraw its troops unless it gets a guarantee that NATO won’t try to “expand East” by admitting Ukraine or building up weapons in other border countries.

In the end, both sides simply agreed to hold more talks in the future.

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