The disturbing resurgence of tension between Ukraine and its imposing Russian neighbor gives the international community a sense of deja vu, dangerously reminiscent of the Cold War era.< /p>
Promised for more than a decade, Ukraine's entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is at the heart of the battle currently being fought between the two Eastern countries.
Moscow accuses Western countries of having broken their promise made at the end of the Cold War never to expand NATO to the Russian borders.
“[The Russians] want there to be a formal and official renunciation of Ukraine's membership in NATO and the withdrawal of NATO forces from the Baltic republics because they are very close” , explained Jacques Lévesque, professor of political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and specialist in Russia.
You should know that NATO is strongly linked to the Cold War, period high tensions and confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Created after the Second World War, this political and military alliance aims to ensure the security of Western Europe and to prevent any expansion of the Soviet Union through a partnership with the United States.
The origin of the conflict
To understand the origin of the current crisis, we must go back to the fall of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War, in 1991, when Ukraine, now independent, began a dialogue with NATO.< /p>
The saga picks up again in 2008 when then-US President George W. Bush proposes a quick NATO membership process for Ukraine and Georgia, two former members of the Soviet Union. . France, Germany and Spain, however, oppose the idea, for fear of reprisals from Russia, which prevents the progress of the file for several years.
The showdown between the two countries then continued in 2014, when Russia easily managed to annex the region of Crimea, a peninsula located between the two countries and which had declared its independence in 1991 before accepting the annexation to Ukraine on next year.
In addition to Crimea, the Donbass, a mining basin located between the two countries and considered an important economic and cultural region of Ukraine, has been plagued since 2014 by a war with pro-Russian separatists, whose Kremlin is widely considered to be the military and financial godfather.
“Ukraine lost Crimea, and in addition to taking a chance to influence and curb the Ukrainian will to one day join NATO, Russia supported […] the Donbass rebellion, which still exists . And that's what the Ukrainians are currently looking to take back by force, if necessary,” explained Mr. Lévesque.
In response to the conflict in Crimea, NATO has increased its support in Ukraine and its member countries refused to recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea. The organization has also strengthened its presence in the Black Sea and intensified its maritime cooperation with Ukraine.
“With slow, cautious American aid, we sent them armaments, gave military advice to strengthen the Ukrainian army. Russia now feared, with good reason, that the rebel forces in Donbass had mounted sufficient means of defence,” said Professor Jacques Lévesque.
It is this fear that would have led Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy nearly 115,000 soldiers present in Belarus, a neighboring country of Ukraine and Russia, since last November.
Faced with these unusual troop movements, the international community has so far chosen the diplomatic option in order to avoid an escalation of tensions. However, several American officials fear that the situation will degenerate into an armed conflict.
Whose fault is it?
Washington believes that Russia may attack Ukraine at any time. The head of the American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, warned Moscow, arguing that a Russian invasion would cause a division of the world in two, “with the threat of total war hovering over everyone's head”.
Russia says it has no intention of intervening militarily in Ukraine. Nevertheless, one of his diplomats did not hesitate to draw a clear parallel with the Cold War last December. “We are currently witnessing a sort of remake of the Cold War, a Cold War 2.0,” he argued, blaming his former enemy in the United States.
Since last year, President Joe Biden's administration has approved sending $650 million worth of weapons to Ukraine, including $200 million last month. However, Kiev is pressing Westerners, like Canada, to deliver additional defense weapons.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has traveled to Europe to meet with her counterparts to Update on the situation. She took the opportunity to discuss with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, in order to reaffirm Canada's support for Ukraine.
According to specialist Jacques Lévesque, the renunciation of the extension of NATO by the United States would be the solution to put an end to the current tensions. “That would largely solve the problem, especially since the United States is not going to intervene anyway.”
– With AFP
La Canada's place in this conflict
With a community of 1.3 million citizens with Ukrainian roots, Canada had to engage diplomatically in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but many are waiting for concrete action from Ottawa.
< p>According to Jacques Lévesque, a professor and specialist in Russia, the decision to send Minister Joly there made it possible to “comfort the Ukrainians and above all to reduce the pressure from the Ukrainian community in Canada, which is asking the Canadian government to s 'involve'.
A founding member of NATO since 1949, Canada announced on Friday a loan of up to $120 million to Ukraine to help it deal with possible economic destabilization due to the raging conflict with Russia.
“We know there are other things they need. We are looking [what more we can] do,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
If the latter does not rule out the possibility of sending weapons, such as other NATO member countries, however, he did not make a clear commitment on this subject.
“[There is] no guarantee that we will send armaments to Ukraine to defend itself, because the Canadian government knows very well that we risk precipitating a Russian intervention to put a stop to things,” said underlined the specialist.
About 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have nevertheless been deployed to Ukraine as part of Operation UNIFIER, which aims to strengthen the military capabilities of the eastern country.< /p>
“A stronger commitment from Canada is absolutely not likely to happen,” however, specified the UQAM professor.
According to the 2016 census, just over 1.3 million Canadians ( or 3.8% of the Canadian population) are of Ukrainian origin. Mainly present in the west of the country, this community has the third largest population of Ukrainian origin in the world after Ukraine and Russia.
One of her loudest voices is the Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland. The granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants, she has regularly been the subject of Russia's smear campaign, because of her positions in favor of Ukraine.
Key dates in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine
- 1918: the Ukrainian People's Republic enjoyed a brief independence until 1920
- 1991: proclamation of independence after the breakup of the USSR
- 2008: US promises Ukraine will one day join NATO
- 2014: Ukraine's Crimea peninsula is annexed to Russia, leading to war in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists, killing over 13,000 people
- November 10, 2021: Washington asks Russia to explain unusual troop movements on Ukrainian border
- December 7, 2021: US President Joe Biden threatens Russia with strong economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine
- December 17, 2021: Moscow unveils two draft treaties to ban NATO enlargement and the establishment of military bases in former Soviet countries
- December 28, 2021: Moscow and Washington agree to talks
- January 10, 2022: Tense negotiations begin between Washington and Moscow
- January 14, 2022: Ukrainian government sites are the target of a massive cyberattack
- January 18, 2022: Russia deploys troops to Belarus
- January 19, 20 22: Biden discusses 'minor incursion' by Russia into Ukraine