by Max Matheny
The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.
In recent days, Russia has been moving troops to the Russo-Ukrainian border causing tensions with the West. According to Ukrainian and NATO’s estimates, this figure comes to around 120,000 troops. Russia’s government has tried to assure the US and the EU that it doesn’t intend to invade. However, Russia's past actions indicate otherwise. Back in 2014, following a build-up of Russian troops, Russia invaded Crimea, a region of Ukraine with a majority Russian and Russian speaking population. Following a referendum conducted by the Russians in which 96% of Crimeans voted to join Russia, they annexed the territory. This referendum was boycotted by the EU and the US after they raised concerns over the validity of the referendum. This was followed by the imposing of sanctions by these countries.
Following these sanctions, the Russian GDP fell by 40% however Russia has adapted to a point where Russia has become nearly sanction-proof by any traditional means.
Following the annexation of Crimea, the seperatist movement in Donbass (another ethnically Russian part of Ukraine) broke out where Pro-Russia rebels started an ongoing conflict with the Ukrainian Government. It is suspected that Russia has had a hand in supplying the rebels though Russia has continually denied any involvement with the rebels. Fast-forward to present day and Russia is conducting military drills at the border and it looks like Russia is prepared to invade. Though the Ukrainian government currently outnumbers them with 140,000 soldiers compared to Russia’s 120,000, Russia will likely move in more soldiers to the border right before the invasion. In addition, the modern Russian military technology is far superior than their Ukrainian counterparts, which still utilizes Soviet era equipment. Ukraine does have a very sizable reservist force however mobilizing and training them for combat would take months ruling that option out.
As of now, Ukraine’s hopes nearly entirely rely on the western actions but this has seen some balking on the part of the west. Germany, a key member state of the EU, has yet to take a firm position on the situation. According to sources, US military supplies bound for Ukraine have been forced to go around German Airspace, much to their inconvenience and costing the US additional money. However this isn’t necessarily much of a surprise as German parties have favored a friendly policy with Russia and the former Chancellor, Angela Merkel had an odd ‘friendship’ with Russian president, Vladimir Putin. In fact Germany was a key player in the building of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. A pipeline that opponents feared would result in a bigger dependency on Fossil Fuels and on Russia. Europe is already dependent on Russia as 30% of its oil and 39% of its natural gas come from Russia. Meaning if Europe took up the fight against Russia, much of Europe would lose power and heat provided by fossil fuels.
Some European countries have begun to push away as both Sweden and Finland are now contemplating joining NATO, something Russia wants to prevent at all costs. NATO was formed in the cold war as a defense coalition and acted as a major deterrent to any possible Soviet Incursion. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has continued to act as a deterrent to any aggression internationally and remains the strongest international alliance between countries. It is no wonder that Russia, a non-member, does not want this alliance to expand. In it’s latest list of demands put towards the US one of the terms was to prevent it from adding any new members. Lately both Ukraine and Georgia, who border Russia have petitioned to join NATO. Both of which have Russian Separatist Movements from within their own borders. In addition, both have seen significant western democratic shifts in the past ten years and if they were to join NATO, would put Russian national security at risk.
Politicians around the world are signaling that a Russian invasion may occur within the next month or two. President Biden has put 8,500 troops on high alert to be deployed in Europe if Russia were to invade. Though he has also confirmed that the US will try to avoid any armed conflict with Russia. This is likely because the US needs to keep its focus on China and curbing its influence. This does not mean the US will not respond if Russia invades Ukraine. Already the US has sent thousands of its anti-tank weaponry to help it defend itself against the largest tank force in the modern world. In addition, US politicians in the Senate have promised “unprecedented” sanctions which they say would be able to hurt Russian assets that they previously had been unable to touch.
Bradley sophomore Connor Conlas disagrees with the US approach to the situation and states that “the US should stop sending ‘lethal’ aid”, citing that sending weapons would only serve to escalate tensions. He states “warn them with immense sanctions”, and that the penalties should be economic, not militarily. Though Russia would stand to gain from annexing Ukrainian territory, these new sanctions might cripple the recovering Russian economy and result in a failed state. Bradley Sophmore Joseph Alford agreed with Connor’s assessment, stating, “We should not be sending troops to Europe.” As of now, the US has already sent its letter of response to Russia’s demands and America it will be up to Russia to make the next move.