Russia has seized three Ukrainian Navy ships off the coast of Russian Annexed Crimea after opening fire on Ukrainian servicemen, and wounding several. Martial law has been declared and the Ukrainian armed forces put on the highest alert. The risk of a full-scale war has never been higher.
So, by now, you will have seen in the news how Russia has seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and captured 24 Ukrainian servicemen. This incident took place off the coast of Crimea, a small part of Ukraine which Russia annexed from the Ukrainian government in 2014. On top of this latest incident, let us not forget that Russia has incited a four-year war in the Donbass regions of Ukraine.
While not clarifying what part they have played in the uprising in the east of Ukraine, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Russia has directly supported the supposed “separatists.” They have also deployed regular armed forces and special operations forces in the east of Ukraine to destabilise the country. Bringing us back to the latest incident, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Russia would indeed want to continue flexing its strength in the region. This latest sign of aggression — if that’s what you want to call it! — for me, is just a straight up assault on Ukraine, and Russia proving once again that it can do what it likes when it likes. With little to zero fallout. And show the Ukrainians that Russia is indeed the dominant force with which they should have aligned themselves.
Ok. Enough of the hype, and enough of what Russia has done to Ukraine. What all this really means is the big question.
Let us cover some points. The Ukrainian Parliament and Ukrainian president declared martial law. What does that really mean? To be honest it means very little. The country has been at war for nearly four years, and only now they decide to declare martial law. Why is that? For me the answer is very simple: The Ukrainians finally got their forces to a stage where it believes it can reclaim the Donbas regions, but they need the support of the West in order to do so. The reality is, this little incident is a very small one on the scale of what Russia has done in the past to Ukraine. The Ukrainians are looking for more support from the UN and the West.
What does this mean for Russia? Well Putin reached out to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, asking her to speak with the Ukrainians to stop this aggression and to not escalate the situation any further. What does that statement mean? Putin is also trying to show the Ukrainians that he can call upon his friends within Europe, and that they will support him and not the Ukrainians. Putin is trying to play the card of ‘I don’t want war!’ But looking at the past this will be a misleading play, and he will escalate the war in the east of Ukraine.
Russia has also ordered the 24 Ukrainian servicemen to be held for a minimum period of 2 months. So what does that mean? Simple. Russia will hold the servicemen as a bartering chip should the UN or the West get involved in this conflict. He will release them showing once again ‘I am the good guy, here, not the bad one…’
What is the most likely outcome of the current exchange between Ukraine and Russia?
The war in the east of Ukraine will no doubt be escalated. Russia will seek to further dismantle and disrupt Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in the east. The separatist forces and Russian forces have long sought to capture Mariupol. If they were to do this, they will control the entire Azov Sea and cripple the Ukrainian economy. This would also give them a strategic military advantage over the rest of the Donbass region. Allowing more troops to support via munitions and logistics, and they would also be able to greater disguise the armed forces and special operations teams… to launch further disruptive tactics and place Ukraine on an even further back foot.
At a time like this, the UN and the West need to take firm foot on how we deal with Russia. We need to show some commitment, and we need to show some resolve. We can no longer stand by and let a country invade and dismantle the sovereignty and integrity of another country. Nor can we allow them to simply annex parts of a sovereign state. We must — at all costs — show Russia that it cannot bully Europe, or the West. And it is also crucial that we cripple the Russian economy, military, and their ability to conduct further operations like what is happening in eastern Ukraine right now. There must come a time when we stand up and say enough is enough, and I believe that now is that time. I just hope the UN and the Western governments have the backbone and the ability to stand up to Russia and put an end to this relentless aggression.