Ukraine Conflict Expanding, Little Hope of Slowdown

Seamus Dowdall, Senior Writer

Despite what you may have heard, the situation in Ukraine is reaching new heights. The conflict, originally one of political upheaval between pro-western and pro-eastern factions, has broken the civil barrier and gone international. Multiple top Ukrainian officials have confirmed that Russian forces have invaded the southeastern region of Ukraine. In an effort to support pro-eastern forces and destabilize the newly formed pro-western Ukraine, Russian soldiers and arms are flowing into the region. To make matters worse, Russian President Vladimir Putin denies that the invasion has occurred, claiming that Russian soldiers merely crossed the Ukrainian border by accident.

Many suspect that the actions of Russia are to inflict a sort of “frozen conflict,” which will work to keep Ukraine in a destabilized condition and unable to progress. It is to this scenario that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is finding retaliation to be the best course of action. On Sept. 4, a NATO summit convened in Wales to discuss the level of military arms support necessary to send into Ukraine. Although NATO is not prepared for direct involvement, to the disappointment of Ukraine, their growing awareness of necessary protection for Ukraine signals fears of a potentially larger conflict.

As of Sept. 3, reports leaked that Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agreed to a cease-fire. However, not more than five hours after the reports, Poroshenko corrected the media in saying progress was being made on a “cease-fire regime” rather than a substantive deal. Despite the expected waves of optimism sweeping the media, NATO remains skeptical. We may see a lot more conflict in Ukraine before a resolution arises.

The situation in Ukraine has reached a crossroads. Neither side is strong enough to topple the other, leading to a precarious situation in which conflict could potentially drag on for months. Putin’s recent jab into the side of Ukraine goes beyond that of his previous actions, hinting at his willingness to be more aggressive in the face of NATO reluctance to get involved in the situation.

Ultimately, a situation in which rebels (who are funded, supplied, and rallied by the Kremlin) coexist with a weak semi-provisional government in Kiev is not sustainable. The West will have to take a firmer stance towards Putin, even though many may not be willing to accept that the sanctions against Russia are not enough to stymie support. Given the rise of ISIS and an attempt to focus NATO resources in Syria and Iraq, Putin may be presiding over an era of diminishing Western influence in eastern Europe.

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