Russia-Ukraine tensions rise as Moscow orders troops to region for ‘peacekeeping’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, chairs a Security Council meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

By Camille Cox | Staff Writer

The threat of the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to rise with Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognizing two separatist regions as independent from Ukraine and ordering troops to enter the regions for “peacekeeping.”

According to the New York Times, this means that Russia will officially see the two territories, Donetsk and Luhansk, within Ukraine as entirely separate. Putin addressed the nation of Russia with this decision on Monday and sent troops to the areas, furthering tensions between the two groups.

This is a “move many fear may be the spark for a Russian military intervention against Ukraine,” the New York Times said.

The White House immediately issued a response to the Russian announcement, stating that it is ready to respond and anticipated this move from Russia.

“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade and financing by U.S. persons to, from or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine. This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” the White House response said.

Dr. Sergiy Kudelia, Baylor associate professor of political science, said there has been constant back-and-forth for seven years, with Germany and France serving as mediators between Russia and Ukraine following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Kudelia said Russia now observing the independent regions could lead to multiple scenarios, but likely further escalation.

“Some in Ukraine think that will be the end of the conflict because once they [Russia] recognize independence, Russia will basically recognize that it takes responsibility for the separatists republics, and there is no incentive for it to move back,” Kudelia said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to me at least that this would be the case. In fact, what it seems like, that the recognition of the independence from these states is one of the steps that would ultimately lead to further capture of the Ukrainian territory of Russian troops.”

Kudelia said that within these separatist regions, mass evacuation continues to occur, with citizens flocking to Russia. According to the Washington Post, Moscow-backed leaders in these regions told citizens that Ukraine was planning to attack, using propaganda to cause mass chaos within the state.

“Russia is preparing ground for the deployment of full-scale Russian troops in these republics that would be put along the so-called contact line with the Ukrainian troops,” Kudelia said. “Ukrainian troops have also built up over the last months in response to the rise in Russian threat, and there are about 50,000 to 60,000 troops now on that contact line. There is a continuous exchange of fire between the separatists positions and the Ukrainian positions. Once Russian troops are officially there — which is likely to be tomorrow or the day after tomorrow — any type of damage that will be done to the Russian troops, let’s say an artillery is fired and a Russian soldier is killed, will be used a pretext for the declaration of war on Ukraine.”

If Russia invades Ukraine, the United States will feel the global effects, as heavy economic sanctions will be placed on Russia; counter sanctions, cyberattacks and a flood of refugees could develop; and the possibility of neighboring NATO allies’ involvement could lead the United States to direct involvement.

“If conflicts spill over into any NATO member states, that certainly will trigger a response from the United States that will put them directly at odds with Russia,” Kudelia said.

Russia has launched cyberattacks on both the United States and Ukraine in the past, and Russia has voiced that it plans to do the same if economic sanctions are put on them by the United States.

“The question is whether or not Russia would be willing to engage in more serious cyberattacks that would affect, let’s say, the power grid of the United States,” Kudelia said. “That is one of the things many are concerned about. Through the cyberattack, large parts of the country would be left without power, which means huge damage to the American economy and panic.”

President Joe Biden said that invasion is imminent and has agreed “in principle” to a proposal from President Emmanuel Macron of France to meet with Putin, but it would not happen if Russian troops cross the Ukrainian border.

United States Representative Pete Sessions said that while this potential meeting should have taken place some time ago to prevent the ongoing tensions, the Biden administration is positively handling the situation.

“The reality of where we are is that this state department and our intelligence agencies are well behind effectively countering what is happening,” Sessions said. “Today, Russia, through Putin, is using thuggery and deception to use their — what I think they’re trying to do is justification for this huge war. It is important that America puts its best thinking on the table and with the world against the Russians.”

The New York Times offers up-to-date information about the ongoing conflict, with real-time updates following Russia, Ukraine and the United States’ response.

“The situation is getting worse, and the risks of full-fledged war are going up,” Kudelia said.