Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and international security expert, Professor David Galbreath, is avaialble for media interviews in relation to the situation in Ukraine.
He explained: “If Western intelligence and security reports are to be believed, Russian forces are advancing on Ukraine’s borders from the North, East and South. Russia’s reported aim is to ensure that its ‘neighbourhood’ remains friendly to the interests of Moscow. These interests are generally hostile to the European Union and specifically hostile to NATO. The EU remains the largest trading partner of Russia (and Ukraine), but Moscow sees the EU as being distinctly interventionist across economics, politics and society. Furthermore, Russia can clearly see that the EU and NATO share many, although not all, of the same members.
"Grievances against NATO, which have opened the door to Ukrainian membership, though not with a timeline or in some cases with a great deal of enthusiasm, are both historical and present. Historically, the Soviet Union (Russia’s predecessor state) faced the United States and NATO forces across the so-called ‘Iron Curtain’. On the European mainland, NATO forces were the cause of insecurity for Moscow and its Warsaw Pact allies.
"Yet more recently, Russian politicians and policy makers have made much of the open door policy of NATO and how that threatens the interest of Russia. Following the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia expected that with the end of the Warsaw Pact and Eastern threat to Western Europe, NATO would have no reason to persist. Yet the breakdown of Yugoslavia and the subsequent operations maintained a purpose for the alliance that would lead to its rebirth in Afghanistan and beyond.
"Following this, the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ in Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004 and Kyrgyzstan in 2005 led Russia to understand a creeping Westernisation through the promotion of liberal governance, trade and human rights. The setbacks over Yugoslavia and the establishment of Kosovo, the independence of Montenegro and then the ‘colour revolutions’ in what was the former Soviet Union, combined with a historical distrust of NATO and the ‘West’, led Russia to act on stopping what they assessed as against Russia’s interests.
“Ukraine has been an important actor in this geo-political conflict. Having been part of the coloured revolutions (Orange) in 2004, a popular movement in 2013 and 2014 went on to challenge the pro-Moscow government which led to a change in government in Kiev and the subsequent move by Russian forces to seize Crimea and to encourage proxy wars in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. The result is a now 8 year-long war in the East which has produced near daily casualties and thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“So why the change current escalation in the situation? The first reason is a growing reckoning that Moscow sees as support for Ukraine grows but also Ukrainian politicians beginning to speak of a future beyond the wars and without the occupied and secessionist territories. The second is the war itself, which has not progressed at a pace that suits Moscow where there was expectation that a great swathe of territory could have been claimed. Ukrainian forces are better trained and equipped than they were at the start. Third, we must understand any such major foreign policy push within the context of Vladimir Putin and his legacy as a statesman and deliverer of the great power status that many of his supporters think that Russia deserves. Shoring up Russia’s neighbourhood would be an ideal marker of his legacy.”