Defuse worrying tensions over Ukraine

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The importance of resolving the Ukraine issue well can hardly be overstated. It is a turning point for the current world order that rests on the Westphalian premise that a state has sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs; that external powers cannot interfere in a country’s domestic affairs; and that each state, big or small, is equal in international law. Ukraine, which gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has sought closer relations with Western Europe while also facing the pull of Russia that lies to its east. Many nations, including those in Asia, can draw parallels from Ukraine’s circumstances as great power competition continues to intensify around the globe.

Over 100,000 Russian troops are camped close to the Ukrainian border, raising fears in Kiev that another invasion is imminent. Approximately 43,000 sq km, or about 7 per cent of Ukraine’s area, is Russian-occupied, including Crimea that Russia seized seven years ago. Moscow denies it has any hostile intentions but has moved tanks, rocket launchers, ships and other military equipment towards Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote last year that Russians and Ukrainians were “one people, a single whole” – an expression of a historical view in Russia that Ukraine is a part of its sphere of influence. United States President Joe Biden thinks Mr Putin would test the West, the US and Nato and will “move in”.

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