The Ukraine crisis has undeniably reached a frozen phase where no side can make considerable gains even though the ceasefire is constantly being violated. There have been agreements (two reached in Minks, Belarus) signed on wider aspects of the conflict as well as various ceasefire agreements for limiting escalation along the contact line. Nevertheless, there has not been any meaningful breakthrough and the conflict has already lasted for more than three years. In fact, any new progress is entirely contingent upon either Russia or Ukraine/West conceding on their interests. This brings us back to basics of the Ukrainian problem, which are rooted in geography.
The historical curse of geography. Ukraine lies at what is known as an ancient invasion route through which all major eastern onslaughts on Europe took place. From the Russian perspective though, Ukraine is the land through which western invasions of Russia happened. Russians remember well how Swedish King Charles XII in the 18th century and Hitler in the 20thcentury marched through Ukraine with powerful armies. What conditioned Ukraine’s position as a major invasion route was the flat nature of its land. Ukraine has not got any major geographic barriers to rely on, which makes the march through its territory quick and indefensible. Keeping Ukraine under its fold would allow Russia to extend its influence to the heart of Europe. Moreover, it is only through Ukraine that Russia can have direct land access to its peacekeeping forces in Moldova’s breakaway territory of Transnistria.