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Why is Russia’s Putin so focused on Ukraine?

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Three reasons why Putin feels so strongly about Ukraine and has chosen to bring the crisis to a head

Why is Russia’s Putin so focused on Ukraine?

Ukraine has become the main flashpoint in Russia’s relations with the West

after a series of tough statements from President Vladimir Putin

and a build-up of tens of thousands of Russian troops near its border.

“If Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences.”

U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE WENDY SHERMAN SAYs

“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades.”

U.S. PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN says

“The risk of a conflict is real.”

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL, JENS STOLTENBERG, SAYs

“This is an extremely dangerous situation. We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JEN PSAKI SAYs

Here are three reasons why Putin feels so strongly about Ukraine and has chosen to bring the crisis to a head.

1. HISTORY

With the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union,

Russia lost control of 14 former republics it had previously dominated, but the loss of Ukraine was the bitterest pill.

Many Russians feel a connection with Ukraine that they do not feel towards other former Soviet states

The two had been linked since the 9th century and speak closely related languages

Putin has said Russians and Ukrainians were one people who shared a ‘single historic and spiritual space’

2. GEOPOLITICS

Since the Cold War ended NATO has expanded eastwards by taking in 14 new countries, including states that were once in the Soviet Union.

For Russia – this was a threatening encroachment towards its borders.

“The build-up of the United States and NATO’s forces next to the Russian borders is of great concern.”

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYs.

While Ukraine is not a NATO member it has a promise it will eventually get to join.

Since toppling a pro-Russian president in 2014, it has moved closer to the West, and staged joint military exercises with NATO.

Putin says Ukraine’s growing ties with the alliance could make it a launchpad for NATO missiles targeted at Russia.

He wants security guarantees from the West including the rescinding of NATO’s membership promise to Kyiv.

3. PUTIN’S MINDSET AND MOTIVES

As a leader who tolerates virtually no domestic opposition, Putin has a strong aversion to revolutions in neighbouring countries that could encourage protests in Russia.

Ukraine is potentially threatening for Putin if it inspires Russians with a pro-Western vision.

Keeping the West guessing about a possible invasion of Ukraine has put Russia high on the international agenda and forced U.S. President Joe Biden to re-engage with Putin in a video call in December.

In a recent interview Putin mourned the collapse of the Soviet Union as the demise of ‘historical Russia.’

Some analysts argue such statements suggest Putin sees Ukraine as ‘unfinished business’ and wants to follow the seizure of Crimea – which boosted his popularity in Russia – to bring part or all of Ukraine back under Moscow’s control.

Rosanna Philpott – Reuters

World

Authorities find drug-smuggler’s tunnel under the U.S. and Mexico border

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Anti-drug agents have found a smugglers’ tunnel including a rail track, electricity and ventilation system

A drug-smuggler’s tunnel has been unearthed under the U.S. and Mexican border.

It led from the Mexican city of Tijuana to a warehouse located 300 feet from the San Diego border.

Six people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

They are accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, among other crimes.

“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” says the U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Authorities collect information about the people behind the tunnel.

The tunnel is believed to be over 1,750 feet long, and was fitted out reinforced walls.

Close to 100 tunnels have been found in the same area, but this was one of the largest.

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Ukraine Crisis

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

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Finland and Sweden have officially submitted their applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden have handed in applications to join NATO.

It ends decades of political neutrality for both nations, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chief of NATO says the applications are quote an “historic step”.

If their bid is successful, it will bring the alliance’s membership to 32.

While Russia strongly opposes the move, there are also members within NATO’s own ranks voicing their concerns.

Dubbed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the NATO alliance was founded in 1949

It follows one rule: an attack on one, is an attack on all.

It sought to counter Russian expansion in Europe after World War Two.

But following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of its former Eastern European allies joined the alliance, something that has raised concerns in Moscow.

Finland and Sweden need the support of all member states to join. If they’re successful, it will take the alliance to 32 members.

NATO members must spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Finland already meets this target and Sweden says it will do so “as soon as possible”.

The two countries will also bring a range of military might.

Finland has over 19-thousand active troops, and Sweden has over 14-and-a-half thousand.

There are 220 tanks, and over 200 combat aircraft.

Russia believes NATO has been verging on its door stop and is warning both nations against joining.

Turkey’s President is also voicing concerns, saying the two Scandinavian nations should not send delegations to convince him of their bids.

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Tech

U.S. warns against hiring North Korean tech workers

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The U.S. is warning North Korean workers are trying to find IT jobs by hiding their identities

The U.S. believes workers are seeking to steal money for their home country.

Many of them are allegedly pretending to be from other parts of Asia, according to three U.S. agencies.

The State Department says thousands of highly skilled IT workers are sent around the world to generate revenue to help with North Korea’s weapons production.

“The DPRK [North Korea] dispatches thousands of highly skilled IT workers around the world to generate revenue that contributes to its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of US and UN sanctions.”

U.S. State Department

If North Korea is employing workers to fund its missiles program, the move would be in violation of U.N. international sanctions.

“The United States is committed to disrupting illicit DPRK revenue-generating activities, which may facilitate criminal activity, provide direct support to the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and threaten international peace and security,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The country has conducted several missile tests in recent months, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile.

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