Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union until it disintegrated in 1991 and Ukraine became an independent country. As neighbours and former Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine share a common heritage that goes back more than a thousand years.
Ukraine is situated at a crossroad between Russia and the European Union, and its geographic location makes it an important trade and travel corridor between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Judging by the developments, the Ukraine crisis could have been prevented had the US-led West acted responsi-bly, keeping the well-being of the region and the rest of the world in mind
Ukraine pledged political and strategic neutrality when it became an independent country. But it changed tack later, and in February 2019, Petro Poroshenko, then Ukrainian president, signed a constitutional amendment saying the country would become a member of the European Union and NATO.
Russia has been asserting that Ukraine give up this goal and declare itself neutral as it had pledged in 1991. In fact, Russia has clearly stated on several occasions that it does not want Ukraine to join NATO. "If Ukraine were to join NATO, it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised remark on Feb 21, during which he described Ukraine as a "springboard" for a NATO strike against Russia.
Before ordering the "special military operation" in Ukraine, Putin demanded that NATO rule out admitting new members from among former Soviet republics, most importantly, Ukraine, accusing the military bloc of threatening Russian security.
But instead of heeding Russia's call, the United States and other NATO member states increased their support to Ukraine and said the bloc welcomes new members. If the US' allies Australia and New Zealand can be "worried" about China's security pact with the Solomon Islands, Russia has good reason to question the designs of the US and its regional partners.
Recently, even Pope Francis said that the "barking of NATO at the door of Russia" might have led to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The US is a major contributor to the Russia-Ukraine conflict as it had been encouraging Ukraine to join NATO－and is still providing Ukrainian forces with training and equipment.
Robert H. Wade, a professor of Global Political Economy at the London School of Economics, argues that while nothing can excuse Russia's action, "the Kremlin has effectively fallen into a trap laid by the US and NATO that is intended to bring down Putin's regime".
The US, the United Kingdom and other European nations have poured huge quantities of weapons into Ukraine. And on April 28, US President Joe Biden asked the Congress to pass a proposed $33 billion "Ukraine aid package", including more than $20 billion in military aid and other security assistance.
As Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said, "The U.S. wants to seize the moment, tying its allies to itself, and drown Russia in the war with Ukraine. It's their goal－to sort out Russia, and then China."
While according to an International Monetary Fund blog, "The conflict is a major blow to the global economy that will hurt growth and raise prices", a UN Conference on Trade and Development rapid assessment of the conflict's impact on trade and development predicts a worsening outlook for the world economy, underpinned by rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices.
The China-Europe freight train service is a major pillar of trade between China and Europe as well as for other countries along the route. But there are rising concerns that the Ukraine conflict could affect the train service, and the widening sanctions by the US and its allies could hit the much-needed supply chains.
Judging by the developments, the Ukraine crisis could have been prevented had the US-led West acted responsibly, keeping the well-being of the region and the rest of the world in mind.
But who will take the responsibility for this global economic catastrophe? The US' ploy to escalate tensions and expand its market should not be ignored.
The author is director of BRISL, a Sri Lankan think tank focusing on China's Belt and Road Initiative.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.