The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has released satellite images to show the extent of Russian involvement in the War in Ukraine. Specifically NATO has used commercial satellite images from DigitalGlobe to prove that a partial invasion of the Eastern part of the country has taken place by Russian forces. The invasion, apparently in support of separatist rebels who had been struggling in their fight with Ukrainian federal forces, was after the forced annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine earlier in the year.
The Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, decried the Russian Government’s insistence that no incursion or invasion had even taken place.
“Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine. This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign nation,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a statement.
The Ukrainian Government is planning to formally apply to become a full member of NATO. Despite sympathy for Ukraine’s plight, NATO normally disallows states from joining NATO if they have disputed borders (an attack on one NATO nation is regarded as an attack on all of NATO). Instead, it is more likely for there to be a further strengthening of Western economic sanctions against Russia. The sanctions are starting to bite and are affecting decisions even within the Russian space industry. Russia has decided to cease using the Rockot launch vehicle for its military launches from 2016 as the launch vehicle depends on the importation of foreign parts. This decision could mean the end of the Russo-European Eurockot commercial launch business whose operations and economics rely on Russian military operational support.
While Ukraine is unlikely to be allowed into NATO, some NATO nations (USA, UK) have already signed the Budapest Memorandum 1994 under which Ukraine’s sovereignty should have been protected after it gave up nuclear weapons. Critics note that in failing thus far to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and borders, the cause of nuclear non-proliferation has been significantly set back.
Russia still apparently believes in the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons. Its President, Vladimir Putin, has publicly warned the Western alliance not to interfere in Ukraine, noting that Russia remains a nuclear armed state. Putin has subsequently asked for negotiations with Ukraine to discuss the “statehood” of the South Eastern region of Ukraine.