Flags of the European Union and Ukraine outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe West’s decades-long effort to break Ukraine off from cooperation with Russia lies at the heart of the present conflict. After a violent coup in Kiev in 2014, Ukraine’s new authorities amended the country’s constitution to list NATO and European Union membership as strategic goals.Ukraine’s accession into the EU and security guarantees from NATO are not on the agenda, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has announced.“There can be no concessions when it comes to rule of law, freedom of speech and common European values. Membership [in the EU] depends on the reform process. NATO has an ‘open door’ policy; sovereign states decide for themselves which alliance they want to join if they wish to join. In the case of Ukraine this question is not on the agenda today; first of all it is necessary to end this terrible war,” Baerbock said in an interview with Spanish media on Monday.Baerbock’s comments echo remarks she made last May, when the foreign minister said that although she sympathized with the “courage of Ukrainians” in the conflict with Russia, there would be “no shortcut” for Ukraine on EU membership.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky officially applied for Ukraine to join the EU in late February 2022, and has spent the past year lobbying Brussels to speed the process along.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineEU Leaders Set to Pour Cold Water on Zelensky’s Dream of Joining Brussels Bloc3 February, 10:52 GMTBaerbock did not elaborate on the state of the “reform process” in Ukraine today. The Zelensky government has been criticized even by some Western politicians and media for its crackdown on the media, the arrest of opposition figures and attacks on the Orthodox Church.The West’s aspirations to pull Ukraine into Western economic and security institutions lie at the heart of the present conflict.In late 2013, shortly after then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych agreed to sign an agreement on entering the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia, large-scale street protests began in Kiev, organized by pro-Western political forces and ultranationalist thugs. In February 2014, Yanukovych was overthrown, and the new government, handpicked by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and then US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, announced a new, pro-Western policy. The new course, combined with the radical nationalist, anti-Russian sentiments of the new authorities, prompted Crimea to hold a referendum to break off from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. In the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Nikolayev and Odessa, large-scale pro-Russian protests took place, many of them put down by force, with leaders arrested or killed. In the spring of 2014, after residents of the Donbass proclaimed independence, Kiev sent the military in to crush unrest, sparking a years-long war.Moscow worked to restore peace by signing on as a guarantor of the Minsk Agreements – a 2015 peace deal designed to return Donetsk and Lugansk to Kiev’s control in exchange for broad autonomy. For more than seven years, Kiev refused to implement the peace deal’s terms, leaving the Donbass in a state of frozen conflict punctuated by regular Ukrainian shelling and sniping attacks. After the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis in February 2022, the former leaders of Ukraine, Germany and France who cosigned the Minsk Agreements along with President Putin each separately admitted that Kiev never intended to live up to the peace deal, and that it was signed to give Ukraine time to rearm, rebuild its army and prepare for a war with Russia.WorldMinsk Agreements Helped Ukraine Beef Up Its Military, Merkel Tells Russian Pranksters20 February, 16:10 GMTIn 2018, Ukraine’s parliament officially approved amendments to the constitution to make NATO and EU membership central policy goals.After President Biden’s inauguration in early 2021, the United States and its allies dramatically ramped up rhetoric about Ukraine joining NATO, rejecting Russia’s security concerns and repeating ad nauseam that the Western bloc would continue to pursue an “open door” policy on new membership.In late 2021, Russia published a pair of comprehensive security treaty proposals designed to dramatically reduce tensions between Moscow and NATO, saying that a reduction in the number of troops, missiles, aircraft and drills near one another’s borders, combined with a NATO pledge not to expand into Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet states, would put the security conflict to rest. Washington flatly rejected the proposals in January 2022. Weeks later, observing a Ukrainian buildup near the Donbass and a dramatic escalation of shelling, sabotage and sniping attacks, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine to demilitarize the country and ‘de-Nazify’ its leadership.