Russia and Ukraine
Ukraine established sovereignty from Russia in 1991, but Russia has continued to debate the annexed lands for many years. Ukraine itself has undergone much unrest and political upheaval since 2013, and the citizens effectively overturned the corrupt reign of President Viktor Yanukovych in February of 2014. Crimea planned secession from Ukraine, but Russia took advantage of the advanced chaos in the region. In March 2014, Russia decided to take back the Crimea area of Ukraine by force, and used methods that were frowned upon by the international community. Using unmarked soldier convoys, Russia took over major areas in Crimea, and used brute force to keep Ukrainian rebels and the government at bay. By November 2014, nearly 7,000 Russian troops were believed to be in Ukraine, and by the beginning of 2015 that number climbed to about 9,000.
The Russian-Ukraine War and the Rest of the World
As the tensions mounted in the Ukraine, more areas were placed under Russian targets and many areas around Crimea were also taken by force. Essentially, Russia was conquering Ukrainian territory. Russia also took over key coal production areas, as well as gas and energy, which forced Ukrainians into subpar energy consumption and also into starvation and poverty. Unfortunately, Russia is not part of NATO, the organization that demands universal accord among its members, and therefore is beholden to no international law. Ukrainians are dying, being forced into a war zone, and there is not much other countries can (or will) do. NATO did institute economic sanctions against Russia, decreasing their ability to grow with their energy consumption until January of 2016. However, the United States and many other large world powers do not wish to anger Russia because Russia holds a very large threat; they have a large army and a large arsenal of potentially massively deadly weapons. Many people were worried that attacking Russia or helping the Ukrainian government would result in retaliation by Russia on a large scale.
How Syria Put the War at a Standstill
Then, in September 2015, Russian President Putin was requested by the Syrian government to send aid to fight rebel forces attempting to overtake Syria. Russia obliged, starting large airstrikes and reducing the rebel forces dramatically. The rebel forces, who do not support President Assad and are also fighting groups like ISIL and the Muslim Brotherhood, are backed by the United States. So essentially, the conflict in Syria has become a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, which heightens tensions that much more. Back in Ukraine, the fighting has largely stopped, and most groups are awaiting some form of truce between the warring factions. The citizens of Ukraine have some semblance of safety once again, and there is a potential Minsk Agreement that will hopefully resolve the majority of the conflict. Russia is also under economic sanctions by NATO until January of 2016, in hopes of pressing forward an agreement, but the clock is running out and only time will tell. If Russia wins over Crimea and any other parts of Ukraine, there are concerns that their military and annexation efforts will not be slowed. NATO, the EU, and large world powers continue to debate on the best course of action, but with other current crises, Ukraine has been essentially frozen.