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Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, leading to fears that Europe is at its greatest risk of war in decades.

Russia President Vladimir Putin has denied he plans to invade Ukraine, but the US, the UK, NATO and the EU have expressed scepticism. 

US intelligence found Russia could invade Ukraine any day now, while the UK alleged the Kremlin was seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine — an accusation denied by Moscow and by the politician referred to.

The US State Department is so worried about a Russian invasion that it has ordered the families of all American personnel at the US embassy to leave Ukraine.

On Monday night, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade increased its travel warning for Ukraine to ‘do not travel’ and said Australians in the country should “leave now” due to the “increased risk of armed conflict”.

But analysts have told the ABC that while Russia is unlikely to try to take over the entirety of Ukraine, it could be considering an invasion of separatist-controlled territories.

So, given that a military escalation between the countries is looking more likely, what are some reasons Russia might invade its neighbour? 

To counter the West

Russia maintains that after the Cold War, the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) promised they would not expand eastward to the former Soviet states.

But Russia became alarmed by NATO’s increasing closeness with Ukraine, which is seen by Moscow as a buffer between it and the West.

Ukraine is largely surrounded by European Union nations on one side, and Russia on the other.
Ukraine, and its access to the Black Sea, is strategically important to Russia. (Reuters)

“For us, it’s absolutely mandatory to ensure Ukraine never, ever becomes a member of NATO,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a media conference earlier this month.

NATO’s position is that Russia doesn’t get to choose which countries join the alliance. 

One of the justifications for Russia going to war with Georgia in 2008 was because it believed the former Soviet country was getting too close to the West.

To unite former Soviet countries

Mr Putin has long believed that Russia and Ukraine should be reunited as one country.

Ukraine gained independence following the disintegration of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

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