Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 11 student.
On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people by land, sea, and air.
Why is Russia Attacking Ukraine?
The core of the issue is that the Russian President, Vladamir Putin believes that Ukraine should be a part of Russia – as a large population, especially in its eastern side are people of Russian origin and, claims Putin, want to be integrated with Russia.
A quick historical context (we expand on this a little below), but here’s a quick explanation – Ukraine was a part of Russia for centuries before becoming a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. In 1991, the USSR was dissolved and Ukraine became independent.
Russia, however, has always seen Ukraine as its own.
Fast forward to February 2014 – a violent uprising broke out in Ukraine, which was an uprising against Russian interference, and in that its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was thrown out of power. This was also the time when Russia (not happy with these developments) invaded and took over Crimea, which was controlled by Ukraine,
What Putin said now..
President Putin went on television moments before the Ukrainian invasion to proclaim that Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” due to what he called modern Ukraine’s constant threat.
He referred to Russians and Ukrainians as “one people,” suggesting Ukraine was a false communist construct that the West corrupted through a “forced change of identity.”
He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the “demilitarisation and de-Nazification” of Ukraine.
The NATO Angle
President Putin partly blamed his decision to attack Ukraine on the fact that Ukraine was threatening to become a part of NATO’s – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization which is an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries and 2 North American countries.
Putin had earlier complained Russia had “nowhere further to retreat to – do they think we’ll just sit idly by?” Ukraine is seeking a clear timeline to join Nato and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov explained: “For us, it’s absolutely mandatory to ensure Ukraine never, ever becomes a member of NATO.
Why is Russia Opposed to Ukraine joining NATO?
He does not want Ukraine to have the backing of western nations.
The main part of the NATO treaty is Article 5 – which states that an attack on any NATO country would be seen as an attack on the entire alliance.
This means that if Ukraine became a member of NATO, then any Russian military engagement into Ukraine would be seen as Russia’s conflict with the US, the UK, France, and the 27 other NATO members.
Why is Putin obsessed With Ukraine?
The answer is a combination of history, geography, and Putin’s desire to return his country to the glory days of the Soviet Union superpower.
No Russian Empire without Ukraine
The long history of Ukraine as the beating heart of the defunct Soviet Union makes it a part of the Russian adage that you cannot have a Russian empire without Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is hell-bent on restoring the superpower status of his declining country through the creation of a new empire.
As stated earlier, Ukraine and Russia share a common history dating back to the ninth century, they speak closely related languages, and many families in the two countries share close family ties. Despite the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two neighbors remained aligned but drifted apart in the 2000s as Ukraine sought deeper integration with Europe. The relationship had completely soured by 2014 when Ukraine’s pro-Russian government was toppled and Moscow annexed Crimea.
The Former Soviet Republic
Ukraine is by far the largest and most minerals-rich of all the former Soviet Republics that broke away into independent nations after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The Money Angle
Ukraine has also served as a lucrative source for Putin’s coffers. A Russian gas pipeline crosses Ukraine en route to Europe, bringing Moscow big profits. A new pipeline supported by Russia, Nord Stream 2, will bypass Ukraine and transport gas straight to Germany. This project was frozen by Germany on February 22, 2022, after Russia formally recognized two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Move Towards The West
In the 2014 Revolution, Ukraine broke away from the pattern of having Kremlin-friendly leaders and seated democratically elected officials. This moved the country solidly toward the West. This culminated with the then-pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych, fleeing to Moscow. As Ukraine sought to break away from Russia’s sphere of influence, Putin increasingly sought to hold it back.
Ukraine is the fourth-largest recipient of US military funding, and cooperation in intelligence has deepened between the two countries as a consequence of Russian threats.
What is Putin’s Goal? A Submissive Ukraine
Analysts believe that Putin may not want to take over the whole of Ukraine, he certainly wants to swallow up enough of the country to turn it into a submissive ghost state. According to one scenario suggested by US intelligence, Putin would invade quickly and just stay long enough to install a new leader.