Imagine one day living your everyday life and losing everything you’ve earned through sacrifices, including your family, home, and prized possessions the next day. That’s the reality for Ukrainians following the invasion from Russia.
Western intelligence agencies reported an increased number of troops on the border between Russia and Ukraine in December 2021. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, claimed that these were military exercises within its borders. It wanted to put everyone’s mind to rest that it didn’t intend to invade.
In February of 2022, the Russian President felt the need to liberate two Ukrainian regions – Donetsk and Luhansk. The Russian army managed to take over these two regions without any resistance—a repeat of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In a matter of hours, the Russian Government decided that it wanted to liberate the whole of Ukraine from “a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis” and decided on a full-scale invasion.
A brief history of the USSR
USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) or the Soviet Union is a collection of countries like the European Union or the African Union that share similar ideologies.
The USSR came into existence around 100 years ago, around 1917. It was one of the biggest countries at the time before it split up into smaller countries after the fall of communism in the 1990s, with Russia being the largest of them all. The main objective is a collection of regions sharing the same ideology and a one-party state.
The USSR consisted of 15 republics – Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
However, the USSR expanded its borders even further in the post-Second World War after the Allies and the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany. During the Yalta Conference located along the Black Sea coast of the Crimean Peninsula, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met to discuss post-war Germany and Europe.
The Soviet Union took over the responsibility of Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and a part of Germany.
The three world leaders split Germany into four zones – France, Britain, the U.S. and the USSR. They decided that Germany needed to go through “demilitarization and denazification”.
Putin’s USSR dreams
The USSR started falling apart in the 1990s. At that time, Vladimir Putin was working as a KGB officer, the Soviet secret service in Dresden, Germany.
A BBC article narrated how Vladimir Putin singlehandedly managed to persuade an angry mob of people from entering the KGB’s headquarters, where he was stationed a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin wall.
However, the shocking part of the story was that the KGB knew that situation was getting very dangerous and requested help from Moscow. However, they couldn’t because “Moscow was silent”.
The experience haunted Vladimir for life until he became Moscow.
Some people believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is Vladimir Putin’s way of restoring the USSR’s glory.
A brief history of NATO
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) is a military organization formed in 1949. It consists of 30 countries and nine partner countries, and one of its main objectives is to limit the influence of the Soviet Union.
Except for the United States and Canada, all the member countries are from the European continent (not confused with the European Union). Partner countries include Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Perhaps one of the essential articles in NATO’s treaty is Article 5 – the principle of collective defence. An attack on a NATO member is against all its members, i.e. 30 countries and its partners.
Article 5 was the first time used after the 11th September 2001 attacks, which triggered the invasion of Afghanistan.
Contrary to popular belief, NATO never participated in the Iraq war. However, a few of its members who branded themselves as “Coalition forces” engaged in the invasion of Iraq.
NATO and Russia relations
Russia shares its western border with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (bordering Kaliningrad), Belarus, Ukraine. Estonia and Latvia are full NATO members, and Belarus is one of Russia’s allies in the present invasion of Ukraine.
In 1997 NATO and Russia signed the Founding Act – means of cooperation between the two. The primary purpose is “mutual relations, cooperation and security”.
On 10th February 2007, Vladimir Putin gave a speech known as the Munich speech, where he accused the United States of monopolistic supremacy in global relations. He accused Western powers of failing to keep their promise not to expand NATO further into the East during the power vacuum left by the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
The Russian Government felt that NATO’s expansion threatened its existence.
The countries bordering Russia that aren’t NATO countries or Russia’s allies are Finland and Ukraine. These countries are a buffer between the two military powers.
Russia wants assurances from NATO that it wouldn’t allow Ukraine to join its organization. NATO argued that Ukraine is a sovereign state and can decide its faith.
A brief history of Ukraine
Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s Prime Minister from 2010 until removed from office in 2014 following the Revolution of Dignity. Yanukovych shelved Ukraine’s plans to join NATO. He prefered to keep Ukraine non-aligned. He even refused to sign a political and free trade agreement with the European Union, pursuing closer ties to Russia.
His choices caused protests that went on for months. At one time, that protest became so violent that it resulted in the deaths of around 130 people, including 18 police.
Yanukovych fled to Russia, where he currently resides up to this day.
The annexation of Crimea
Russia invaded and annexed Crimea between February and March of 2014, soon after the Revolution of Dignity. The annexation is considered illegal by the international community.
Russia claimed that it did this to “ensure proper conditions for the people of Crimea to express there will freely”, following the bloodshed and the ousting of Yanukovych.
The international community contends that Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to join any Western organizations like the European Union and NATO.
The annexation of Crimea may have encouraged Ukrainians to speed up its memberships into western alliances, which further infuriated Russia.
Moral dilemmas and double standards
Russia is experiencing international isolation from sports to financial services due to what the Western world calls unjust and inhumane attacks on Ukraine. Many seem to have forgotten that the West was involved in unjust wars. Afghanistan and Iraq are two examples.
After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. replaced the Taliban with the Taliban. The US-Afghan war is estimated to have cost the U.S. Government close to $3 trillion, money that could improve millions of Americans’ lives instead. The war cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and several more thousands of men, women and children—all for nothing.
Another war based on a lie was the war in Iraq, where the U.S. and Britain went to war on the premise that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
No one seems to have banned the U.S. or Britain from international sports events, global payment systems and isolation.
Russia seems to want to show that it’s still valid in a display of strength dominated in the past decade between the U.S. and China. The U.S. always tries to keep one step ahead of China. China increased its ambitions by expanding its influence in the global economy.
Unfortunately, Russia wants to show its capabilities through military aggression. Manufacturing is an international process – raw materials mined in Africa, electronics made in Asia, research and development from the U.S., and the final product assembled in Europe. While Russia could have gathered enough raw materials to make it self-sufficient during a war, someday they’ll run out. Does military aggression still make sense in today’s globalized world?
Russia could have been more effective in its war against the West by cutting off the European continent’s access to its vast supply of energy. Russia furnishes around 40% of the E.U.’s energy supply. Theoretically, the prices of goods would skyrocket due to inflation and potentially bring the European Union’s economy to a standstill. The damage would have been more extensive for Europe, no lives lost, and Russia wouldn’t face isolation.
Vladimir Putin is around 70 years old. Maybe he wants to leave his mark before he becomes older and frail. Maybe he wants to be Gavrilo Princip of World War 3.
Ukraine is like a child in a parental custody battle between the Western powers and Russia. However, the child feels that it belongs with the one parent, the West. Russia wants Ukraine to have the same relationship it shares with Belarus – pro-Russia. Ukraine doesn’t want this.
The tensions between the two countries caused Russia to invade Ukraine, which dragged the U.S., the E.U. and even neutral countries like Switzerland into a messy situation. Putin responded by reminding everyone that Russia has nuclear weapons, a “gentle reminder” that it has options should the situation play against it.
Ukraine is a sovereign state and should have every right to decide its future. However, should the fate of Ukraine to be a pro-Western country come at the price of a potential world war? I don’t think so.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania border Russia and have been members of NATO and the European Union since 2004. What’s all the fuss on Ukraine?
Russia’s actions are persuading Ukraine to move even closer to the West. If Russia concentrated on improving its citizens’ living standards rather than aggression, it could convince its ideology and values are better than those shared by the West.
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