Why is Russia so obsessed with Ukraine? And will it invade Ukraine after all? Explained
Things have started to boil at the Ukrainian Border recently, as Russia keeps mounting it’s military troops of more than 100,000 in number, endangering what could be a possible invasion. What started with an Russian alleged “Military Exercise” near Ukrainian borders, has now turned into a full scale war situation. While Vladimir Putin, the Russian President has blatantly denied any motives of invading Ukraine for now, but this doesn’t mean that the invasion or things of those sort are completely out of the table. The U.S and other European countries have already warned Russia of some harsh consequences, for if it invades Ukraine. The West is already deploying Military aids to Ukraine, with EU looking to grant loans worth more than $1 billion. But why is Russia even trying to invade Ukraine? And could this trigger off into something as big as the next World War?
The present situation
Russia is ever growing its military buildup near the Russian-Ukrainian as well as the Russian-Belarus border. The number of personnel’s positioned here have grown to numbers beyond 125,000. Satellite images have also confirmed the presence of heavy offensive weaponry and artilleries on the Russian side of the border. For now, U.S and European government diplomats along with those of Russian are having several rounds of talks about the evolving situation. Russia is pretty adamant that it isn’t going to attack/invade Ukraine. But the on-ground reality of the ever-increasing military build up of Russian troops suggests a different story. Putin has already stated that any deescalation of tensions from the Russian side would only come after his demands are met to. But more on that later….
To understand the true sense of this conflict, we must delve into the history of Russia or to be more precise the Soviet Union. The fall of a great global power and it’s aftermath, which influenced a man to salvage the wrongdoings against his motherland.
The fall of the Soviet Union and the Emergence of Western Alliances
After the conclusion of the second World War, there was a looming fear among western countries that communism (or Soviet Union) would take over the world. It was an era where two ideologies were fighting for world supremacy. While the West was following the suit of Democracy and Capitalism, the Soviet Union along with China, North-Korea was in stand with Communism and state ownership. The Soviets being a nuclear power was an additional threat to U.S and other European countries. Hence in 1949, NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was formed by the United States, Canada and a bunch of European countries. NATO was basically a joint military organization of several countries formed to keep a check and provide security against the Soviet powers in the region, which lasts till date.
NATO’s moto was pretty simple, a security threat to one member is a security threat to all. NATO allows its member states to mutually defend an attack upon one of it’s kind from an outsider. And in a dramatic series of events the Soviet Union finally collapsed in the year 1991. The dissolution of the Soviet Union brought about the birth of 15 new republics (countries) which were formerly part of the Soviet empire.
The new born Russia while still being huge was stripped off from so much of it’s land and glory. While the effect of this event was felt all along the region, none was more effected mentally than a young Vladimir Putin, then an intelligence officer at KGB. For him this was a division of his motherland into several pieces induced by western powers. He soon left his job after the Soviet fallout, only to join politics. Little did he or his peers know that he would be the one dictating Russia’s moves in the international forum a couple of decades later.
NATO’s rapid expansion and Russia’s problem with it
NATO which started with an initial 12 member nation organization, has now 30 full time members, mainly in Europe and North America. The enlargement of member states kicked right after the end of the cold War, where 14 new members were added mostly from the central and eastern Europe. Russia has for long had issues with this rapid expansion of an military organization right at its backyard. According to Moscow, the group’s expansion efforts are nothing but a continuation of Cold War policies of surrounding Russia from all sides. And it’s not only the leaderships that think so, a 2016 Levada poll suggests that 68% of Russians think that the military presence of NATO in the Baltic states is a direct threat to Russian security.
Ukraine has been for long had an ambition to join NATO, in its process of embracing democracy in the region. Ukraine is already a part of an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAPs), which allows countries with the political will and ability to strengthen their relationship with NATO. With the 2019 Constitutional amendment, Ukraine paved a new milestone on it’s course for membership in the European Union and NATO. In no way was Russia taking all of this, after all a majority part of Ukraine’s border is shared by Russia. A western union military equipped with long range missiles and heavy artillery, at your immediate neighborhood was simply a scene Russia can’t afford to witness. So in 2021, Russia started a military buildup at the Ukranian border, escalating the probability of an invasion which lasts till date.
Putin’s objective and his demands are pretty simple from an Russian perspective. Firstly a definitive stop to NATO’s expansion, from anywhere at the Eastern Europe. The complete Removal of Nuclear weapons from its neighborhood. And most importantly an absolute guarantee that Ukraine would never ever be part of NATO.
Kremlin’s primary objective is to restore its influence on its former ethnic republics which include Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. Russia is pretty adamant that it won’t allow its neighborhood to fall into any military or economic organization, of which it isn’t the ultimate arbitrator of.
Russia has invaded Ukraine in the past, and hence won’t shy of doing it once more
The modern day crisis in Ukraine dates back to November 2013, when a series of protests at the capital city, shook the Ukranian government due to its Pro-Russian policies. What transpired next was a violent crackdown by the state security forces against the protesters, which only escalated the conflict. The Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had to eventually flee the country, leaving behind a power vacuum in the region. Russia saw this as an opportunity to invade Crimea (an effective part of Ukraine) and took control over the area in March 2014. In what was a pretty controversial local referendum, the majority of population in Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation. The event caused worldwide criticism, but the Russian President held his stance of needing to protect the Russian population of Crimea and south-east Ukraine.
The 2014 crisis heightened the ethnic divisions inside Ukraine. And within two months Pro-Russian separatists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum for separation from Ukraine. Russia is accused of backing these violent separatist movements both financially and militarily. Ukraine military fights these separatist forces till date. Crimea now serves as a military base for Russia as an counterpart to surrounding NATO forces.
The deep cultural and historical Russian roots in Ukraine
Ukraine is very dear to modern day Russian culture and heritage. After all the capital city of Kiev was the first ever Russian State. Ukrainian’s share a similar history and culture to that of Russian’s, given their alliance as a single state or empire across century’s. Which is why 1/3rd of the population of Ukraine on the eastern side speaks and feels as Russian. Hence, Ukraine’s recent shift to western influence is an alarming situation for the Russian administration.
The vision of a nostalgic dictator
Since the inclusion of Vladimir Putin as the Russian President, the country has seen a radical shift towards authoritarian rule. As mentioned earlier he was a marquee spectator of the decimation of the Soviet Union back in the 1990s. For him, the dissolution of USSR was the single-largest-catastrophe of the century, and the west was to blame for it. For a century which saw two major World Wars, his evaluation for the largest catastrophe of the century was the “dissolution of USSR”, shows his understanding of a deluded history. He supports his theory by stating “how millions of Russians were ripped apart from their motherland, to unknown territories due to this catastrophic event”.
Putin has been for long stating Ukraine as “Little Russia”, a quote borrowed from a former Russian-General. He has gone on record several times stating Ukraine and Russia as one, and matters between them as deep internal matters of the state. For him, Ukraine is an integral part of Russian culture and history, while its sovereignty must be kept under-the-shadows of Russia. In many of his articles, Putin has mentioned words like brotherhood, while defining Russia’s relationship towards Ukraine. But his 2014 move of annexing Crimea has most certainly made him an anti-hero in the region. Critics of Russian policies have speculated that the 2014 annexation and the ongoing border standoff, might well be a small part of a larger plan. The plan which reignites the Soviet Era dominance.
Will Russia invade Ukraine after all?
While there are enough evidences that suggest Russia could invade Ukraine soon. But a full fledged invasion of Ukraine seems highly unlikely, for now. Why? Well there are several reasons for it. Firstly an invasion into Ukraine wouldn’t be a walk into park. Don’t get me wrong, the Russian military is huge and powerful but Ukraine is no mug and has a decent military strength. And then there is the NATO and EU support from the distance, who are sending in hundreds of weapons into the country. Secondly, the Russian public isn’t at ease with an Ukrainian invasion and neither are they ready for it.
Thirdly, an invasion could bring even harsher sanctions and restrictions upon Russia from the west. The 2014 Crimea annexation turned out to be a costly affair for Moscow, that brought about a series of economic sanctions against the country. With an already struggling economy, Russia can’t afford further sanctions from the West. And Finally, Russia would have invaded till now, if invasion is what it wanted from the start. Waiting and staging troops outside a country’s border for months, isn’t the best precursor move for an invading country. If only, this will allow Ukraine the precious time to carve out a strategy to fight the invaders.
But with that being said, a Russian invasion is still pretty much a possibility, given the unpredictability and aggressive mindset of the Russian Dictator. Is this a bluff or the beginning of an uncanny disaster, only time would tell!
The Principal author of the blog Just Logically Speaking, Susanta Ray is an enthusiast for information and learning. He thrives in subjects related to Modern Technology, Science, History, Space, Finance and Global Affairs.
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