A Deep History: Insights into the correlation between past conflicts and the present-day conflict among Ukraine and Russia.

In Moscow, Russia, President Vladimir Putin delivered a televised speech from the Kremlin on Monday night, where he repeated his demand that Ukraine must not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  In 2002, Ukraine had formally announced its wish to become a member of NATO.  NATO promotes democratic values and this undermines Putin’s autocratic regime. In case of war, Russia wants a buffer zone between them and the Western countries.

Over the last thirty years, Moscow has, for the most part, successfully blocked the democratic expansion of NATO from Russia’s borders.  However, multiple rounds of expansion by NATO with Post Soviet states would provoke Putin to lash out violently, first by invading Georgia in 2008, then Ukraine in 2014, and now a second, far larger, invasion of Ukraine today. 

 Dec. 25, 1991 marked the collapse of the Soviet Union. In its final years, it comprised 15 Soviet Socialist Republics:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. 

In 1999, Poland, Hungry and the Czech Republic joined NATO.   Another expansion came with the accession of seven Central and European countries:  Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.   Although these countries were never part of the Soviet Union, they were regarded as satellite states in the Soviet sphere of interest, referred to as the Eastern Bloc.  The Eastern Bloc was a term that was used to describe a group of Communist nations located in Europe and Asia.  These countries were under the control of the Soviet Union, China, and their allies. 

One can argue that Russia never truly accepted Ukraine’s independence.  On Feb. 21, 2022, Putin recognized the independence of two self-proclaimed states in the disputed territories of eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.  The conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region started in 2014.  The separatists had been accused of being proxies for Russian interests if not simply Russian soldiers in disguise.  By the end of 2014, Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula.  The conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region is therefore framed as a war between Russia and Ukraine as opposed to a civil war. 

On Feb. 24, 2022, Putin launches an all-out invasion on Ukraine, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.  Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities.  Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law. “The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now!” President Zelenskyy exclaimed.

The U.S. government offered to evacuate Zelenskyy and his family from Kyiv, but this offer was turned down.  On Feb. 25, 2022, Syria became the second United Nations (UN) member state to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign states as Russian forces closed in on Kyiv on Saturday. 

 

Sources: Al Jazeera, AP News, iNews, Journal of Democracy, World Population Review