Why does Russia want to invade Ukraine?

Russia has been building up a strong military presence near the Ukrainian border. At least 100,000 troops are waiting for Putin’s order. The US and other Western nations have sent military advisors, money and military technology to Ukraine. It feels like the Cold War is back. But why does Russia want to invade Ukraine?

let’s first take a look at Ukraine’s geography and history. Ukraine shares borders with both the EU and Russia, and as a former Soviet republic it has deep social and cultural ties with Russia. The wealthy Ukraine voted for independence from Soviet Russia in 1991. The country enjoyed steady real economic growth, pursued full nuclear disarmament and established a stable political system.

In 2013, protests erupted in Ukraine after president Viktor Yanukovich moved away from an agreement with the European Union and instead chose to establish closer ties with Russia. Anti-government demonstrators, who favored Kiev moving closer to the EU, occupied buildings in the capitol, and almost a hundred protestors died in clashes with government forces. The president abdicated and fled to Russia. 

A year later, In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula.

In the east of the country, close to Russia, Russian speaking separatists declared independence. Despite an agreed-upon ceasefire in 2015, there have been casualties on both sides ever since.

In 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with European Union, and a year later the European Union approved visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens.

Ok, so that has been the situation for the last couple of years. 

But why does Russia want to invade Ukraine now?

Nato

A first reason is NATO. Russia wants the intergovernmental military alliance to stop all military activity in Eastern Europe and NATO to return to its pre-1997 borders. Something Russia definitely does not want, is Ukraine becoming a member. The main creed of NATO is is contained in Article 5, which states that in the event of an attack on one of the states in Europe or North America, it will be perceived by the other as an attack on all and that all countries will cooperate to repel the attacker. 

The thing is, Ukraine does not need to join NATO in order to threaten Russia. Since 2018, the U.S. has sold hundreds of missiles to Ukraine and Ukraine’s increased military cooperation with the US, the UK, and Turkey is as equally threatening to Russia as NATO membership.

Putin and Russia’s assertion

A second reason is Russia’s assertive foreign policy in the region. Let’s try and take a look inside Putin’s head for a second. Over the past year, he said a couple of interesting things.

In July of last year, Putin published an essay in which he basically said that Russia’s claims on Ukraine have a historical and cultural basis. If that wasn’t enough, he questioned the legitimacy of Ukraines borders and argued that a lot of these borders were once historically Russian lands. 

Then in mid-November, Putin gave a speech in which he said that Western states do not respect Russian interests or ultimatums, and the only way to get them to do so is by keeping tensions high and threatening force.

So Putin wants Russia to set the tone of foreign policy in the region by showing military strength. 

The situation is changing every day, and it’s unclear whether Russia will actually invade, or if it just wants a strong position at the negotiation table. All parties, whether its Nato, Ukraine, the US or Russia, are aware they are on thin ice. US President Joe Biden had a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart with Volodimir Zelensky. He promised “resolutely” US support if Russia decides to invade Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia prefers dialogue over war. What is clear, is that tensions between east and west are back. And Ukraine is finding itself right in the middle of it. 

Leave a Reply