It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about the ongoing war in Ukraine. Although it’s upsetting, one cannot just switch the channel and ignore what is happening across the world. The odds are fairly slim that the United States will put soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a ripple effect for this country. There are still a lot of unknowns about the conflict. When will it end? How can the United States help? Will Ukraine prevail over Putin?
For most of its history, Ukraine was not an independent country. It went through a period of independence in 1918-1920 after the Russian Revolution but was then absorbed into the new Soviet UnionThis remained its status until the Soviet Unioncollapsed in 1991. Shortly thereafter, the Ukrainian legislature declared independence and by 1996 had adopted a democratic constitution., and released amendments in 2004 to soothe the presidential election crisis that had occurred earlier that same year. But later the country would suffer from years of political and economic unrest, called the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. The current Ukrainian president is Volodymyr Zelensky, who came into office in 2019.
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who has always had an interest in dominating Ukraine and its government, now says Ukraine is a continuous threat to his country, and declared that Ukraine was an essential part of Russia’s history and culture, and later announced “special military operations” in Ukraine. Russia also claims invading Ukraine will purge the country of “Nazis.” They even point fingers at President Zelensky, though he’s actually Jewish. The true cause for invasion seems to be a return to the “glory days” of the old Russian Empire, when the country’s borders included Ukraine and a large portion of Eastern Europe.
Another factor is Russia’s fear of losing yet another of the countries they formally controlled to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). NATO planned to eventually incorporate Ukraine in 2008, however that still hasn’t happened. President Zelensky appealed to US President Biden to allow Ukraine to join NATO in January of 2021. Russia did not respond well to this.
Russia officially invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, reaching the edges of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, the next day. So far, Russian forces have only bombarded cities and taken land surrounding Ukraine’s border with Russia. But at least 549 Ukrainian civilians have already died and between 2,000 and 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers are estimated to have been killed as well. The first regional capital to be fully under Russian control was Kherson in the south.
The casualty count for Russia is not yet known, but it’s been surmised that between 5,000 and 6,000 of their soldiers have died. On Sunday, March 13, rockets were fired at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center base near the border of Poland, killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 130. The Russian Army has not yet infiltrated Kyiv, but is moving in that direction, however Ukrainian resistance has been much fiercer than expected.
In the United States, President Biden has imposed several sanctions on Russia in an attempt to weaken their economy. Sanctions are penalties that countries place on each other to punish breaches of international law or aggressive action.Thus, the US has banned all Russian gas and oil imports; the United Kingdom is phasing out Russian oil by the end of the year. Some wealthy business leaders close to Putin have had individual sanctions placed on them as well. And, sanctions were imposed on 368 members of Russia’s parliament.
Ukraine continues to fight, while civilians are being encouraged to resist the invasion too. In fact, throughout the country, they are creating molotov cocktails (homemade explosives) to launch at Russia’s troops. In a video statement, President Zelensky said, “If you have combat experience in Europe, come to our country and defend Europe together with us.”
While they may be desperate for help, Ukraine shows no current signs of backing down. May their resolve remain strong, and may the United States and European Union continue to support their efforts.