The candle taking up the proverbial oxygen in the room right now is obviously the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have all been inundated with stories of incredible resolve by the Ukrainian people but also horrible atrocities committed in the name of the Russian oligarch, Vladimir Putin. Many lay Americans have commented on the situation, remarking on the perceived toothlessness of the international response to the crisis. However, the reality of the situation has many more layers than a first glance can reveal.
Much of the international community has placed sanctions on Russia and some have even provided small amounts of tangible aid. Despite the good these measures might do, the response has garnered some criticism from many, stating that more needs to be done about the Ukraine situation. However, it is important to note two broad categories of information in this crisis: what led to this crisis, and what could happen if world leaders do not play their hands extremely carefully.
Ukraine has long been a prize for Russia to control. Since the country’s modern incorporation in 1991, Russia has wished to sink its teeth into the former Soviet country. Reasons for Russia’s obsession with Ukraine are as complicated as the current conflict, but at the center is resources. Ukraine is an agriculturally rich nation, with vast swaths of the country being extremely fertile. Additionally, Ukraine is a port onto the Black Sea, and particularly it is a warm port. Russia’s ports are almost exclusively “cold ports,” prone to icing and costing the country an exorbitant amount of money to maintain. Culturally, Ukraine is a thriving democracy that overthrew the Russian puppet leader, a personal insult to Vladimir Putin’s influence in the country. Russia’s assault of Ukraine began by taking the south-eastern region of Crimea, and the current war has only evolved from that.
Current intelligence suggests that Russia was expecting a much weaker resistance to Russian invasion than they got. The resolve of the Ukrainian people is remarkable given the size and strength of the Russian military. The Russian military apparatus has had considerable issues regrouping against the stark and unexpected losses they have suffered at the hands of the Ukrainians.
One of Russia’s motivations for invading Ukraine has to do with Ukraine considering membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union (EU), which would make the country absolutely unobtainable for the Russians and provide another member of the practically anti-Russia nuclear-capable alliance. Ukraine’s recent moves prompted an invasion, although that is not to say that this invasion is Ukraine’s fault. Russia is purely to blame for this atrocious breach of international borders and sovereignty.
The most important thing for ordinary people to understand is that the members of NATO cannot simply aid Ukraine directly or with their own soldiers. That would mean war with a nuclear power that is primed and ready to use their stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. World leaders are weighing their options and I guarantee they are planning for a potential global conflict with Russia and its allies. Those allies potentially being China, India, the United Arab Emirates, and North Korea, all countries with nuclear power as well. The world hasn’t seen a World War nearly one hundred years and these leaders don’t want to reset the clock on that.