The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Explained

By: Anna Cox

If you’ve turned on the news in the past two months, you have probably seen reports on the rising conflict between Russia and Ukraine. I’ve found that many people know that there is tension between the two nations, but they have no clue about the nuanced details of the situation. Here’s the breakdown:

This situation’s context goes all the way back to the Cold War, when Ukraine was a part of the Russian Soviet Union, but were liberated in 1991. Tensions have been present ever since then, but it came to boiling point in February 2014 when Russia attempted to seize Crimea with the intention of gaining control of the land for its ethnic Russians. But, Ukraine ultimately won Crimea back, heightening the tension. Since then, there had been no major threats of war between the countries, but that changed in late 2021.

In December of 2021, Russia sent more than 100,000 troops to the Russian-Ukrainian border where they continue to be placed as of February 2022. The stationing of troops so close to the border of the country that they already have tensions with was not unnoticed by NATO, but not something to worry about. But, in January, Russia sent a cyberattack to Ukrainian government websites, which alarmed NATO enough to suspect a full-on invasion of Ukraine at the hands of Russia. On February 6, Jake Sullivan, the White House security advisor, said that Russia could invade Ukraine “at any moment”. 

In response to the intensity put on by Russia, countries have been sending “lethal aid”, or weapons, over to Ukraine. As of January 22, the United States had sent over close to 200,000 pounds of weapons to Ukraine and around 3,000 troops to their NATO allies near Ukraine. The United Kingdom has sent 30 troops and 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers. But, while NATO is trying to aid Ukraine, some countries have made it clear that they will back up Russia if they 

choose to invade. These countries include China, Belarus, Armenia, and other Eastern European nations. 

Understanding why Russia wants to invade Ukraine is very simple. Russia believes that Ukraine joining NATO, as they have been offered, will be a threat to Russia’s existence. Since the countries are very close, and there is already turmoil, they believe that a more powerful Ukraine–with NATO by its side–will try and attack Russia. Even though Ukraine has made no comments or shown any intention to invade if they join NATO, Russia still views them as a threat. 

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