By: Stephen Vellecca

Ever since the calamity that was 2020, it seems like the world can’t go a day without reports that the world is seemingly sinking further and further into chaos. 

These last few weeks, there seems to be one topic that is on everyone’s minds and everyone’s screen: Ukraine. Everyday there is a new update on the situation between Ukraine and Russia. We all read the headlines, the tweets and the clips of information, but how many of us actually understand what is going on? We are told of this matter’s importance, but it is often difficult to find true understanding of this packed issue as we attempt to navigate through the politics, the fake news and the inconsistent takes each news outlet has on this. 

International affairs are complicated – we all know that. And we have been told that they cannot be explained in a short article such as this one – or can it? Outlets such as this are the perfect platform to explain situations such as this one, and here we will do just that.

So, what’s happening with Russia and Ukraine?

Despite the fact that this is occurring now, in 2022, we have to go back to certain points in the not-so-distant past to get a better understanding of what is happening in the present day.

Ukraine was under control of the Russian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics starting in 1922, and would not be independent until the USSR collapsed in 1991. 

According to CNN, because of this decades-long “alliance,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, (2000-2008; 2012 – present), a former intelligence agent for the USSR, believes that Russia and Ukraine are “one people.” Putin also wants to see Ukraine become a part of Russia again.

Putin almost made this dream a reality in 2014, when he took advantage of mass protests against Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. And on top of that, supported a separatist movement in East Ukraine, a hotbed for Russian loyalists. The protests were in response to Yanukovich essentially supporting closer ties with the Russian government over the West, and he was subsequently removed from office before the end of 2014. 

Russia was accused of opportunistic aggression by Ukraine and some in the West, but Putin gave the excuse that the Russians, who supported the separatist movement, were merely volunteers and not government-sponsored. Subsequent fighting in the East led to the deaths of more than 14,000 people, according to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and has also led 

to increased tensions between Russia and the US/NATO. Russia criticized them for supplying Ukraine with weapons, and therefore, encouraging aggressive action against Russia.

Ukraine desires to keep its independence and wants to assert this, in part, by becoming a part of NATO, something it has sought to do for many years now. However, European and American leaders are hesitant to grant Ukraine entry into this European alliance. By granting Ukraine this entry, it would require other members to defend Ukraine against Russia directly because Russia is not a full member of NATO. 

According to the New York Times, President Joe Biden is one of these hesitant leaders, as he does not want to increase U.S. military presence abroad. Instead, he wants Ukraine to demonstrate its commitment to liberty and freedom, which is a requirement for joining NATO and something that Ukraine has not been able to prove. 

Despite this hesitance, the U.S. and NATO won’t officially or publicly commit to permanently denying Ukraine admission to NATO, which is one of Putin’s demands of the West. 

With all this, Putin has sent over 100,000 Russian troops to the Ukrainian border, but has denied that Russia is planning to invade. However, many countries are encouraging their nationals residing in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible. 

The U.S. and NATO leaders have committed to “inflict severe economic actions against Russia” should they invade Ukraine. Furthermore, the U.S. has deployed 3,000 U.S. troops to Poland in the event that Russia does attack Ukraine’s borders. They are not there to fight Russia in Ukraine directly, but they are there to support U.S. allies from any potential fallout. 

Biden is expected to speak with Putin on Feb. 12.