Russian-Ukrainian Conflict Explained


Brandon Mudd, Staff Writer

Tensions are rising, and everyone is confused. 

Russia and Ukraine are in the heat of a complex conflict and many people do not understand what’s going on. 

Like many foreign affairs, lots of Americans are left confused when it comes to this conflict and our involvement in the situation. Each country’s government is in a tricky position causing them both to react in hasty, harsh decisions. To many Americans, this conflict seems like it came out of nowhere. However, there is a long history behind it. 

Ukraine is a relatively new country, only being founded as the Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1917. It was created through the breakup of Austria-Hungary after the Triple Entente (France, Russia and England) won World War 1. After just two years, this Republic collapsed and the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine was founded in 1919. The Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine was recognized as autonomous by the Russian Federation. However, soon after Ukraine would enter its third back-to-back state transformation when it formally joined the Soviet Union in 1922.

At the start of Ukraine’s formation it was confronted with political instability. However, it always had close relations with Russia. Russia and Ukraine were close allies for the majority of Ukraine’s history. Ukraine was founded because of a Russian victory in a war, transformed into a Socialist Republic because of Russian political influence and then united with Russia under one country all within the first 5 years of its existence. 

From the perspective of a Russian, Russia had always taken care of Ukraine. They had helped them build up from nothing to one of the largest powers in Eastern Europe today. This same mentality was held by Ukrainians until the end of the 20th century. As the Soviet Union was falling apart, many of its members looked towards Russia to blame for the tragedies that happened under this Union. They also predominantly felt that Russia and the Soviet Union had set them back rather than lift them up. 

This is why Ukraine is now looking to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). This is a coalition of countries that looks to ensure economic prosperity, safety and democracy amongst its members. Ukraine thinks that NATO is what will lift them up from being behind. 

Russia and NATO have had a long history of disagreement. NATO, as an organization, is against how Russia runs its country. They are a pro-democracy union and think that Russia does not run its country democratically. Russia fears NATO because the only way they will ever lose power, due to their sheer size and military capabilities, is through the unity of many countries under one cause. 

Russia has always viewed NATO as a threat to their sovereignty and they are getting more and more fearful the further East NATO pushes their influence. For Russia, Ukraine trying to alliance with NATO was the last straw. 

They also see this as the perfect opportunity to seize back the land that they feel is owed to them by Ukraine. During the peak of the Soviet Union’s existence, no one ever thought that it would dissolve. Due to this, Russia gave one of its most essential territories to Ukraine: the Crimean Peninsula. This Peninsula was the only year round port that Russia had access to for trade. When Ukraine left the Soviet Union in 1991, they did not return Crimea to Russia. 

Another important thing to note with this conflict is that similar things have happened before. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. They took temporary control over Crimea, but ended up giving it back to Ukraine due to threats from other nations. However, they never completely lost control over the peninsula, and Ukraine didn’t have the resources to fully reclaim the area under their sovereignty. 

Russia views Crimea as theirs due to them having it in the first place as well as the heavy population of ethnic Russians in the area. They also held a vote in 2014 where the people of Crimea voted in favor of Russian annexation. 

Ukraine views Crimea as theirs. They have technical sovereignty over the area today and think that their legal ties to the area is all they need. They view Russia as an imperialist power trying to take land that does not belong to them. 

In combination with this territorial dispute, and the encroachment of NATO influence in the sphere of Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian-Russian conflict is getting more intense. Both countries, in their eyes, are acting defensively to a foreign threat: Russia to NATO and Ukraine to Russia.  

Many people see this conflict of the start of something much larger. However, many other people feel that this conflict is Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to appeal to his nationalistic voters. Putin knows that if he were to invade Ukraine the consequences for all countries that were involved would be detrimental, so many people think this is more of a political stunt than a full on invasion plan. 

However, no matter what the actual plan is, tensions are reaching an extreme among the world’s powers. Ukraine has reached out to many nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia and the NATO countries for help. Russia, in retaliation, is doing the same. They have gotten support from both Belarus and China.

Only time will tell what this conflict develops into. No one truly knows what Russia’s plans are, and most of what we know is pure speculation.