What Americans Should Know About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

March 2, 2022

Recent stories of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been all over the news, however the whole situation is a bit more complicated than what is seen at a quick glance. You have undoubtedly heard of what’s going on, but why does it matter? Why does Russian President Vladimir Putin want Ukraine in the first place? What does it mean to us Americans?

The story of Ukraine and Russia starts back around the time when the Soviet Union was dissolving into Russia, and lost dependence from many of the satellite nations we see today. There are around 15 of these nations, some of the most notable of which include Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, and of course Ukraine. These countries all gained independence around 1990, and Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. 

In 2000, Putin rose to power and some US officials have said that his end goal has always been to restore the Soviet Union. This would include the now-independent countries that were previously mentioned. 

In the following years, Ukraine began to start aligning itself closer to the European Union and NATO, and distancing itself from Russia. It got far enough that Ukraine almost became a member of NATO. Ukraine was becoming more and more European, and Putin did not approve. 

In March of 2014, Russia took over Crimea, a peninsula shaped landmass that sits beside the two countries. The history of Crimea is extensive and complicated, but, put simply; Russia thinks it belongs to them due to its annexation in 2014, and the majority of the rest of the world still believes it belongs to Ukraine. 

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy crushed his pro-Russian opponent in the Ukrainian Presidential election. His campaign was rooted in ending the war with Russia and weeding out corruption in the Ukrainian government. 

In December of 2021, Putin began increasing the number of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border by the tens of thousands, and issued demands to NATO to never allow Ukraine to join them. American President Joe Biden rejected his request. 

On February 24th, 2022, Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the following days, Russia launched airstrikes and more than 400 missiles into the country. 

As a result, the rest of the world has put heavy sanctions on Russia. This means that many other countries have made attempts to hurt the Russian economy, in an effort to demoralize Putin from continuing his attacks. For example, The European Commission, with help from the United States, Canada, and the UK, have imposed “restrictive measures” on Russia’s liquidation of its international reserves. In essence, freezing Russian assets and the Russian Central Bank. France is targeting Russia luxury assets like yachts and real estate. Japan is also aligning with G-7 and targeting the Russian Central Bank. The United States is cutting off Russian companies and technology exports to Russia. The United Kingdom is freezing all assets and payments of Russia’s largest banks, and, along with America, prohibiting the Russian national airline from operating within their borders. It is also notable that Switzerland, a famously neutral country that maintained neutrality throughout WWI and WWll, has imposed their own sanctions. The sanctions are complicated, but the point is that the rest of the world is punishing the Russian economy.

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride”

— Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The good news is, the results are showing. The Russian Rouble hit a record low of around 110 Roubles to the Dollar on Wednesday, March 2. Additionally, Ukrainian defensive forces are surprising the world and more importantly Moscow. Experts are saying Russia has not made the progress that it had previously expected to make by now. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy could be a large part of this, as he has shown admirable leadership. A recent poll performed by a non-governmental Ukrainian organization has shown that 9/10 Ukrainians support Zelenskyy and his defense efforts. Additionally, many of his quotes have been inspiring his people and the world, including words like “It will be our faces you see, not our backs” and “Light will win over darkness.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recording a video of himself about his and his country’s perseverance while standing in Kyiv, Ukraine’s largest city.

The large number of variables surrounding this conflict make the outcome extremely difficult to predict. It is impossible to say what will happen, but it is important to know that the sheer number of countries involved have made this a worldwide conflict. Despite a lack of support in troops, many countries, including the United States, have sent weapons and military equipment to Ukraine. It’s a conflict between two countries, but the countries of the world have their feet on the playing field.

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