The Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine Explained

To understand the current conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, it is essential to first know the tension-filled history between the two nations. Ukraine, also known as the crossroads of Europe and Russia, has wanted to become more of an independent country, however, its close relations with Russia in the East competing with its ties to western Europe and the US make this difficult. After voting for independence from Russia after the Cold War in 1991, Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s Partnership for Peace in 1994. Russia, however, disapproved of NATO’s Eastern expansion. In 1997, during a NATO Summit, the Ukrainian president exchanged documents with the NATO Secretary-General to deepen Ukraine’s relationship with the organization. Fast forward a few years later to 2004, during an election, the country is split between those who want closer ties to the European Union, NATO, and the West, and those who want to partner with Russia in the East. Russia felt threatened by the potential of Europe controlling Ukraine. Protests broke out after the Ukrainian president rejected a deal to become more integrated with the European Union economy. This led to Ukraine’s president fleeing the country and leaving Russia to govern. Russia first took control of the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine and wanted to make Crimea a part of Russia. In mid-2014, the conflicts strengthened when Russia brought its military into Ukraine, and violence increased after Ukraine resisted. Overall, Russia sees Ukraine making agreements with the EU as a threat. This conflict has become known as the Russo-Ukrainian War and has been years long.  Since mid-2014, many more conflicts have occurred. Recently, the violence has sharply escalated. Beginning in October 2021, Russian troops have been deployed to the Ukrainian border. The Ukrainians took this as a threat of invasion. With no direct explanation as to why this was happening, the Ukrainians feared further conflict. In December 2021, Russia demanded that Ukraine reduce the amount of NATO military equipment and withdraw all troops within the country. Russia also forced Ukraine to cut ties with NATO. 

Over the past couple of weeks, the conflict has once again worsened, after Russia invaded Ukraine. Key cities have been destroyed, including the capital, Kyiv. Tanks roam the streets and Russian missiles bomb the cities. Families have been broken apart because Ukrainian men of a certain age must stay back to fight. Although over a million people have been displaced, the attacks have continued. Along with the raging conflict, Russia has committed numerous war crimes throughout the invasion. Other countries in Europe and around the world are doing all they can to help Ukraine and weaken Russia. Many countries stand with Ukraine and have been giving defense weapons to the Ukrainian army to help them fight off the Russians. The reason these countries haven’t been actively involved in fighting the Russians out of Ukraine is largely fear of starting a third world war, which would negatively impact the entire world. Another example of how other countries have been helping Ukraine and weakening Russia is by placing economic sanctions on Russia. Along with this, many Russian banks have been removed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, also known as SWIFT. The sanctions and the removal from SWIFT have caused the Russian currency to be worth less than a cent of the U.S. dollar.  This is a huge drop from what it was worth before the invasion.  

Although Russia has been slightly weakened, the threats of other countries have been ignored by Putin and Russia. The bombings, airstrikes, and war crimes have continued. As of Friday, March 4th, the Russian military has gained control of many towns close to the Russian-Ukraine border and has continued to advance further into Ukraine. The Russian military has still not gained control of the capital, Kyiv, but has seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power systems. This nuclear power facility is the largest in Europe and the attack by Russia caused a massive fire that has since been extinguished. Luckily, the radiation levels are normal, but it is under debate whether the destruction of this power plant is a war crime or not. Despite this, Russia continues to get closer to the second-largest Ukrainian nuclear power facility. This shows that Russia plans to continue using excessive military force to gain control of Ukrainian cities and towns. The plan of the Russian military is to attack smaller towns until they give in to Russian control. The Russians hope that this will demolish Ukrainian culture and hurt the hope Ukraine has for getting rid of Russia. This makes it clear that Russia is attacking to kill the population of Ukraine and gain as much control as they can.

The death rate nearing 10,000 people total. 43 million people remain in Ukraine, but over one million have evacuated and are seeking refuge in European countries bordering Ukraine. Because so many people still remain in Ukraine, countries like Poland and Belarus bordering Ukraine have concerns regarding taking in the large number of refugees that will likely come soon. To help with this, other countries, like Brazil, are willing to take in refugees, allowing them to work and live in Brazil.

Some possibilities for the future of the Russia-Ukraine conflict include a war between NATO and Russia. If NATO were to send in planes to shoot down Russian bombers as an attempt to stop the violence, a world war would break out quickly. The U.S. will also likely become involved if a world war were to break out. Another possible outcome is Russia winning the war and gaining Ukraine as Russian territory. Because the war has caused Russia’s political system to crumble, Putin could be taken out of office for initiating the war and displacing so many. After the conflict ends, Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world will likely be changed in a negative way. This conflict highlights the willingness of the rest of the world to prevent war and gain peace.

— Emma Javor