Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

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Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

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 Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
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Highlights

  • One possible catalyst that seems to have led to this situation is the Euromaidan protests
  • In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea
  • Russia does not want Ukraine to join NATO

On February 24, Russia began a military invasion into Ukraine. While it was not surprising it was shocking, given the relative peace Europe had been in for nearly a century. But how did we get here? To get to the bottom of that, let’s backtrack and look at previous developments and possible Russian motives.

Formerly the second-largest republic of the USSR, Ukraine declared independence at the end of the Cold War on August 24, 1991. In 2012, former KGB member Vladimir Putin became president of Russia.

Euromaidan protests

One possible catalyst that seems to have led here is the Euromaidan protests. The protest erupted on November 21, 2013, when seemingly out of the blue, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych decided to abandon the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement in favor of closer ties to Russia.

One of the reasons that fueled the protestors was perceived corruption. The protests refused to fizzle out, turned violent in February 2014 with many fatalities, resulted in Transparency International naming Mr. Yanukovych as corrupt and ultimately culminated in the president’s ousting as he fled to Russia.

Russia never truly accepted the new Ukraine government and now there is speculation that Mr. Putin may reinstall Mr. Yanukovych in Kyiv.

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Annexation of Crimea

Soon after, Russia annexed Crimea. Nearly seven decades earlier and way before Ukraine’s independence, in 1954, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave control of Crimea over to Kyiv. Then both under the USSR.

Upon independence, both staked their claim for the Black Sea Fleet. The actual troops too, it seemed, were divided as to where their loyalties lie. Russia had bases in Crimea including 12,000 personnel.

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Donetsk and Luhansk

Beginning right in April 2014 itself, pro-Russian separatist groups seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Now, after invading, one of the first things Mr. Putin did was to recognize the states of Donetsk and Luhansk. And that brings us to where we are.

NATO membership

It seems to particularly rub Russia the wrong way when former Soviet states take up membership in NATO. In 2004, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia were admitted into NATO along with three Baltic states.

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The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were former Soviet states and the first two share a border with Russia. Lithuania shares a border with Belarus. Finland that has a sizable border with Russia is also mulling joining NATO as is Sweden.

Russia-Ukraine war timeline

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Bottom line

Former Soviet border states are reportedly referred to as “near abroad” by some Russian politicians and it has been seen in the past that it irks Russia when they don’t act in their former master’s best interests.

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Ukraine was the second biggest republic of the USSR; secondly only to Russia. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has signaled his ambition to make Ukraine a NATO member. Russia does not want Ukraine to join NATO.

The war website under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine claims Mr. Putin has pursued pushing the “false historical narrative” that Russians and Ukrainians make “one nation.” It further strikes a tone of self-determination stating that the path it has chosen is one of “democratic development, reform and European integration.”

The global community seems almost unanimously supportive of Ukraine since the invasion.

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