Russia and Ukraine

Abby Tito

High tensions between Russia and Ukraine are dominating the news.  Russian troops are gathered on Ukraine’s border, apparently preparing to invade.  Most high schoolers, however, do not understand the gravity of this conflict.  Therefore, it’s important to understand the history that lies between these countries.  

Immediately following World War II, tensions arose between America and The Soviet Union.  America, and other Western countries, felt threatened by The Soviet Union and their communistic ideologies.  As a result, in 1949, NATO was created; NATO is an international political and military organization with the aim of guaranteeing the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. In simple terms, it is an alliance of Western countries with similar ideologies to protect the peace in Europe, specifically from the Soviet Union.

NATO has since expanded eastward; currently five of its 30 members border Russia.  This expansion has been a political scandal because Putin, the president of Russia,  claims that in  past NATO negotiations, NATO had agreed not to expand east.  In fact, Putin is partially correct.  In 1990, Secretary of State, James Baker, offered that, if Russia withdrew from Germany, NATO would not expand eastward.  However, then President George HW Bush, did not like that idea.  So in the final arrangement with former president Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia withdrew from Germany in exchange for financial compensation; leaving no expansion limit on NATO.  With the looming threat of Ukraine joining NATO,  Russia’s borders and sphere of influence are put at higher risk.  

Putin’s original demands were that there was a guarantee of Ukraine never joining NATO and that NATO remove all troops and nuclear weapons from former Soviet Republics and nations that used to belong to the Warsaw Pact.  Putin still sees the fall of the Soviet Union as one of the biggest historical losses ever.  Therefore, by demanding the reduction in NATO presence and the denial of Ukraine’s entry into NATO, it is suspected that Putin has a goal of rebuilding the Russian sphere of influence by embracing former Soviet republics.  Putin doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO because he sees it as a threat of Western expansion and fears that democracy will creep into Russia.  If Russia were to have a democracy, most likely Putin would be out of office immediately.

NATO members, such as America, The UK, and Germany, have warned that if Russia invades Ukraine, Russia will face great financial loss and economic turmoil.  As of Tuesday morning, February 15, 2022,  Russia has claimed they will reduce their troops on Ukraine’s border; however, no evidence of this actually happening has come forward yet.