Russia continues war in Ukraine, global tensions rise

Tensions in Europe have taken a drastic turn with the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to control the entire country of Ukraine have many members of the global community concerned that this may lead to a humanitarian disaster, and could lead to further escalation with the rest of Europe.
The United Nations has been firm about its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and condemns the actions of Russia by placing strict economic sanctions on the country. In addition to the sanctions, NATO countries have also supplied munitions to the Ukrainian military, which has caused Russia to respond with threats of “nuclear deterrence.”
Although the possibility of war breaking out throughout Europe is considered unlikely, Putin’s actions are reminiscent of the imperialist regimes from the 20th century, which has led many to speculate whether we are on the brink of another global catastrophe.
Tucker Reals and Alex Sundby address the history of Ukraine briefly in their CBS article, “What you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine conflict as invasion begins,” to put this conflict into context. During the late 1700s, much of Ukraine’s territory was a part of the Russian Empire. There have been attempts for the state to become independent, even during the era of the Soviet Union, but to no avail.
“A lot of Russia’s history can be linked to Ukraine,” said Professor of History and Global Health Studies Kenneth Pinnow. “The territory of Ukraine has a long history, a lot of its cultural and linguistic roots can go as back as the 9th and 10th century with the Keivnrus.”
According to Pinnow Once the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the 15-member republics that were a part of the Soviet apparatus became independent. The first decade since its independence, Ukraine has had a tumultuous time trying to establish itself as a sovereign nation, though partly democratic, the country was still led by old Pro-Russian elites. That all changed in 2004-2005 with the Orange Revolution, in which the people ousted corrupt elites and later installed a government that was more amicable to western hegemony.
With the current Ukrainian government being friendlier to the west in recent years, Russia has done its best to deter the country to move towards the west and NATO — which has expanded eastward since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to CNN coverage, in early 2014, mass protests in Kyiv forced out their Russian friendly president after he refused to sign an EU association agreement. In response to that, Russian forces moved into the eastern Donbas region and annexed the peninsula of Crimea. Ever since then the region has been plagued by a proxy war between separatists and the Ukrainian government.
So why does Putin want Ukraine? Given the narrative that these two countries share an immense history together, it is imperative that Putin reclaims the territory to fulfill his ambitions to restore the former “Russian Empire” as mentioned in the CBS article.
“He rejects the idea that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are a separate entity, and sees their nationality as a fiction,” Pinnow said. “However, the more plausible argument to this invasion is that Putin can’t have an independent and democratic Ukraine near the border of Russia. If (Ukraine) is successful, it could be a threat to Putin’s government as it gives another model for dissatisfied Russians to follow.”
Given these concerns, the Kremlin started amassing military forces near the border of Eastern Ukraine late last year which has caused tensions with NATO to rise to dangerous levels. Despite diplomatic efforts, Russia invaded Ukraine Thursday, February 24, in order to perform a “special military operation” to defend the Donbas region, which declared independence. However, it has escalated to a full-out assault of the country with many fleeing the country as refugees.
The consequences of this war have been detrimental to all sides, but especially Russia, since the invasion the country has faced heavy sanctions from the west which caused the Russian economy to tank. The war effort has also been underwhelming for Russia as they have seen stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.
“Putin must have thought now would be a good time to conduct this invasion since the pandemic seems to have fractured the strength of western powers,” Pinnow said. This sentiment was also emulated in the CBS coverage of Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former senior intelligence analyst when speaking on the conflict, “He sees the West as being in decline,” Taylor said. “He sees the United States is distracted. He sees the trans-Atlantic relationship as under strain and he is leaning in now, I think, to accomplish these very maximalist objectives because I think that he views this as the opportune moment to do that.”
A lot is uncertain about this conflict. With many speculating that this war can result in full scale nuclear war.

Unless for some reason Putin is unhinged, I don’t think that (Putin) is some maniac who is looking to go down in flames and bring his country with him in a nuclear holocaust.

— Kenneth Pinnow

“I’d like to think we are far off from that possibility,” Pinnow said. “Unless for some reason Putin is unhinged, I don’t think that (Putin) is some maniac who is looking to go down in flames and bring his country with him in a nuclear holocaust.”
Pinnow added that he is more concerned about accidents occurring with weapons.
“With NATO’s heavy involvement in supplying the war effort for Ukraine, the possiblity is there,” Pinnow said. “That’s why requests for a no fly zone above Ukrainian airspace by the President of Ukraine have been met with hesitation.”
Pinnow argued that this war may not wind up doing much good for Putin.
“(Putin) has not left himself many ways out,” Pinnow said.