On February 24, 2022, Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine was formerly a part of the Soviet Union and has close cultural ties to Russia. It has been independent for three decades in which the country's government has worked hard to establish its place as a sovereign state. The western part of Ukraine had previously requested closer ties with Europe, whereas the eastern side, which spoke Russian, undoubtedly wanted closer ties to Russia.
The conflict between the two countries had been going on for eight years prior to the current invasion when discord began with the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, formally a Ukrainian territory. The war in Ukraine is the largest military invasion of a sovereign country since World War II. Aside from the news coverage numbers and historical background to this war, the stories of people in Ukraine get largely drowned out. Families have split apart; women cross borders without their husbands, and children leave their homes without parents. For my family and me, this war hit us hard.
My mom grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine. She and her sister migrated to America at the ages of 11 and 23 to escape the Soviet Union. We still have family there, a family that was (naturally) unaware of this future crisis. Not entirely unexpected but challenging to process that our world is seeing mass destruction and loss of innocent lives in numbers throughout Ukraine. The world has been relatively peaceful for a while, and this invasion has caused massive disruption. So why is Putin so keen on capturing Ukraine?
From a historical standpoint (as I mentioned earlier), Russia has strong cultural and religious ties with Ukraine. Many Russians live in Ukraine, mainly inhabiting the eastern and southern areas. However, this doesn't mean that Russians and Ukrainians are "one people," as Putin has stated. They have built their own history from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine has created a strong democracy.
Power is a likely motive of Putin's. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia lost Ukraine. As Ukraine became a sovereign state and developed Western ideals, it was seen as a considerable loss of strength.
Russia has relied on pipelines that run through Ukraine to pump gas to Europe for years. Gas is central to Russia's economy and a significant way to transport this resource to many countries in Europe. When gas pumps were cut off initially, Russia had a considerable problem.
Politically, Putin might be thinking of a complete authority change in Ukraine. Many say it seems as though he wants to establish a power that Russia formerly had in the Soviet Union. He appears set on the idea that he wants to keep Russia and other countries away from external doctrines, in this case, the idea of Western liberalism.
We can't tell what his next move will be or his motives following the war, but the reasons above are what scholars pull from his actions. Protecting Ukraine is about protecting democracy. Russia is trying to destroy a country's autonomy. Collectively, we need to step up and speak up.