Why Does Russia Want to Invade Ukraine?
The tensions in Ukraine have become a challenge to sovereignty and self-determination. After the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared its independence in 1991.Since then, Russia has had difficulty recognizing it as a country at all.
To say it’s simply because President Putin is an egomaniac is to not understand the situation. He is an egomaniac, but no more so than any other person who rises to the same height of leadership. Russia has two very real problems it needs to solve: economic and military security.
NATO Expansion VS Russian Military Security
From this standpoint, Russia’s biggest concern is NATO. After the Cold War, the Baltic states declared their independence. In 2004 all three were admitted to NATO.This immediately raised an air of concern within the Russian government. However, these three nations don’t hold the same cultural significance that Ukraine does.
Much of Russian culture stems from Kyiv. Additionally, the Ukrainian border is 460km from Moscow at its closest point. In the world of Air Defense systems, should Ukraine ever join NATO, that’s a big problem if you are on the wrong side of a missile system.
Because Ukraine has already applied to join NATO in 2008 shortly after its Baltic neighbors, and in June of 2021 the outcome of the last NATO summit meeting was to finally support Ukraine in its application for membership (See point 69 of the briefing).
Of course Ukraine would prefer to join NATO, especially since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. There has been a slow burn conflict for the last eight years killing over 13,000 Ukrainians.
So Russia is striking while it still can.
President Putin is a strategic fellow. I’m sure he would have preferred that a military build-up would have caused NATO and the West to back off. After all, that would be far less expensive than fighting a war.
However, by making the key point that Ukraine could never join NATO, he challenged a central tenet of Western Society: self-determination. As of the date of this writing, Putin’s response to the U.S.’s calls for diplomacy has been that their key concern has not been met.
When was the last time you picked up a product and the stamp on the bottom said: “Made in Russia”? Truth be told, this can be difficult to find in Western society. Aside from the petrol at the gas station and the home heating oil being used for your boiler, which is rebranded, that phrase isn’t familiar to us.
The Crimean peninsula has one of the largest warm water seaports on the western side of the continent. Russia can’t afford to lose it. While “Nord Stream 2” hangs in the balance, at the end of the day, Russia produces a product the entire world consumes.
Time is on its side. However, if it ever wants to do anything other than produce oil and gas, it’s going to need the port at Sevastopol.
In some ways, conflict is inevitable between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian situation is a modern-day example of Clausewitz’s phrase “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” In a lot of ways, Russia holds most of the cards, and the West knows it.
Martin Knapp www.martinknapp.medium.com