What Does Pres. Vladimir Putin Want With Ukraine?
Posted 04/08/2022 02:05PM

What does Pres. Vladimir Putin Want With Ukraine?:

by: Cole Breen

It has been 36 days since the Russian military launched a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine. According to Reuters, there are roughly at least 23,000 total casualties counting both civilian and military losses. Additionally, 10 million Ukrainian citizens have been displaced as a consequence of the sustained violence of the invasion. People have lost homes, family, and even their own identities. 36 days of aerial bombing, urban combat, and military blunders have destroyed 1.8K buildings and pieces of property. Cities that once hosted tens of thousands have been reduced to ashes and rubble, sporting scarcely more people than ghost towns. This is easily the largest conventional conflict in Europe since the end of World War II.

In the face of overwhelming odds, Ukrainian military forces have managed to repel the overwhelming Russian armada at their doorstep. President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24th with the stated goal of ousting President Volodymyr Zelensky's duly elected government. The motivations behind this goal seem to stem from Russia wanting to prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (or NATO). For context, NATO is a defense/military alliance between 28 European countries, Canada, and the United States. Members of the alliance are dedicated to preserving peace and security in the North Atlantic area. It's important to note that Nato was first formed as a means to provide mutual security against the threat of the Soviet Union. The "us vs. them" outlook that NATO members have had against the Soviet Union has survived long past the fall of the Soviet Union to encompass modern Russia as well. Russia correctly views NATO as a long-term threat to its existence and development just as NATO views Russia in the same light. If Ukraine were to join NATO, the Russian government would be (in their own view), faced with the enemy at their front doorstep. According to William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, ". . .NATO likely has 'no intention right now' to admit Ukraine to the organization." Before Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky came to power, Ukraine had been run under an essentially pro-Russian puppet government. 2014's "Revolution of Dignity" put an end to a regime that had often rejected calls for Ukraine to join NATO and set Ukraine on a path to westernization. This westernization was deemed an existential threat to Russia, which had a dysfunctional if not hostile relationship with the Volodymyr administration prior to the invasion. Ukraine becoming a bigger part of Europe and the western world is antithetical to Putin's intention of rewriting the end of the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia lost its status as a superpower. In the hopes of regaining that title, in recent years, Russia has exercised a greater degree of control over its former vassals like Belarus, Ukraine, and many of the other nations that once made up its powerful communist bloc. Make no mistake, this invasion isn't just about supposedly unseating the Ukrainian government, it's about retribution. Pres. Vladimir Putin recognized and exploited the complacency of both NATO and the United States. He has put the free world in a position of either moving for involvement and risking World War III, or allowing him to go about his business as he carves out an empire for himself.

It's quite the Catch 22 when you consider the stakes involved. Committing our military forces to this conflict would be a grave mistake, harkening back to the days of the Cold War. The Biden administration needs to recognize this. We cannot allow Putin to continue with this subversive geopolitical strategy that undermines our position as a superpower and as a leader of the free world. In the modern era, Russia has often turned to subversion as a means to legitimize its power in a world that increasingly ignores its former superpower status. Russia uses its position as a nuclear power to play the wild card on the world stage, and subsequently, hold on to its relevancy. It would be shortsighted to allow Russia to leverage something akin to a hostage situation every time it wants to break the rules or throw a temper tantrum. Perhaps this desperation on the part of Putin and Russia is a symptom of something much larger.

In the early 1990s with the Fall of the Soviet Union, Russia transitioned from a centrally planned economy to a capitalist one. For Russia, the '90s were a decade wrought with economic and political turmoil. The transition that defined that era spurned mass unemployment, alcoholism, and consequently a collapse in male life expectancy, birth rates, and fertility rates. All these factors combined to create a modern demographic crisis. There are far less young people who are able to reproduce or fight than there were just decades ago. Between October 2020 and September 2021, Russia lost 997,000 people to natural population decline further destroying an already weak demographic situation. To alleviate a situation that could only continue to harm Russia down the line, it's not too much of a stretch to assume that the invasion of Ukraine is a means to remedy that. Ukraine is a young, modern, and arguably western nation. There are more than a few reasons as to why Russia may want to take control of the country. Now the real question I would ask is whether this is the first step towards Putin supposedly reclaiming Russia's legacy as an empire either through annexation or a puppet-regimes? Perhaps Putin really does intend to rewrite the end of the Cold War. Only time may tell. With the resolve and the strength shown by the Ukrainian people, I have no doubt that this will be a hard fought battle. Ukraine will not bow to the whims of some measly dictator. Russia will not win the day. If there is any lesson to be learned here, it is to make sure that we never allow a situation like this wherein people lose their lives, homes, and hope to ever occur in the same way.

"It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war."

  • Pres. John F. Kennedy


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