Russia marches into Ukraine as world reacts

David Lane, news editor

The conflict in Ukraine has reached a new boiling point, with Russian forces, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, moving into the eastern portion of the nation, taking control of the nuclear power plant Chernobyl, and entering the capital city of Kyev.
U.S. intelligence believes that Russia has launched more than 200 missiles at Ukraine. The Miami Herald reported on Saturday that at least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed as a result of attacks by Russia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said last week that 150,000 Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded.
Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russian forces have continued to have an active presence near Ukrainian territory. As a result, there has been much debate among the international community on how to resolve the situation, and how much of a threat Russia posed to its neighbors.
“Russia is a very nationalistic country and the annexation of Crimea was just a taste of what Russia is willing to do for power. This invasion of the Donbas is the first major step in a series of many towards trying to achieve the success of their former Soviet era glory days,” said Ezekiel Knibbe, a junior.
Putin has gone on to reinforce the notion that Ukraine is a fake country propagated by communist Russia prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, despite Ukraine becoming a nation in 1917 in the aftermath of World War One.

Since the birth of the Ukraine, Russia has consistently made efforts to ensure that Russia maintains control of the region. While Russia effectively gained control over Ukraine during the reign of the Soviet Union, after its collapse, Ukraine has had a strong desire to maintain independence from Russia.
“If Ukraine falls to Russia, the EU will either have to rely on the US for security more, or become more friendly with Russia and give in to their demands,” said Benjamin Gilbert, a freshman. “Europe is at the precipice of making an important decision on whether to choose Russia or the US to gain power in Europe. This situation in Ukraine will be the ultimate deciding factor.”
During the early era of Putin’s reign, several former soviet states joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Ukraine, however, resisted this movement due to fear of Russia, ultimately choosing a foreign policy of balancing relations between Russia and the EU.
This did not last long, however. In 2014, despite the general population and parliament wanting a closer alliance with the EU, Viktor Yanukovych, the president at the time, refused to sign a bill passed by parliament allowing Ukraine to engage in free trade with the EU. This led to a riot, which deposed Yanukovych, in an event that came to be known as the 2014 Revolution of Dignity.
Russia immediately became aware of the wall of NATO and European powers directly bordering it, restricting Russian access to the Black Sea. It was this fear from Russia that ultimately led to them funding pro-Russian separatist militias within Ukraine. This was the same fear that also led to the annexation of Crimea later the same year.
“[Putin] wants to reestablish the Cold War because he wants Russia to have a dominant place in international politics,” said Angela Thomas, a government and economics teacher. “As a former KGB, he grew up during the Cold War, and he wants to restore Russia to his glory from Putin’s youth. Whether this happens depends entirely on the United States’ response, much more than it does Ukraine’s because Ukraine is reliant on its western allies.”
Putin has been in charge of Russia for the past 22 years, getting elected in 2000. Since then, Putin’s grasp on the Russian government has only tightened, making him effectively a dictator with very few checks on his power.
While flopping between the positions of Prime Minister and President throughout the 2000s, since 2012, Putin has remained firmly in control of the Presidency. While technically an elected official, Russian elections are known to be incredibly untrustworthy due to a plethora of reports of ballot stuffing, opponents to Putin being left off of the ballot and even arrested, as well as reports of people being forced to vote for Putin’s party.

The international community has responded to the attack on Ukraine with a series of sanctions. Germany has halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Members of the European Union and Britain froze the European assets of Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
The United States has increased sanctions on Russia, many of which are targeted at the oligarchy as well as Putin’s inner family. The U.S. also sanctioned Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, as well as Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is intended “to attract capital into the Russian economy in high-growth sectors,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki
“If Russia gets control of the Donbas region, it may appease them for now, but ultra nationalistic leaders like Putin usually don’t back down with just a taste of what they want,” said Knibbe.
The Russian Ministry of Defense was hacked and taken down, and the personal information of its employees was leaked; the hacker group known as Anonymous claimed credit.
“It’s a game of chicken between the U.S. and Russia. Putin thinks that Joe Biden doesn’t have the will to engage in military action with Russia. If we want to ensure Ukrainian independence, we need a military build up of U.S. troops in Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions we are already putting in place,” said Thomas.
For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) activated its rapid response troops. These troops can deploy quickly if Russian troops cross the borders of NATO countries. NATO said the attack was “unjustified and unprovoked” and a “serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” adding that it was deploying additional forces to the “eastern part of the alliance, as well as additional maritime assets.”