Ukraine and Russia have a complicated history. Throughout the past, many different countries controlled the area that we call Ukraine. Much of that area came to be part of the Russian Empire in the late 1700’s.
The Russian Empire ended in 1917 and the USSR formed from its territory. This was the first major communist country in the world. It consisted of several individual republics (SSR’s). The Ukrainian SSR was one of them, but the largest and most powerful of these new republics was the Russian SSR. Ukraine now had its own borders, but was not independent.
In 1991 the USSR came to an end. Each of the SSR’s gained their independence, including Ukraine. For the first time they would be independent and control their own territory.
In 2014 Ukraine suffered its first major territorial setback since independence, the Crimea. A small peninsula that sticks out into the Black Sea, the Crimea was well-known to be part of Ukraine. That year, Russia annexed it. Today, Crimea is part of Russia. Ukraine did not agree to this. They still consider the peninsula to be part of their country, while Russia does also.
Russia claimed annexation was necessary because Crimea’s population consisted of many Russian people. Being close for hundreds of years allowed the area to become very diverse. It’s filled with Ukrainians and Russians, but many other groups as well. In 2014, over 65% of the population of the area was Russian.
Russia is still a more powerful country and there wasn’t much Ukraine could do to stop them. They had to rely on help from their allies. In the end, Russia kept the territory.
Ukraine has a long history of losing territory to powerful neighboring countries. Looking at the loss of Crimea as a single event misses the broader context of history. Similar situations in the past have led to lost territory for Ukraine. Territorial loss to surrounding nations is something they’ve dealt with for centuries.
In Donbass, eastern Ukraine, there are many people who support annexation by Russia. Pro-Russian rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government. Since the annexation of Crimea 13,000 people have died.
In April 2021, Ukraine claimed that Russia moved 80,000 troops to its border. Russia said they have the right to move their own troops within their own territory.
Ukraine stated they have asked Russia for a discussion of the issue. Russia has not agreed. The Ukrainian government is expressing concern over Russia due to their recent history. Once again, they are looking to their allies for help.
The United States
The US Department of Defense posted on their website that “The U.S. is continuing to monitor the situation there.”
In April, President Joe Biden made his first official phone call to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During that phone call he said America would support Ukraine against Russian aggression.
Other nations around the world have also shown support for Ukraine. , Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President showed support to defend the borders of Ukraine. Turkey has had territorial disputes with Russia in the past as well.
A major concern for many is also mentioned on the Department of Defense’s website.
“The U.S. has provided Ukraine with non-lethal and lethal items that allow them to better defend themselves.”
Russia might see the United States as an enemy because we’re giving weapons to their enemy. In the past, Russia and the United States have both supported the enemies of each other. They have also denied that support.
There is concern this territorial dispute will turn into a much larger war. Support for Ukraine arrived from many nations, and Russia is not backing down. They didn’t back down in 2014 either. They did annex Crimea. If they annex Donbass, the world will have to decide if going to war to with Russia is a fight worth having. Russia has to make the same decision, with less support.
In the past similar events have occurred. Among the most well known are the events that led to World War II.
Germany annexed the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. They claimed that an area populated by ethnic Germans should be part of Germany. Powerful nations allowed it to happen to prevent a larger war even though many were against it. Those nations allowed Germany to force Czechoslovakia to surrender territory. Immediately Germany added a large population, industry, and military, to an aggressive nation.
The idea of “Appeasement” this did not prevent war. Germany would go on to annex Czechoslovakia and Austria. Later it would go on to invade Poland, setting the stage for World War II.
The current events in Ukraine could escalate to an actual war, but it is unlikely to become something comparable to World War II.