Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, marking the start of a war and causing widespread geopolitical and human rights ramifications.
Invading Ukraine is one aspect of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy for rebuilding the Soviet-era Russian empire. Putin seeks to seize control of Ukraine and establish a pro-Russia, pro-Putin government in the country.
“The Office of the President of Ukraine believes the Russian federation has two tactical goals — to seize territories and attack the legitimate political leadership of Ukraine in order to spread chaos and [to] install a marionette government that would sign a peace deal on bilateral relations with Russia,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff.
In an effort to legitimize his invasion, Putin declared that heavily Russian provinces in the eastern Ukraine, including Donetsk and Luhansk, are independent. He also claimed that “Ukraine is not a separate country.”
Putin’s resentment over the status of post-Soviet Eastern Europe is believed to be a motivating factor for the invasion.
“It ate at him,”said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of “Russia in Global Affairs,” a Moscow-based foreign policy journal. “He believes Russia was treated [by the West] as a second class citizen after the Soviet Union fell.”
The war between Russia and Ukraine now destabilizes the already precarious, international power balance. Within Europe, Russia effectively bars any hope of Ukraine gaining entry to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and discourages other former members of the Soviet Union from making similar attempts. Ukraine’s non-NATO status also means that they are restricted in what type of support they will receive from NATO; for instance, the U.S. has maintained a position that Ukraine will not be declared a no-fly zone.
At the same time, Russia is limited in which European countries they can attempt to seize, as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are members of NATO and therefore are protected by NATO’s Article 5: collective defense. Collective defense means that “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” The same is true for Poland and Romania – if Russia were to wage war on these countries, they would be declaring war on all of NATO.
NATO has already acted as a unified front against Russia’s invasion by imposing sanctions, dispatching troops from NATO’s Response Force to the eastern front of member states and halting the ‘Nord Stream 2’ natural gas pipeline linking Germany and Russia.
On an international scale, the looming threat of Russia distracts the U.S. from moves made by China in Asia to advance as a global power.
“[A]s long as we don’t commit terminal strategic blunders, China’s modernization will not be cut short, and on the contrary, China will have even greater ability and will to play a more important role in building a new international order,” wrote Professor Zheng Yongnian of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen.
China also positions itself to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine by aligning with Russia. Chinese diplomats have further perpetuated Russian propaganda accusing the United States of developing biological weapons in Ukraine.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights verified a total of 1,892 civilian deaths during Russia’s military attack on Ukraine as of April 12. Of them, 153 were children. More than 2,500 people were reported to have been wounded.
The United Nations reported that 4,650,228 refugees have fled the country, going to Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia.
The Russia-Ukraine war also has direct effects on the U.S.: New York City is home to over 60,000 Ukrainian immigrants, more than any other U.S. city, and there are nearly 355,000 Ukrainian immigrants nationwide.
“Some of these students and scholars may be close to the end of their program of study, research or training, and may not be able to immediately return to their home country during a war,” said American Council on Education President Ted Mitchell. He, and other humanitarian organizations, urged the U.S Department of State and Department of Homeland Security to take steps protecting Ukrainian immigrants.
By supporting the students whose home has been invaded and taken over by a hostile country, the U.S. has an opportunity to live up to its ideals of democracy.