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The war in Ukraine: Why is this happening and what does this mean for us?

On Feb. 24, you were probably busy trying to catch up on all of the work you were supposed to do on your first week of Brandesian spring break. You definitely weren’t expecting WWIII to start popping off. However, here we are. The war in Ukraine may seem confusing for some. You may have questions such as “Why is this happening?” “What is Putin trying to accomplish?” and “How will this all end?” You may also be wondering how this will all impact your life. Well, believe it or not, this is not the first time that Ukraine and Russia have been involved in violent conflict. 

All the way back in 1917, what we know today as Russia was known as the Russian Empire and, to put it mildly, was having a very bad go of it. Those who know a lot about World War I and the history of the 20th century would be quick to recognize this claim as one of the biggest understatements of the year. That’s because the Russian Empire was involved in World War I, and the war was going very badly for Russia. So, for this reason, among a laundry list of other reasons that lie outside the scope of this article, a revolution happened in Russia that saw the nation lose a great deal of land amid the chaos of the revolution. One of the provinces that was under Russian control was Ukraine. 

Ukraine, having a distinct culture, language and history from Russia, desired independence and was quick to take advantage of the political turmoil in Moscow to get what they wanted. As history would have it, after four years of war, Ukraine ended up back under the control of the Russians. Except the Russian Empire was no more, for Ukraine was now under the control of the Soviet Union and the status quo would remain unchanged until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. So, you may be wondering, why on earth did Russia and then the Soviet Union want to have control over Ukraine so badly? Well, if you look at a map of Ukraine and Russia, both of which reside in Eastern Europe, you’ll find that the land they lie on is very flat. 

This flat expanse of land is part of what’s known as the Great European Plain. This flat expanse of land extends all the way from Russia to France. See, the thing about flat land is that it’s very easy to cross as there aren’t many obstacles that can get in your way. If you were in charge of Russia, you would want to control as much of that land as humanly possible so that your enemies from the rest of continental Europe would have to fight through as much flat land as possible in order to get to you. 

If you could hypothetically get control over Ukraine, a large country occupying a large part of the Great European Plain, then you would be putting that much more distance between yourself and your adversaries. This is exactly the mentality of Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, who decided that it was time to invade Ukraine in February of this year. It would appear that Putin’s aim in Ukraine is to gain control over territory that would serve as a buffer between him and the NATO countries that lie to his west. Given the sheer ferocity of the invasion and the many war crimes perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians by Russian occupying forces, it would appear that Putin is willing to do anything to get what he wants. 

But, you may be wondering, what does that mean for me? How does this all impact me? Well, Russia is a major supplier of things like fertilizer, grain and petroleum products like oil and natural gas. Ukraine is also a major supplier of the world’s grain. Given that both countries are effectively shut out from the world market due to the conflict, that means that the global supply chain is going to be placed under further strain, as if the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic weren’t disastrous enough. Ultimately, what this means is that countries in the west, east and South Asia and Latin America are going to face higher prices for basic goods such as fuel, electricity and food, while other regions of the world such as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa are set to face famine-like conditions. 

As of right now, Ukraine and its allies are dealing massive blows to the Russian military, yet Russia is still not fully defeated nor is Putin showing any signs of relenting either. It seems likely that Russia and Ukraine are going to be duking it out for a long time as neither side seems to be showing any interest in suing for peace. By all means, continue to educate yourself on this topic, because the truth matters. In the meantime, let us all hope and pray that this way conflict ends just as swiftly as it began.

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