Understanding the War in Ukraine: When, Where, How, and Why?

Hey all! I haven’t written in a while, but I thought this was an important issue that needs to be talked about. I understand everybody is sick and tired of this war and hearing about it, so I understand if you don’t feel like reading. On the other hand, this is the real first war in a while, so I thought given that this is a blog that talks about war a lot, it would be fitting that we tie some previous posts into modern events. Also, this post is inspired by Bret Deveraux’s recent writing; go check him out at A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry. Now, to answer our first question: When?

The first question is relatively simple: For a while. As Bret Deveraux states in his recent post, “the conditions which would have resulted in a Russian invasion of Ukraine were likely decided on weeks or months ago.” Putin has been planning this invasion for quite a while, despite the fact that they have repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine. Putin has to have been planning simply because of the scale of the invasion; launching a major land invasion combined with aerial bombing and naval shelling takes months, if not years of planning. And we know from history that claims of peacefulness mean nothing from a ruthless authoritarian dictator. Hitler taught us that much with his invasion of Russia.

Now, on to the second question: Where? Putin has invaded from pretty much every angle of Ukraine that he can: in the east through western Russia, in the south from his occupied territory in Crimea, and in the north through Belarus. He is trying to completely encircle Ukraine. Up till now, human casualties have been relatively low despite both governments reports that they are crushing the enemy.

Thank you, NY Times for this map of the attack! It was surprisingly hard to find, given the fact there is a literal invasion of Ukraine going on.

The third question might seem a bit confusing, but it is very important to knowing the facts of the invasion. The fact is, Putin has carried out this invasion in a somewhat inefficient manner. Given the exponential difference between their militaries and budgets, it is surprising how slowly Putin is moving. In addition, Ukraine has mounted a surprisingly effective and versatile defense, given that it has had the military aid of no other country. (Though we have given it A LOT of money.) If there is one funny thing about this conflict, it is the STARK difference between Ukranian and Russian casualty numbers. Check the “casualties” list in the linked Wikipedia page.

Now, on to the last, and to me the most pressing issue: Why? Why would Putin kill Russia’s already abysmal international reputation, lose thousands of soldiers and vehicles, crush his country’s economy, and split the nation’s political stability in half just for some land? (Which, at least in my view, Russia has enough of.) Well, it’s complicated. Let’s go through a few possible reasons.

1.) Oil – Russia’s main export is oil, and they mainly export it to Europe. But the pipeline they supply it with runs through Ukraine, and so every time they sell a shipment of oil they get taxed by Ukraine. It is possible that they think the economic and political repercussions of the war are worth the money they would get when they don’t have to pay a tariff.

2.) Influence – Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has lost a lot of its former political power. It is no longer a military contender with the United States, and it is somewhat less important geopolitically. Most importantly it has lost its previous political power over Eastern Europe. While once it held Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, East Germany, and many other countries in its grasp, they now have political autonomy. But that might be temporary. Belarus has already been seized by a dictator named Alexander Lukashenko, who not only is good friends with Putin politically but has allowed Putin’s troops to pass through it to invade Ukraine’s northern border! In addition, it is supplying Putin with arms and financial aid. With Belarus under his wing, if Putin could coerce the Ukranian government into siding with them, that would be a big plus; but we’ll talk about that in a second.

3.) World Domination – Despite the fact that this theory has been posted on sketchy subreddits, I seriously doubt that this is realistic possibility. Putin doesn’t have the recourse’s, alliance, or stupidity to invade a country in a defensive alliance with the U.S. But if he did use Ukraine as a stepping point into a major invasion of Europe, he would have done this invasion more swiftly and decisively.

Lastly, there is Putin’s own alibi- he is “denazifying” Ukraine. I normally try not to go on rants, but this is so absurd and idiotic that I have to. Let’s just quickly chronicle who Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party, really was. He was an Authoritarian dictator who was democratically allected but took power and overthrew his country, suppressing freedom of speech and press. He then stated that he would not invade a neighboring country but issued an ultimatum and annexed part of their land. Then he invaded them anyways under a false pretext of liberating his own citizens oppressed by an enemy government. And who is Putin? Oh, he’s just an Authoritarian dictator who was democratically allected but took power and overthrew his country, suppressing freedom of speech and press. He then stated that he would not invade a neighboring country but issued an ultimatum and annexed part of their land. Then he invaded them anyways under a false pretext of liberating his own citizens oppressed by an enemy government. So, just in case you did not understand this, Putin is the bad guy.

Linking into this, you may notice that I have referred to the invading force not as “Russia” but as “Putin.” This is because Russia is not a one-sided nation. Despite what you might find on the internet, there are anti-war protests erupting around Russia begging to halt the invasion.

An anti-war rally in Pushkin Square, Moscow.

Many Russian citizens do not back the invasion, and most who are not positively against it just don’t care. In my view, the only reason there has not been a serious political uproar in Russia is because of said restriction of freedom of speech and press. Putin brutally murders political opponents. This is a shame, and I deeply believe the solution lies not in beating Russia militarily but in disposing Putin and installing a democratic government, as hard as that is.

In the end, there is still much to be determined; the invasion is only 3 days old. Will Putin absorb Ukraine into the Russian Federation? Or will he just make another Belarus, a powerless protectorate? Will he win the war? If not, will the U.S. or other country’s aid Ukraine? There are so many undetermined questions. If you’re wondering what to do about it right now, know you are not alone. With large-scale international events like this, one often feels left in the dust, dwarfed by the enormity of politics and the modern day. But you are not. In fact, you can help. Here is a list of charities you can donate too if you want to help the people of Ukraine:

https://help.rescue.org/donate/crisis-in-ukraine

https://www.savethechildren.org/us/where-we-work/ukraine

https://www.icrc.org/en/donate/ukraine

Stay Safe!

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