For almost two months, the world’s attention has been focused on the plight of the Ukrainian people whose country has been invaded by Russian troops that have left cities destroyed and thousands of people dead.
United States leaders have taken a cautious approach because of fear of upsetting a delicate geopolitical situation that could quickly escalate into a larger world conflict with Russia, which commands one of the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have also provided Ukraine with billions of dollars of military and economic support in its struggle to fight back against the invading Russian forces. However, the U.S. and NATO have avoided sending troops to support Ukraine or setting up a no-fly zone because the country is not a member of NATO. Doing so would also likely expand the conflict into a larger war between Russia and western countries.
Ukraine’s Tied History with Russia
My first thought was ‘Wow’ War sounds like such an unreal thing to me. I would have never thought that war could happen in this day and age.”
— Senior Alex Valadez
To explain Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, we have to look at some recent events that have occurred between the two countries in the past two decades.
During the 2004 presidential elections, two of the major candidates were Viktor Yanukovich, who was backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and pro-Russia, and Victor Yousenko, who was pro-West and wanted Ukraine to grow its ties with Western Europe, to try and join NATO and the European Union. Viktor Yanukovich was finally elected in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election. He worked to keep connections with Russia and avoid joining the European Union.
In an attempt to get Ukraine to take a step closer to joining the European Union, the EU offered Ukraine the Association Agreement in 2013. The Russian media has often portrayed the agreement as a way for the EU to take advantage of Ukraine, stating that the EU is the only one that the agreement benefited.
Ukrainians took to the streets and participated in protests known as the “Revolution of Dignity” in order to demand the Ukrainian government to accept the agreement and grow ties with the EU.
In February 2014, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove the pro-Russian president Yanukovich. Shortly after, candidate Arseniy Yatsenyuk became the new president of Ukraine. Less than a month into his presidency, he signed the EU’s Association Agreement which some believe is the first big step leading to today’s conflict.
Russian troops began arriving at Crimea, a southern state in Ukraine, to invade and take it over. Historically, Crimea had been part of Russia but it was given to Ukraine in 1954. Russia’s government felt that if Ukraine didn’t want to be allied with them anymore, then they should take back Crimea. However, most Western nations still don’t recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
The Russian annexation of Crimea marked the first armed hostilities between the two countries.
The Russian leader’s initial aim was to overrun Ukraine with the intention to end its desire to join NATO. When the capture of the capital Kyiv failed, the aim shifted to the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.
On Febr. 24 of this year, he told the Russian people his goal was to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” claiming that the Ukraine government has been putting its people under genocide and scarcity.
Putin claimed during a recent address that, “It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force,” he insisted. “This was not even a war or invasion, ” he said.
However, claims of a Nazi Ukraine are entirely unfounded, because there is no major fascist political party that has popular support in Ukraine’s government, leaving this as a way for the Russian leader to justify the invasion.
Placing Ukrainians in a frustrating situation when they find that because of these allegations from the Russian government, some of their relatives living in Russia do not believe there is war, or believe that it is Ukraine’s fault.
On the other side of the globe, Americans and Akins students are left watching horrific news reports and reading headlines detailing the horrors of life that are taking place on a daily basis in Ukraine. The Eagle’s Eye conducted an online survey to ask Akins students about what they know about the conflict and what they believe should happen to stop it.
Sophomore Brenden Kelly shared, “I was definitely shocked, it was hard knowing that Ukraine might’ve not existed over the next week and lots of lives would be lost, but Ukraine so far is holding up against a powerhouse army,” he said.
What actions has the U.S. taken?
The ongoing conflict puts America in an uncomfortable place. Even when Ukraine is not part of NATO, the US had still taken actions with the intention to avoid a greater conflict. Since the first incursion, the US and its allies have imposed tough financial sanctions on Russia, blocking Russian banks from SWIFT, and preventing them from raising funds internationally or doing any global transactions.
Even when other nations like the US can’t be directly involved, the concerns of how the financial sanctions towards Russia will affect other nations. Henry Perez, an AP Macroeconomics and Economics STEM teacher, explains better the reasoning behind such sanctions, its advantages, and disadvantages.
“Both luckily, and unluckily, Russia is one of the major producers of oil on the planet,” he said. The reason that’s an unfortunate thing is that Europe is not an oil-producing continent. And so they have to get their oil from somewhere. And so getting it from Russia is the obvious thing to do.”
Perez said that while the intent is to crash Russia’s economy, he recognizes that this also affects the Russian people, not only the Russian government.
Another question that is brought to the table is whether or not these sanctions could be counterproductive for the US.
“The fact that we are integrated means that when we hurt Russia, but we’re also hurting ourselves,” he said.
Perez describes that we can see the effectiveness of such sanctions because of the crash of the ruble (Russian currency) and their inability to export goods. However, he also explains the ways these results can “hurt” the US and other global nations.
“Right now we have higher gas prices. However, that means we’re going to have to produce more oil and gas. Now, there’s not enough oil so we’re gonna be ramping production back up. Which is good for the economy, but not great for our planet,” he said.
My concern is that this will get out of hand and start a nuclear scare, but other than that I’m very blessed to have not been affected by this crisis.”
— Senior Sam Laguna
He also mentions that not only the oil market is what can be hurting, but also other raw materials such as wheat.
Perez explains that “40% of the world’s grain comes from Ukraine and Russia. This is gonna create problems for everything that uses wheat, which is obviously a lot of products, and it’s gonna create problems for the world and the US,” he said.
But primarily because everything needs gas to be transported from place to place, and when there is a shortage of raw material and the way to get gas is more expensive, the price of everything increases, as Perez explained.
Perez also mentions the hurt on third-world countries and their way of living. “
We’ll see higher prices in some third world countries, you’re gonna see famine, you’re gonna see people dying of starvation when those expected or those normal crops aren’t there.” he said.
What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, often referred to as NATO, was founded after World War 2 in 1949 to avoid conflict between European countries. It was also established to combat the Soviet Union during the Cold War but has stayed and grown despite the USSR’s collapse. Major countries that are part of NATO include the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and many other countries.
NATO works like a major contractual military alliance. If one country that is in NATO is attacked, then all the other NATO countries must come in aid.
Because of these protective benefits, as well as the fact that Ukraine has high tensions with its neighboring country Russia, the country has tried to join NATO. Russia has tried very hard to keep Ukraine away from NATO, especially because if they do join, almost the entire border between them and Western Europe would be protected by NATO. However, the members of NATO have been reluctant in accepting Ukraine as a member, because that would mean they have to defend Ukraine in a time of need. This is especially risky considering Ukraine’s history with Russia.
‘Special Military Operation’ Explained
Ever since 2014, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been anxious, to say the least. Ukrainians were worried that at any moment Russia would commence an attack. And unfortunately, their suspicions proved to be true.
On February 24, Putin announced a “Special Military Operation” on Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russian speakers, despite having no evidence for this claim. They began by causing explosions in large cities, such as Kyiv, Odesa, and Mariupol.
Since then, Russia has successfully taken over Ukrainian provinces near its borders. Specifically in the south and east. So far, they have invaded the province of Kherson right next to Crimea, and are attempting to advance towards Mykolaiv. The advance was quick to take massive amounts of territory in southern and eastern Ukraine. In the north, they quickly stalled from fierce Ukrainian resistance. The Ukrainians were determined to hold on to the Ukrainian Capital Kyiv at any cost, the Russians were just as determined to take it.
Russia’s advance quickly stalled thanks to logistical problems. Russian convoys were being ambushed daily that were carrying vital supplies for the war effort including food, ammo, fuel, and spare parts for their vehicles.
Why is this important?
Most Akins students believe it is important to be informed about the conflict. According to the online survey conducted by The Eagle’s Eye, 92.1% of students believe learning about the war is important.
“As of right now we must learn how this will all spiral out. All we really can do is wait and hope Ukraine can hold off Russia until an agreement is made. It sucks to say but it’s all we really can do,” Junior Adam Sanchez said.
Students understand that there are not many active actions they can do besides supporting Ukraine financially.
The following quote can represent how most students see the situation. As stated by an American novelist, Pearl S, Buck “if you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday”
Students recognize the significance of being informed about global conflicts and the history behind them.
Students should be informed about current events even if they aren’t in America. It is important to pay attention to the world around you, especially during times of war,” Sophomore Morgan Messer said.