Written by Breanna Edwards and Annika Lilja
A few days ago, All Teen Politics posted an article entitled “Ukraine and Russia: A Possible Invasion.” Now that this is no longer a “possible invasion” but a reality, we decided to provide our readers with a short update to open up discussion. Although this article will be out of date very quickly due to rapidly changing circumstances, here is a brief overview of the current situation.
A SUMMARY OF THE START OF THE CONFLICT
Several weeks ago, Russian leader Vladimir Putin surrounded the nation of Ukraine with Russian soldiers, all while maintaining that he did not intend to strike and was open to diplomatic discussions should his demands be met. According to All Teen Politics founder Annika Lilja, “Putin has made high stake demands of what would need to happen to prevent him from invading Ukraine. These demands are viewed by some as so bold that they think they were designed for Ukraine and NATO to reject them, allowing Putin to claim that his attempt at diplomacy has failed and that invasion is necessary.” These demands ask NATO to permanently ban Ukraine from joining its member union and would require NATO nations to remove all weapons and military personnel from the former European Soviet-occupied nations: Poland, Romania, what was formerly East Germany, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As stated, these demands are ridiculous and unthinkable to meet. While the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and some other leaders remained optimistic, even telling the Biden Administration that they were being overdramatic about the gravity of the situation, Russian forces invaded Ukraine last night (February 23, 2022).
For a more in-depth overview of the cause and details of the beginning of the conflict, we recommend this article by All Teen Politics founder Annika Lilja.
For an interesting overview of the history of Russia and Ukraine, and what led up to this conflict, we highly recommend this article by Tom Nichols in The Atlantic entitled, “Putin Chooses a Forever War.”
There has been the start of an invasion, bombings of Ukrainian soil by the Russian military, and so far reported at least 135 Ukrainian soldier’s deaths, as well as an unknown number of civilians. Russians have reportedly taken Chernobyl, the former site of the largest nuclear accident in history. This raises concerns about what they could do if the amount of nuclear waste still on the site is dislodged or mishandled, which experts claim if disturbed could be enough to once again cover much of the European continent with radioactive dust. Many citizens are fleeing large Ukrainian cities, and a refugee crisis on a large scale is expected. According to New York Times reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, “Zelensky says Russian saboteurs are in Kyiv and he is Moscow’s prime target.” As of 8:00 pm ET on February 24th, Russian forces are said to be closing in on Kyiv (the capital and most populated city of Ukraine).
For a summary of Day 1 of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, we highly recommend this New York Times article.
USA AND NATO ACTION
President Biden has imposed sanctions on Russian banks and governments and has convinced many European countries to do the same. Sanctions are being amped up with the growing violence in the hopes of forcing Putin to back down over the threat of a crippled Russian economy. It is unclear what level of military involvement NATO nations will have with Ukraine, as the country is not a member of the alliance, though all leaders of NATO nations have pledged support to some extent, whether humanitarian, financial, or otherwise. President Biden has made it clear that “Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict. Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the east...we have no intention of fighting Russia.” It is unclear what other nations will provide military support to Ukraine.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CONFLICT
China has pledged its support to Russia, unsurprising, as the two nations have grown to be something like allies as other Western nations began to view China in a negative light. There is growing concern that the attack on Ukraine will give China the confidence it needs to invade Taiwan, a matter for a different article. Other nations expected to support Russia include Belarus, Cuba, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and North Korea. None of these nations other than Cuba and Belarus have yet stated their explicit views on the war, but many have treaties and/or shared values with Russia.
In times of conflict and war, it is important to remember that generally, it is a small but powerful minority of an autocracy that genuinely wants battle. To quote George McGovern: “I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” This, like most conflicts, is not because of a matter concerning the citizens of Russia but its power-hungry President Vladimir Putin and his officials. Over 1700 Russian citizens were arrested today following their involvement in anti-war protests. A poll found that only 45% of Russians support the war. Russian celebrities and other influencers have also spoken out against the war, uncommon for elitists in the country (The Guardian).
It is impossible to predict the impact of a full-blown war: If there even will be one, and if there is, how large it would be. Will this conflict taper out? Most experts agree that it won’t. Is it the next Cold War, or are we looking at World War III? Opinions differ. According to the New York Times, Putin has warned against interference and says that Russia is a ‘powerful nuclear state’, enforcing the global fear of nuclear war. The world economy will certainly be seriously impacted, the question is to what extent. We also know that this will alter global relations and could pave the way for other conflicts, such as a potential China/Taiwan invasion mentioned above. Overall, it is too early and too unpredictable to be able to make many solid conclusions.
The Russian/Ukrainian war is an unprecedented and frankly confusing conflict, which many, including former allies and citizens of Russia, object to. Despite this, it seems that it is moving forward with unpredicted brutality. Facts change quickly, and this summary will undoubtedly be outdated within a day, so we recommend you do your own research and check out one of the following live-updating websites, which will provide you with all the new information on the situation:
Nazaryan, Alexander. “War comes to Chernobyl, raising nuclear fears in Russia invasion of Ukraine.” Yahoo News. 24 Feb. 2022. https://news.yahoo.com/war-comes-to-chernobyl-raising-nuclear-fears-in-russia-invasion-of-ukraine-170528013.html.
“Russia attacks Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine War: Which Country Is On Which Side? US, Germany, China, India & More.” Republic World. 24 Feb. 2022. https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/russia-ukraine-crisis/russia-ukraine-war-which-country-is-on-which-side-us-germany-china-india-and-more-articleshow.html.
Sangal, Aditi et al. “Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine.” CNN. https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-news-02-24-22-intl/index.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2022.
Sauer, Pjotr, Andrew Roth. “Thousands join anti-war protests in Russia after Ukraine invasion.” The Guardian. 24 Feb. 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/24/we-dont-want-this-russians-react-to-the-ukraine-invasion.
Schuman, Michael. “Is Taiwan Next?” The Atlantic. 24 Feb. 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2022/02/vladimir-putin-ukraine-taiwan/622907/.
Wolf, Zachary B. “Here's what Biden has said about sending US troops to Ukraine.” CNN. 24 Feb. 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/24/politics/us-troops-ukraine-russia-nato/index.html.