Ukraine Explained (A Fair Analysis)
Ukraine is a country in eastern Europe. It is slightly smaller than Texas in land mass and has a population of 41 million people. It borders Russia to the east and Poland and Hungary to the west. Ukraine was a part of the USSR, but gained its independence in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe and suffers from a high poverty rate with widespread corruption.
Ukraine maintained a friendly relationship with Russia until 2014, when Russia, under Vladimir Putin, ‘annexed’ Crimea, a peninsula along the northern coast of the Black Sea and a part of Ukraine. Crimea has a population of 2.4 million, made up of mostly ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.
After the Crimea invasion, Ukrainian hearts hardened against Russia and Putin. They became friendlier to NATO and the western world. Why does Putin want Ukraine? There are
First, it’s about geography. Moscow needs warm water open sea lanes. Russia’s inability to have direct access to the oceans has long been a weakness. Ukraine, with eighteen seaports, has the most powerful seaport potential among all countries of the Black Sea.
In the event of a war, the Russian navy currently can’t get to the Baltic Sea because NATO controls the Skagerrak Strait. In many ways, Russia is landlocked and Putin needs Ukraine for military and commercial shipping reasons.
Second, it’s about natural resources. Ukraine has high concentrations of coal, iron, oil, natural gas, manganese, graphite, titanium, nickel, and timber. For centuries, Ukraine has been known as the ‘breadbasket of Europe.’ It is home to twenty-five percent of the world’s super-fertile or black soil. An area larger than Italy is currently cultivated. Ukraine is among the top three grain exporters in the world. Ukraine is one of the top three exporters of organic products to the EU. In the past 30 years, they have struggled to get their products to other countries, but that is changing. Putin needs Ukraine to feed Russia and to provide oil/gas and other resources to Russia.
Third, Putin believes Ukraine is a part of Russian.“As the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy. These are, first and foremost, the consequences of our own mistakes made at different periods of time. But these are also the result of deliberate efforts by those forces that have always sought to undermine our unity,” Putin wrote last year.
He has called Ukraine the “crown jewel of Russia.” Putin believes it is his duty to reunite the old USSR. He wants that as his legacy and he certainly doesn’t want a member of NATO on his border (Ukraine is not a member of NATO yet).
If Putin invades Ukraine — which seems possible as Putin announces unilateral annexation of Ukrainian territory — it will not be a cakewalk. Ukraine has the largest military force in Europe — over 200,000 soldiers — and the leaders have vowed to fight.“Do not doubt, the Armed Forces are absolutely ready to fight back and will not give up the Ukrainian lands!” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said.
Putin faces opposition at home on the planned seizing of Ukraine. Back in 2014, he faced opposition when he annexed Crimea.
Unfortunately, public opinion doesn’t mean much in a totalitarian, authoritarian, repressive form of government where elections are rigged, leaders don’t follow founding documents and do what they want. Americans are learning to relate.
Note: Steve Fair is Chairman of the Republican Party in the Fourth Congressional District of Oklahoma. Steve’s conservative commentaries appear regularly at the CapitolBeatOK.com news website. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.