The Illegal War in Ukraine: What You Need to Know
During the much-anticipated 2022 Olympics, an Olympics that was needed after the world had been ravaged by a global pandemic, the tragic, lingering question behind the scenes was will he, or won’t he? That is to say, was Russian President Vladmir Putin going to invade Ukraine as he’d been threatening to do or would he spare them. Over the course of several months (though admittedly, Russia had been building up their troops in this region for years), Putin’s army had been amassing at strategic points along the Ukrainian border. Nearly 200k troops were in place. And despite harsh criticism from western nations, Russia continued to build up their troops and artillery in these areas.
Finally, four days after the closing ceremonies of the Olympic games, Russia invaded Ukraine. On the night of February 24, Ukrainian military as well as some civilian targets were hit, namely in Kharkiv, Odessa and the capital city of Kyiv. Shortly after that, Russian military vehicles began making their way into Ukraine through border checkpoints. Things began to escalate from there—rapidly so.
Russia had a comprehensive military game plan in place, attacking from land, sea and air. They would show no mercy. Their goal was to quickly take the capital city and declare their victory. But how did we get to this point? What prompted the leader of one of the world’s foremost superpowers to make Ukraine its target? And why was Russia so intent on decimating this country that is nearly 30 times smaller than it?
The Lead-Up to War
The Nation-Building Theory
It was over thirty years ago that the Soviet Union as the world knew it, vanished. The various countries once comprising this communist block declared their independence. Russia, however, has never really forgotten the “glory days” of the USSR. Putin himself has repeatedly over the years expressed his desire to see the Soviet Union rebuilt.
Ukraine particularly, represented a jewel in that Soviet crown. Not only is Ukraine optimally located along the Black Sea, but it also boasts a highly educated population. Their industrial and agricultural centers are among the foremost in this region of the world. All of this taken together made them a desirable acquisition target for a country looking to recreate a “new” Soviet era. Ukraine, however, has since developed a very distinctive and pronounced national identity with their own language, their own culture, their own heritage. For a staunchly nationalist bully like Russia, this posed a big problem.
The Crimea Component
It was 2014. Russian forces targeted and ultimately captured strategic points in Crimea, eventually leading to the installation of a pro-Russian government in the Crimea peninsula. Per the highly-disputed Crimea Status Referendum, Crimea thus became part of the Russian Federation giving Russian forces an optimal location from which to stage an eventual assault on Ukraine. Numerous countries condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea, with Ukraine being among the most vocal opponents. This annexation has led to ongoing skirmishes between Russia and Ukraine over the years, with Russia using the Crimea Peninsula as the home base for its Black Sea fleet.
Putin’s “Genocide” Claim
Russian-speaking “breakaway” territories from Ukraine, namely in the Donbas region, have been recognized by Putin in recent months. Prior to this, these territories were self-proclaimed people’s republics that had gone unrecognized since 2014. Not only has Putin recognized these republics in recent months, but he went a step further and declared that there was evidence of genocide against the people of these republics. This genocide claim, deemed an outright false allegation by western European nations and the US, was part of the rationale given by Putin for the attack on Ukraine. His claim is that Russia is working to “de-nazify” the country. Again, this is something that has been wholly rejected by many other nations.
The NATO Factor
Since becoming an independent nation, Ukraine has sought out membership in NATO. Putin is insistent that NATO stay out of the affairs of the former Eastern Bloc. As NATO’s influence extends further and further eastward, Russia’s frustration with the peace-keeping organization has inevitably grown. In 2008, Ukraine was believed to be in line for eventual NATO membership, and while this never came to fruition, its ambition to join only managed to anger Putin adding fuel to the fire that would eventually lead him to attack the country.
The War Escalates
When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on that fated February night, Putin and his forces were expecting to get in and get out—quick, clean, victorious. They were definitely not anticipating the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people.
Perhaps it was the emergence of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky as the voice and heart of his people that really spurred on not only the Ukrainian citizens, but the rest of the world as well. Appearing on national television, appealing to governments around the world personally to include the UK, the US and Germany among others, Zelensky, war weary and usually wearing an army green t-shirt, vowed that his country, this little “country that could,” would never surrender. And he would remain right there beside his people, even refusing the US’s offer of evacuation.
In the days following February 24th, Russia’s attacks expanded and became more brutal, more devastating and less focused on strictly military targets. Pretty much since the beginning of the war, Russia has mercilessly taken out civilian landmarks to include schools, nurseries, apartment buildings, a hospital in Mariupol in which 17 civilians were killed, a psychiatric hospital, and this just scratches the surface.
Despite it all, despite the lack of food, supplies, electricity, fresh water in some cases, you name it, Ukrainians fight on. Ukraine enacted martial law toward the beginning of the war and ordered eligible men between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay in the country and fight. Others not of fighting age, have been trying to escape the war-torn country to find safe harbor; this has inevitably led to a refugee crisis of enormous proportion. Approximately a month since the start of the war, nearly 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country. This now officially ranks among the top twenty refugee crises in history.
Countries such as Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova are taking refugees and yet are struggling to figure out how to shelter, feed and care for the tens of thousands crossing into their countries. The US is now making accommodations as well to accept around 100k Ukrainian refugees.
The War Rages On
For a month now fighting has continued, with Russian forces fixated on taking the key cities, especially the capital city of Kyiv. There have been extensive missile bombardments, a devastatingly long Russian convoy stationed just outside of Kyiv that seemed to have stalled and ultimately dispersed without accomplishing its purported mission. There has been a reported hypersonic missile usage and threats by the Russian government that chemical weapons and even tactical nuclear weapons were not off the table should the resistance continue.
Ukraine has held their ground in some regions. With anti-tank missiles and Javelins sent over from the US, they’ve managed to frustrate a number of key Russian efforts. With the sheer will and pride of their people and army, they’ve stood strong and haven’t yet backed down.
Talks have been ongoing between Russia and Ukraine and yet have produced nothing by way of movement toward a ceasefire. Russia is demanding, among other things, that Ukraine change its national language to Russian and that the capital city of Kyiv be surrendered to Russian forces. Zelensky however, has refused any such concessions.
The world has responded. The United Nations condemned the invasion of Ukraine. And a series of sanctions against Russia were almost immediately put into place, to include individual sanctions from each of the G7 countries. Major companies have ceased operations in Russia and personal sanctions against Putin and other Russian oligarchs have had some effect.
NATO is also doing its part. The organization has deployed forces to eastern states flanking Ukraine. And in the event of a more substantive attack in the form of chemical weapons for instance, NATO has vowed to react accordingly. Though, what action might be taken exactly remains to be seen.
Help Comes Pouring In
People watching this war on their televisions and devices feel helpless. We’ve not only seen the devastation wrought by Putin’s army, the innocent lives lost, the death toll mounting, but thanks to social media and various news outlets, we’ve also seen and heard the direct pleas from Ukrainian citizens who have no idea where to turn and are completely in the dark about what might happen to them and to their country next.
They are not just bruised and war-weary, these people are losing hope. Each day that this war goes on, the hope that life will ever again be what it once was diminishes just a little more. This is a country that prided itself on its art, its universities, its literature, its music, its culture. And now…Almost all of it is buried in the rubble. The country of Ukraine and its once robust and dynamic cities are barely even recognizable.
Putin has taken to the airwaves a few times throughout this crisis, denouncing the efforts of Ukrainians, trying to make the Russian people frightened about the “dangers” Ukrainians pose. His rhetoric is beyond believable echoing that of other infamous dictators in history, Hitler and Stalin. In a recent meeting of European leaders, as they struggled to figure out what to do to somehow stop Putin’s senseless war, US President Biden denounced Putin as a war criminal and asserted that this is someone who “cannot remain in power.”
Similar denunciations have been made by leaders from around the world—but denunciations alone do not seem to be stopping the viciousness of Putin’s attack, nor are they really helping the Ukrainian people. Everyday people, the average citizen is helping. Because it is difficult to get aid and supplies into a battle zone, people around the globe have been finding creative ways to help during this tremendously difficult time.
There are charities popping up daily addressing the crisis and the different groups in Ukraine that might be in need. From children-specific groups to organizations that help get doctors into the region to the efforts of celebrities to raise money and awareness, people are trying all sort of ways to genuinely help Ukraine.
One thing is certain, most of the world stands with Ukraine. And most people in the world want the bloodshed to stop, they want an end to the unspeakable atrocity, they want order and peace restored to the once beautiful country of Ukraine. The Russian invasion had no grounds, no rationale; it was all just based upon the insensible lust for power and the arrogant will of a much larger country intent on bullying a smaller one.
Why We Do What We Do
During this crisis, one thing that keeps getting mentioned on news reports and on social media clips is that there is a scarcity of medical equipment and supplies in the country. Think about it…think about how much the average person, not even someone who might be in need of hospitalization, but someone who requires medications and equipment to sustain a normal quality of life, is suffering right now.
Those afflicted with diabetes are without glucose monitors, insulin and other necessary items to sustain them. Many of them are fleeing their beloved country; those who are not, have little to no access to healthcare supplies. They sit there in fear of what this war will do to their country and what the lack of medical items will mean for their lives.
Many sectors of the Ukrainian population are being affected in this way. The Russians are bombing hospitals. Think about that for a moment—hospitals. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that a country, that anyone would be capable of such evil as to attack the weak and those who cannot defend themselves in any way, shape or form. Hospitalized children and infants. What of those babies in neonatal units? What becomes of infants who desperately need medical equipment to survive even one more day?
People ask us why we started this grassroots endeavor. The children, the helpless patients, those suffering from conditions that require medical care, that is why we are doing what we are doing. And that is why we will not stop until we know we’ve helped as many Ukrainians in need as we possibly can.
Now it is your turn, your chance to make a difference. You don’t have to sit helplessly by and wonder what you can do to contribute; you can make an actual difference in this war. Wars are about people when it comes right down to it. And this one especially is about ensuring that the Ukrainian people get a lifeline so that they can once again, someday, live a normal, healthy life. Contribute today—it will mean something! Imagine what all of us can do together when we show our support and stand with Ukraine.