An invisible war is about to become very visible to the whole world. 17 min readReading Time: 10 minutes
- We’re taking a deep dive into the issues plaguing Europe’s second-largest nation, Ukraine.
- Ukraine is sandwiched between the East and West of Europe. The nations on either side of Ukraine don’t quite agree with each other.
- 200 years ago, both Russia and Ukraine belonged to the Russian Empire.
- About 100 years ago, after the two big World Wars, Russia, Ukraine, and thirteen other countries joined hands to form the world’s most powerful nation, the USSR.
- The west of Europe had its own Union to prevent war among nations and create friendly trade relations. This Union of 27 countries is known as the European Union.
- Communism and Capitalism are two opposing political systems. These different systems kept the United States of America and her friends at constant loggerheads with the USSR.
- Russia, the country that was once the centre and the biggest chunk of the USSR, is no longer communist but an authoritarian nation under President Vladimir Putin.
- An authoritarian nation is one where the leader of the nation or a group of powerful politicians have complete control over the country. Anyone who opposes this control faces severe and often violent consequences.
The Soviet Union crumbles.
As the Soviet Union grew more powerful, so did the extent of its silent battle with the USA. We’re talking spies (Vladimir Putin was one of them), a fight to get to space first, threats of war and competition around almost everything. The USSR was engaged in threats and hidden battles with the USA and Europe until 1991 when the Soviet Union was dismantled and broke up.
Now, this is where Ukraine and Russia begin to have problems. When Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union (which was until the Soviet Union stopped existing), the country suffered greatly. One particular Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, created disastrous policies in agriculture that deeply hurt the Ukrainian people. Ukraine suffered from a devastating man-made famine.
To understand how bad that is, you should know that today, Ukraine is one of the world’s largest supplier of food grains in the world!!!
If all this isn’t enough, Joseph Stalin also tore apart communities by sending away locals to other nations and replacing them with Russians. So, if you were a Ukrainian that lived in the Soviet Union, the chances were that you weren’t too excited about it.
The Post Soviet Era- Empty Promises and Ukraine makes a new friend (or so it thinks)
As you’d imagine, in 1991, when the Soviet Union crumbled, the Ukrainians said ciao to Russia. And this led to problems. First off, Russians still saw Ukraine as a part of themselves. Families were are divided across the two nations, and their cultures and languages are almost the same! In fact, the eastern part of Ukraine still speaks Russian.
Nonetheless, the two nations kept peace by signing a deal in which Ukraine gave Russia its Nuclear weapons back(they were kept in Ukraine when the Soviet Union as still together) in exchange for a promise that Russia wouldn’t invade or take away their land. (Russian isn’t great at sticking to their word, you’ll see).
After the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine held a vote, and a whopping 92% of the Ukrainians decided they did not want to be clubbed with Russia. They would rather have their own independent nation.
The Post Soviet Era- A revolution, protests, and Russia’s first invasion
At first, Russia and Ukraine had good relations. But as you’d imagine, that didn’t last very long. By the year 2000, the Ukrainians were getting tired of Russia dictating how their country should function. After a massive protest and revolution, the Ukrainian people overthrew their president, Viktor Yanukovych. The protestors felt that Yanukovych was being too pro-Russia(or basically Putin’s puppet). This set of protests came to be known as the Orange Revolution.
Finally, once the protestors got their way, the new government that took control was far more interested in joining the EU and, more importantly, NATO.
Now, what on Earth is NATO? If the EU or the European Union is a group of countries bound by shared interests in trade, NATO is a defensive alliance. That’s right! They come together to protect each other from wars and attacks(and even threaten a nation that threatens to attack them?) So, yeah, you guessed it, Putin, Russia’s President who has been running the country for about 20 years now (*cough* he poisons or imprisons [or does both] to anyone who dares to contest his power*cough*), does not want his immediate neighbour and a country that he considers his own mingling with NATO.
So, what happened when Ukraine expressed this interest?
Putin didn’t like it. First, he went for the gas again. Yup, Russia cut off Ukraine’s gas supplies in 2006 and caused a disaster in the very cold country that relies on Russian gas for warmth.
Seriously it’s cold
And the new government wasn’t that great anyway. Even before Putin took away their gas, rumour has it that they were stealing the gas that passed through Ukraine to get to Europe using breakaway pipes. So, thanks to all of that corruption, in the next election, the guy who was kicked out in the orange revolution, Viktor Yanukovych, wiggled his way back into the picture. Yup, this man won fair and square.
That was until…
The 2014 Revolution
In 2014, Yanukovych(the guy who was kicked out in 2004, and made his way back in 2010) decided to ditch the EU and make a trade and economic deal with Russia. People were angry again. Protesters flooded Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and dawned in orange hats, kicked Viktor Yanukovych yet another time. This time around, Yanukovych fled the country and left for good.
But, in 2014, Russia didn’t take this revolution sitting down. Putin was worried. He feared a revolution in his own country. He also feared that NATO would bring its warships to Russia’s border in Ukraine and decided that it was time to act.
If Putin’s blog posts are to be believed, this saddened Putin too. (yup, this tough guy blogs about his feelings as well). He always believed that Russia and Ukraine were one united group that had been separated by the Evil west. (Could have also been caused by a man-made famine, millions of deaths, the removal of people from their homes… but who are we to say anything👽)
The theft of Crimea
And so, Putin felt that it was his own time to steal.
When Ukraine was all wrapped up in its politics and changing governments, Russia used the chaos as an excuse to barge into Ukrainian land and increase the distance between himself and NATO. In fact, with Ukraine’s focus shifted towards its own problems, Russia got in pretty easily.
Also, remember Joseph Stalin. Yup, that guy. And his decision to fill up Ukraine with Russians. Well, those Russians now wanted freedom from the rest of Ukraine, and Russia was right there to support them in whatever way they wanted.
So, Russia invaded this little Ukrainian peninsula here, known as the Crimean Peninsula. But that was not all. Russia started poking its nose in the coal valley of Donbas, where Ukrainian fighters wanted separation and freedom from Ukraine. (Guess who decided to load these fighters up with weapons.)
An invisible war begins
And as the fighters got powerful with weapons and Russia’s guidance, Ukraine’s army came down to stop the violence. But they needed help too, and so, scared that Russia would come into Ukraine and start threatening NATO’s borders, NATO and the USA stepped in. They supported Ukraine’s army, while Russia supported the people from Donetsk and Luhansk who wanted their own country. And that’s how the invisible war began.
The fighting in this eastern corner of Ukraine has gone on since 2014. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives, and millions have been forced to run away from their homes. Even though the two sides have tried to make peace, violence keeps flaring up over the most insignificant incidents.
One time the fighting was flared by a simple misunderstanding over vegetables! Yup, it’s as petty as can be.
At this point, you’re probably scratching your head. The two sides were and are actually fighting, so why is this war invisible.
Well, yes. Russia has actually taken over Crimea and illegally controls it. And yes, the Donbas valley has been plagued by bloody and tragic fighting, but on the surface, this war seems like Ukraine’s problem.
It seems like there was an internal national issue where some people wanted freedom from the nation, but Ukraine didn’t want to split up its country or give power to violent and angry mobs. And so, Ukraine decided to fight these mobs that happened to have affection for Russia.
But the invisible war is something quite different. See, when Putin took over Crimea without really asking anyone, the world got worried. How many places and nations was he planning to simply conquer? Remember, you can’t just take over parts of other countries. This is a serious violation of International Law!!
NATO and the US knew that they had to do something. So, they blocked some trade relations, put economic blocks or sanctions in place and took measures that would impact the wealth of Russia’s wealthiest and most powerful. But these steps made no real difference to Putin. He grew increasingly popular in Russia and had the support of a lot of the Crimeans (after Stalin’s big old reshuffling, Crimea, which is bang on Russia’s border, is full of Russians anyway).
So, as Russia decided to keep Crimea and support the separatists(people who wanted independence from Ukraine) in Luhansk and Donetsk, Ukraine needed help to protect her borders. Seeing this, Ukraine naturally asked NATO for help to defend itself. (NATO is, after all, a defensive alliance).
Ukraine is a small country with a small army, and without external help, the country is no match for Russia’s gigantic armed forces. Sources say that it would the Russian army just one hour to invade and take over Ukraine.
So, that’s how Russia and NATO began their battle behind the cover of the Ukrainian battle. Can you now puzzle out what this invisible battle we’ve been on about really is?
The invisible war takes centre stage
So, they’ve been fighting since 2014, what’s changed? Well, Mr Putin seems to have had enough of the constant fighting and build-up of enemy missiles and weaponry in his neighbouring country. And that’s why he’s sent in hundreds of thousands of soldiers with heavy war weaponry to surround Ukraine wherever he can. (In Russia, and all the countries he still controls).
When NATO asked him: what’s up? Putin asked NATO to go back. And when NATO said no, that won’t be possible. The two huge armies started positioning themselves to prepare for an incoming attack.
But war is horrible for everyone, particularly the people of Ukraine: Many of whom are very closely connected to Russia. So, the two sides are busy trying to talk their way out of this crisis and win a twisted game of chess.
So far, the talks have amounted to nothing. NATO and the US are unwilling to accept Putin’s demands, and Russia is not moving its army back and reducing international tensions. Both sides are accusing each other of trying to start a war while desperately trying to avoid one. Yup, it’s messed up.
Read this document for more details on Vladimir Putin’s dangerous game of chess.
Disclaimer: Since the creation of this document, a war has broken out in Ukraine. On the 24th of February, Vladimir Putin sent his army into the country and began an attack.