PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, historians reflect on what has transpired between the two countries in the past that has brought them to this point.
Much of what is happening now started with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After the Soviet Union fell, it broke into separate states, two of which were Ukraine and Russia.
Historians said that Russia wants to keep political control over former Soviet states. Russia has said that it is obligated to protect citizens in these states that agree with Russia politically.
Many territories wanted independence from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ukraine was one of them.
“In 1991, when the Soviet Union broke apart into its constituent republic, Ukraine declared its independence,” Dr. Jaclyn Stanke, Campbell University history professor said.
Historians said that over 92% of voters in Ukraine approved its declaration of independence.
Furthermore, many former Soviet states wanted to adopt a different government system.
“States made a transition from a socialist system to a democratic pluralism and a market-based economy,” Stanke said, before adding, “It went better in some places than others.”
Russia doesn’t want Ukraine and other former Soviet states to form governments like western countries or to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“Russia is feeling surrounded, they have NATO at their doorsteps, which is a situation they didn’t anticipate and didn’t want,” Armin Krishnan, East Carolina University security studies professor said.
NATO was founded during the beginning of the Cold War to try and contain the Soviet Union.
“For Russia, NATO is the number one national security threat. They’re not considering NATO to be a peaceful alliance,” Krishnan said.
In 2014, Ukraine was going to sign an agreement to strengthen ties with NATO and the European Union, but it fell through.
“The president at the time rejected it at the last minute under pressure from Russia and Vladimir Putin,” Stanke said.
Ukraine is once again trying to distance itself from Russia, but Putin will not allow it.
“This is the greatest challenge to the post-World War II order that we’ve seen in Europe,” Stanke said.
This invasion of Ukraine will bring conflict in Europe that hasn’t been seen since the World Wars.
President Biden has stated that the U.S. will not step foot in Ukraine, but Stanke said she is worried about the spillover of Ukrainian refugees into other European countries.
Additionally, this isn’t the first time Russia has had a conflict with a former Soviet state with ties to NATO and the EU.
In 2008, the country of Georgia went to war with Russia.
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