Russia Invades Ukraine, Raising Questions about the Future

By Michael Cleverly 

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine from multiple directions, with the goal of taking Kyiv, the capital city, and toppling the Ukranian government. As the war unfolds, questions arise of whether this brutal conflict could’ve been prevented and what it means for the future of the world.

For months, Russian troops gathered on the border and various news companies and world leaders warned of an impending invasion. The Ukrainian and French presidents both claimed that the threat of invasion was being blown out of proportion.

Multiple leaders held talks with Putin to deescalate the situation, all of which failed. The U.S. held talks with Putin and other Russian diplomats but, due to the declining relationship between Russia and the U.S., proved unsuccessful. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, visited Putin to talk with him, which proved more fruitful than the U.S. talks but ultimately failed to reach a resolution.

The U.S. and many EU countries threatened Putin with sanctions if he invaded. Post-invasion, these countries have been implementing those sanctions. Some sanctions, like the proposed exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT global banking system, require a consensus among involved countries, which might take time.

Seven Russian banks have been excluded from SWIFT as part of sanctions. Banks were chosen based on their connection to the Russian government. This is only a partial removal and among the banks not excluded are those that handle transactions related to energy companies. These weren’t blocked because some European countries have purchased oil from Russia because they lack the amount they need.

“Sanctions by the U.S. alone are not going to be effective,” said Dr. Christine Kim, assistant professor of International Studies at Cedarville University. “Other countries also have stakes in their relationship with Russia, so it’s very hard to have a consensus among all these American allies.”

Threats of sanctions have failed to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, and they might not be as effective at hurting Russia as hoped. Russia has built up an economic cushion that will reduce the impact of sanctions, and much of its stockpile comes from the energy sector.

“I think we in the United States made a major error in terms of our energy policy,” said Dr. Glen Duerr, associate professor of International Studies. “When Biden shut off access to oil and liquefied natural gas through fracking, it empowered the Russian energy companies and gave them a lot more money. I get what President Biden was trying to do. It came from a good heart of trying to improve the climate, but it was a major strategic error.”

But even with the economic cushion, the Russian economy took a significant hit from sanctions causing the ruble’s value to drop below one cent. The Moscow Stock Exchange has been closed since the day after the invasion began. Russian company stocks have also stopped trading in the U.S. This economic damage is substantial, but it might not be enough to get Putin to end the war.

With most of the world hostile toward Russia, it’s not likely Putin will end the war until he gets something from it. If some of the sanctions had been implemented before the invasion, the effects would’ve given Putin something to consider. Since Russia has already invaded, the only effect they can have is to shorten the war through economic damage.

The conclusion of this war remains to be seen, but it’s guaranteed to be a bloody one. Although Russia has better military technology and more manpower, the Ukrainians are determined to fight. Millions of people have been fleeing Ukraine, but there are many people who have decided to stay and fight for their country. The Ukrainian government announced that anyone who wanted to get a weapon to fight for Ukraine could get one. In the months before the war began the Ukrainian military trained civilians how to fight.

We’ve seen heavy resistance to Russian forces at Kyiv and various other locations. Surprisingly, some resistance has even occurred in ethnically Russian parts of Ukraine. Morale on both sides will be a large factor in the war. Russia has a history of its people’s morale dropping low when wars drag on longer than expected in previous wars, and this war seems to be going in a similar direction.

The Russians have attacked cities in Ukraine but have been repelled multiple times. Russian paratroopers took an airfield near Kyiv at the beginning of the war and then the Ukrainians took it back. So, Russia may be able to take cities, but they don’t seem able to hold onto them.

“Russia has a long history of taking but not holding all that well,” Duerr said.

Another surprising thing about this war is the approach Putin has taken. In the past, he’s focused on taking areas with Russian ethnic minorities where he might be able to argue his actions before the world. What we’re seeing now is that Putin is focusing on taking out Kyiv early on, which seems to suggest he’s either going for full annexation of Ukraine or creating a puppet state.

So far none of the countries supporting Ukraine are willing to get involved militarily. This raises questions about what the future will look like. If Ukraine is left on its own and Russia is allowed to take it over without any military reaction from the world, other countries may take it as an opportunity to act on their own ambitions for expansion.

“If Russia gets away with this, the whole order of world affairs since 1945 threatens to unravel a bit if it’s not met with something more than sanctions,” Duerr said. “It emboldens China, Iran, Turkey and Venezuela.”

China is the country that the world is most worried about acting next. However, Duerr pointed out that China has been patient with their ambitions of taking Taiwan, and there are other countries we should watch that might act sooner. He pointed out that Turkey has ambitions to reform the Ottoman Empire under president Erdoğan. They’ve already taken parts of northern Syria and had influence in the Libyan Civil War from 2014 to 2020.

But North Korea and other countries working on building up nuclear arsenals learn a different lesson. Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994, in which it gave up Russian Soviet Union era nuclear missiles in exchange for recognition of the sovereignty of their borders. Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom all signed this document.

Now each of these nations is involved either directly or indirectly in the war, which undermines this agreement. Russia has discarded the agreement while the U.S. and UK are trying to find a way to back Ukraine while not entering the war.

The Budapest Memorandum doesn’t require the countries that signed it to come to Ukraine’s aid militarily, but Ukraine’s government does have reason to expect strong support from the U.S. and UK. Meanwhile, countries like North Korea watch Ukraine’s current plight and find yet another excuse to continue building up their nuclear arsenal instead of denuclearizing.

From their perspective, Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons, and now Russia is taking them over. They see that the U.S. isn’t getting involved militarily. To North Korea and similar countries, this is proof that if they denuclearize, any support or protection the U.S. might promise could prove to be worthless.

If the war ends soon with Russia failing to take over Ukraine, it will be considered a victory for democracy. If the war ends with Russia taking over Ukraine, it will change the world order we’ve known since 1945, with non-democratic countries being emboldened.

“If democracy is something that we value highly,” Kim said. “Then we should’ve done more to protect democracy.”

Michael Cleverley is a junior Journalism major with an Asian Studies minor and the Off-Campus Editor for Cedars. When not studying or doing work for Cedars he likes to write, knit and hang out with friends.

No Replies to "Russia Invades Ukraine, Raising Questions about the Future"

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published.