“I Doubt Putin Will Formally Unite All of Ukraine with Russia”
On Feb. 24, 2022, the world was shocked when Russia suddenly and without provocation, decided to invade Ukraine.
The invasion has been met with controversy and worldwide condemnation, with some fearing the conflict could lead to World War III.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that he authorized the invasion because of Ukraine’s refusal to assimilate into Russia, as well as falsely stating that neo-Nazis in Ukraine were persecuting Russians.
Despite the seemingly unexpected invasion, Russia and Ukraine have had tensions that travel back to centuries before the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Prof. John Ehrhardt teaches World History at Oklahoma City Community College. He said that Russia and Ukraine have deep political ties that have existed for over a thousand years.
While Ukraine started out as a territory ruled by outsiders like the Mongols, Russians, Poles and Lithuanians.
They have tried since the 1800s to become their own nation, which led to Putin’s invasion of the country a month ago.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin rejects notions of Ukrainian distinctiveness and sovereignty. He claims they are figments of the Ukrainian imagination. He seeks, in essence, to turn back the clock by re-establishing Russian dominance over Ukraine. What Putin fails to acknowledge is that many, and maybe most, Ukrainians think they should be separate and independent, which is what really matters,” Ehrhardt said.
With that long history, there has also been years of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine’s attempts to become its own nation have yielded mixed results, such as their defeat by the Soviet Union in both the Russian Revolution and after World War II.
Ukraine finally became an independent nation in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Ehrhardt compared Putin to Donald Trump, as they both believe that their respective nations have become weaker, and with this invasion, Putin hopes to make Russia great again as Trump wanted to make America great again.
“I doubt Putin will formally unite all of Ukraine with Russia, though Russia may eventually take some eastern Ukrainian territory. What Putin really wants is to use this war to weaken Ukraine and force it into Russia’s orbit. If he succeeds, Putin will have improved Russia’s security on its southwestern border and shown the world that Russia is a great power that must be respected,” Ehrhardt said.
Ehrhardt noted he was impressed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his leadership throughout the invasion, as well as the ferocious fighting from Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
Ehrhardt also expressed some relief that Ukraine’s response has showcased that Russia isn’t quite as strong as Putin would like the rest of the world to believe.
He also noted how he thinks the US and other NATO nations have done a good job with their response. With Russia being a nuclear nation, the US and NATO have to tread lightly when defying Russia.
“Many people in the U.S. or France or Germany sympathize with Ukraine, but they don’t want their children incinerated by Russian missiles. Some are even reluctant to support the West’s economic sanctions against Russia because they have the potential to cause financial hardship in the West, as well as in Russia,” Ehrhardt said.
Despite criticism from Republicans, Ehrhardt thinks that President Biden has shown effective leadership in the face of this crisis, and has managed to convince the leaders to give Russia sanctions and offer limited military support to Ukraine.
While noting that making predictions is difficult, Ehrhardt thinks Russia has the resources to win, but the win might not be worth the cost.
He also thinks that China might end up translating this invasion as a cue to invade Taiwan, which would force America and NATO to get involved, but he doesn’t think it will lead to further conflict.
“I doubt this conflict will lead to “World War III.” The fact that Russia, the U.S., Britain, and France all have nuclear weapons makes it less likely that the war will escalate and broaden to include other countries. We can all feel bad for Ukraine, but few outside Ukraine are willing to die for it,” Ehrhardt said.