The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the most important and thought-provoking episodes of the 21st century. In the midst of economic development, where countries like the US and China are avoiding war and focusing on their economies, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has emerged as shocking news. War does not come without cause. There must be some serious reasons for Russia to invade Ukraine. Some of the main causes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are given as follows:
Expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe:
The expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe is considered a bone of contention between Russia and the US and is often cited as the main cause of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia claims that the US assured in 1990, at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that NATO would not come closer to Eastern Europe (the former Soviet Union’s satellite states). However, the promise was broken in 1999 when the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined NATO in 1999, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia in 2004, and Albania in 2009. In a speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Vladimir Putin accused Western powers of violating a solemn pledge by considerably enlarging NATO. According to the US, no such assurance was given. Ukraine was a red line for Russia because of security concerns. All these eastern European countries, particularly Ukraine, act as buffer zones against potential Western aggression, and when it was thought that the next move of NATO would be Kiev, Moscow did not waste time and invaded Ukraine to protect its mainland from the wrath of the US.
To create a buffer zone against Western aggression:
It is little known that there exists a natural buffer zone in the form of the Carpathian Mountains that extends from the south of Poland to the Black Sea, leaving a small flat land called Moldova. Russia already controls part of Moldova, a region called Transnistria, to protect its land from mainland Europe and to influence the Moldovan government not to join the EU or NATO. Because of the Carpathian Mountains and their control over the Transnistria region, the only way for the West to invade the Russian mainland is through Poland. Russia invaded Kiev because a natural mountain range existed along the westward boundary of Ukraine. It is imperative for Russia to not let Kiev come under the influence of the US. Thus, by invading Ukraine, Russia has successfully created a buffer zone from the south of Poland to the Black Sea to prevent the aggression and influence of the West.
Proper control of only warm-water ports in Russia:
In 2014, when a pro-Western group formed the government in Ukraine, President Putin hurriedly annexed Crimea, which contains the port of Sevastopol, the only warm-water port in Russia. Until there was a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, Moscow had no problem in Crimea because there were 60 percent ethnic Russians in Crimea. However, after the change in government, Putin had no choice but to annex Crimea at any cost. Geographically, Crimea is closed to Ukraine. To prevent future problems from the side of Ukraine or the influence of the West in the port of Sevastopol, it was also considered important to invade Ukraine to restore proper control of Moscow over Kiev.
Ethnic and linguistic factors:
Ethnic and linguistic factors played a pivotal role in the Russian invasion of Kiev. Ukraine has a fairly large Russian-speaking population, particularly in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Unless there was a pro-Russian government in Kiev, Moscow had no issue. The problem started when clashes between ethnic Russian groups and pro-Western groups took place, which resulted in the formation of a pro-Western government in Ukraine. It was the reason that Russia justified its intervention by claiming to protect the rights of these Russian-speaking minorities, alleging that they faced discrimination after Ukraine’s pro-Western government came to power. Thus, ethnic and linguistic divisions can be considered contributing factors to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Historical context and personal characteristics of Putin:
Historically, Ukraine has been a part of Russia. It was separated in 1991 and declared independent after the fall of the Soviet Union. President Putin sees the dismemberment of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s as a “major geopolitical disaster of the century.” He does not like the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, for undermining Russian security by breaking up the Soviet Union and separating some strategically important states like Ukraine and Poland. Putin wants to revive the old Soviet Union by bringing the old states under his influence where possible. The invasion of Ukraine is also based on his personal ambition to correct past mistakes.
The economy also plays an important role in Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. It possesses fertile agricultural land. Besides, through its transit route, Russian natural gas is supplied to Europe via pipes. Control over Ukraine not only allows Russia to exert influence over these resources but also maintains its grip on the gas supply. Once the pro-Western government had established its strong grip over Ukraine, it would have affected the Russian economy by limiting its gas supply to Europe. Energy exports to European countries are one of Russia’s main sources of foreign exchange earnings.
Thus, the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe, the security strategy to create a buffer zone, control over warm-water ports, protecting the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, the plan of Putin to revive the old Russian empire, and the economic interest of Russia in Ukraine are the main causes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The world must be united to prevent the third world war that might take place owing to a misconception that may take place between the US and Russia.