The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is a violent geopolitical clash with deep historical roots and profound implications for international relations. While recent active conflict between Russia and Ukraine dates back to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has intensified over the years, leading to a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022.
This war—called by the New York Times “the most significant European war in almost 80 years”—serves as a stark reminder of the impact of geopolitical ambitions on global peace and stability. In this article, we’ll explain the geopolitical context of this war and how it has developed since Russia’s initial offensive in early 2022.
Origins and Development of the Conflict
2014 Escalation of Tension and Military Conflict: Modern military action between Russia and Ukraine can be traced back to 2014 when Ukraine’s political trajectory veered toward the West, away from the influence of Russia. The pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted during the Ukrainian revolution. In response to this potential loss of influence over Ukraine, Russia quickly invaded and illegally annexed Crimea, an aggressive move that garnered widespread condemnation from the international community.
Post-2014 Violence in Donetsk and Luhansk: These regions of Ukraine have been embroiled in a protracted separatist conflict. These territories, which have significant separatist support, self-proclaimed as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, have seen conflict stoked and supported by neighboring Russia. The Russian government has supplied arms and logistical support to separatists in the region, as well as political and propagandistic encouragement for separatism in order to destabilize the area and increase Russian control and influence.
Ukraine Considers NATO Membership: Ukraine has been in informal cooperation and discussion with NATO since 1991. However, in the wake of the illegal annexation of Crimea, Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO expanded, though they did not formally apply for membership and have not joined the organization. Even without Ukraine’s official membership, Russia has vehemently opposed any relationship between Ukraine and NATO. Viewing such as a direct threat to Russian dominance in the region, Putin’s opposition appears to be rooted in a desire to curb Western influence in the region while reinforcing Russia’s geopolitical control. Continued conversations between Ukraine and NATO fueled tension between Russia and Ukraine.
2022 Escalation and Developments: The crisis escalated in February 2022 when Russia, after amassing troops along the border, initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The assault targeted major cities and strategic infrastructure, deepening the humanitarian crisis in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered a variety of reasons to justify the war, but these justifications have been widely dismissed as a cover for desired territorial expansion and dominance in the region.
Russia’s actions have been globally condemned, leading to economic sanctions on Russia and material support for Ukraine. This includes embargoes on trade with Russia and the provision of military goods to Ukraine.
Global Reactions and Consequences: Due to the aggressive motives and actions taken by Russia, many countries have found ways to support Ukraine and act against Russia on a global scale. From reducing international trade with Russia to seizing and freezing Russian nationals’ property in foreign countries, many countries worldwide have sanctioned Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.
These countries include the US, Germany, the infamously neutral Switzerland, Poland, all G7 countries, and many more. Beyond sanctioning Russia, many of these countries have also offered support to Ukraine by sending military and humanitarian aid, including millions of dollars worth of planes, tanks, intelligence-gathering equipment, and more. However, due largely to Putin’s many, thinly-veiled nuclear threats these countries have not stepped into direct combat, which would have been required by treaty if Ukraine were a member of NATO.
Economic Impacts of the Russo-Ukraine War: Instability in Ukraine and Russia—in addition to divestments from Russia and support for Ukraine—have also had significant financial impacts on the global economy. Prior to the war, Ukraine, though a relatively small country, was among the top three grain exporters in the world—a natural resource that surely fueled Russia’s desire for control. Ukraine’s importance in agriculture has earned it the nickname, “The Breadbasket of Europe.” However, Ukraine’s ability to manufacture and export grain has been severely compromised by the war.
At the same time, before the current war, Russia supplied 45% of total gas imports in Europe and was the largest supplier of petroleum products. Due to active divestment from Russian exports, many countries have rightfully elected to find new sources for natural gas, oil, and petroleum products, which has driven prices upward.
The inaccessibility of Ukraine’s critical food products and the active rejection of Russia’s cheap gas has led to significantly increased prices worldwide for grain and gas, two essential components of the global economy. This has occurred at the same time as record inflation, and each has worsened the other. As such, the economic impacts of the war in Ukraine can be felt worldwide in the form of higher prices for food and energy and more complicated import/export logistics.
Current Humanitarian Crisis: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that the ongoing crisis has produced more than 8 million refugees from Ukraine, while many more continue to live in danger within the country. While there have been many global economic and political consequences to this conflict, the greatest consequences are those felt by the citizens on the ground facing the violence of war.
Critical infrastructure has been damaged and destroyed, limiting Ukrainian citizens’ access to transportation, healthcare, and other essential services. Nonprofits such as the Ukraine Assistance Organization are committed and fearless in delivering support to the most remote and isolated communities, but even greater support is needed.
What You Can Do
The war in Ukraine has left millions in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. From direct financial contributions to advocacy, there are several ways for individuals around the world to support Ukraine and its citizens during this crisis.
If you have the means to do so, donating to reputable humanitarian organizations in Ukraine is one of the most direct ways to help. These groups are providing emergency relief, including food, medical aid, shelter, and more. The Ukraine Assistance Organization is the only organization providing medical and holistic home health care (HHC) to the citizens of southern Ukraine, where violent conflict has been most consistent and damaging.
Ukraine Assistance Organization is a nonprofit organization working with World Health Organization (WHO), Human Aid Front, and other partners to deliver care to those most affected by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Partner with us today to offer support to those who need it, and create a more just, peaceful world.