So far this week alone: Kyiv recalled its ambassador to Russia and considered breaking all diplomatic ties with Moscow; Russia said it would evacuate personnel from its embassy in Ukraine; dozens of nations further squeezed Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets; Germany halted a lucrative pipeline deal; the U.S. repositioned additional troops to NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia; and the top U.S. diplomat canceled a meeting with his Russian counterpart.
There’s a lot going on and the situation is changing rapidly, so we’ve asked experts your most common questions:
Could this lead to a nuclear worldwise war?
“Both countries, the United States and Russia, with the most nuclear weapons are pretty adamant about not using them. They haven’t threatened them against each other. What is more likely is what I mentioned earlier, is that this conflict would spiral out of control because another country might decide to invade another country due to the precedent that Russia is setting.
“Also the major food shortages that can happen from both Ukraine and Russia. Both are major supply countries of grain throughout the world. If something were to happen with that, you know, I can’t imagine what would happen especially to countries around the equator, which don’t have that natural grain-making capacity for themselves. That leads to riots that lead to governments destabilizing. That’s what starts World War III. It’s not, you know, don’t focus on the big weapons, focus on governments destabilizing.” — Director of Communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Andrij Dobriansky said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”
Will the U.S. send troops into Ukraine since they’re not part of NATO?
“That seems like a very far-fetched scenario. The president, on down to every member of the administration, secretary of defense, secretary of state, it’s just unrealistic to think that the United States is going to send in troops into Ukraine to fight Russian forces. There have been small American units, the Florida National Guard most recently, on training missions that rotate in and out of Ukraine. They have since been taken out. The idea of what President Biden himself has called World War III, pitting American troops against Russian military in a head-to-head fight over Ukraine seems like it’s very, very improbable at this moment.” — NewsNation’s DC Bureau Chief Mike Viqueira says.
What is the history in the regions where Russia has moved troops? What do the people in those regions want?
“Ukraine was a province, a republic more specifically, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, which obviously folded in 1991,” Viqueira said. “That’s when Ukraine gained its independence.”
As of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, it has evolved in the more than 20 years since Ukraine has become its own nation, things have changed. More than 40% of all trade is with the European Union compared to just 8% with Russia.
It’s even starker when you look at the opinions of those born before or after independence in 1991. Eighty-seven percent of those born after 1991 identify as Ukrainian while 21 percent of those born before 1991 call themselves “Soviet people.”
But this does vary by region – 80% of Western Ukrainians want to be economically tied to the E.U. versus just 26% in eastern Ukraine. Two eastern Ukrainian regions — Donetsk and Luhansk — have become a flashpoint in escalating tensions with Russia. Putin recognized the independence of the two separatist regions in a provocative move that the U.S. and its allies saw as a sign of an imminent invasion.
“If you listen to Vladimir Putin, he says that all of Ukraine has been part of motherland Russia, since back during the Tsar time. The grievances that Vladimir Putin has goes back hundreds of years. Now, just because Vladimir Putin says it doesn’t make it true,” NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said on “Morning in America.” “Ukraine is an independent country, the Soviet Union, when it dissolved, now Russia and the United States both recognized the territory that we see now commonly referred to as Ukraine, as Ukraine with Kyiv as its capital. So this concept that Vladimir Putin puts out that, ‘Oh, this really was always part of Russia,’ is simply his talking points.”
Why does Putin want Ukraine?
Besides the history between the two countries, another reason the Kremlin wants Ukraine is because of the resources the country has, including mineral wealth and manufacturing brawn in the Donbas.
“He [Putin] wants Ukraine for a number of reasons. Number one, he wants their helium, it’s used in a lot of industrial uses, he wants some of their other minerals,” Vittert said. “He wants their uranium, something that’s used in nuclear weapons. So Ukraine is an extraordinarily valuable area, also very valuable for farming and for food. So it’s hard to sort of allow him to set the agenda and the talking points that somehow this is part of Russia, and he’s just taking back what is rightfully his. He’d like you to believe that but the facts don’t really support it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.