Russian invasion of Ukraine stokes fear and confusion

Russian invasion of Ukraine stokes fear and confusion

Gabe Guidarini, Staff Writer

In the depths of eastern Europe, one of the biggest military conflicts in the 21st Century has erupted between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, a former part of the Soviet Union gained independence in 1991.

“What’s so very important about this situation is that it’s a reminder and recognition that there are things that happen in the world today that we have to be prepared for,” social studies teacher Mr. Gregory Simmons said.

In October of 2021, Russia began moving troops and military equipment to the border with Ukraine, which appeared to indicate an eventual invasion of the country. Russia did not give an explanation for the move, but denied that they were planning an invasion of their neighbor.

By December, more than 100,000 Russian troops were stationed along the border with Ukraine.

In Mid-December, Russia issued a set of demands for the US and NATO (North American Treaty Organization), which included calls for a ban on a hypothetical Ukraine entrance into NATO and for reducing NATO military equipment in eastern Europe. These demands were subsequently rejected by NATO and the US.

Earlier in February, US President Biden ordered approximately 3,000 troops to the bordering NATO countries Poland and Romania, though the US government has expressed that troops will not enter Ukraine itself.

This is not the first time the world’s attention has turned to Ukraine. In 2014, after Crimeans voted in a referendum to become part of Russia, the Russian Federation formally annexed the peninsula, which was initially part of Ukraine. Later that year, ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine held referendums to secede from Ukraine. Since then, a Russian-backed armed uprising has been taking place in eastern Ukraine between the ethnic Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government.

That brings us to February of 2022. The buildup of tension, which had been going on for months between Russia and Ukraine came to a climax on the 21st when Russia officially recognized the sovereignty of the insurgent Russian breakaway states in Ukraine, and announced a “peacekeeping” operation in the region. Many interpreted this to be a declaration of war.

On the 24th of February, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia launched a multitude of airstrikes on targets in Ukraine, and Russian troops entered the country from the north, east, and from the south in Crimea. The Ukrainian president declared martial law and officially broke diplomatic ties with Russia.

The events can be so surprising, Mr. Simmons said, because many of us have fooled ourselves into thinking that invasions like this are a “thing of the past.”

“We like to think that’s a thing of the past, that we’ve moved beyond tha t… but that’s naive. (When) people deny human nature, we just leave ourselves in a position where we’re not prepared to deal with reality,” he said.

The invasion was initially fast paced, with Russia gaining a large amount of territory in the first week, but the pace of the invasion has since slowed, with Russian troop advancement being slowed and Ukrainian troops giving a decent fight. As a result, Russian tactics have changed and shifted, with the bombing of civilian targets becoming more common.

The reaction from the international community has been overwhelming. The US, EU, and NATO alliance have sided firmly with Ukraine, taking actions such as sending arms, equipment, and financial resources to aid Ukraine’s war effort. These pro-Ukraine measures have stopped short of offering direct military assistance, which poses a risk of a head on head conflict between NATO and Russia.

Western powers such as the US have also enacted harsh sanctions on Russia. Sanctions are intended to harm the target country’s economy, and that’s just what they have done, with the Russian economy going into shock and seeing severe economic damage.

The Russia-Ukraine war may impact Americans in ways not seen since Iraq in 2003, or earlier. Impacts have included the Dow Jones dropping 800 points, and US gas prices going up to a new high as a result of a recently enacted ban on Russian oil exports.

The economic effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict are already being felt in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. What happens next depends on the actions of both NATO and Russia, and to what lengths both are willing to go to see their preferred result take place.

Staff writer Bentley Frost contributed to this story.