Important events in the history of Ukraine as it relates to Russia
Kievan Rus' was a state in Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. The modern nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural ancestor. That forever connected those countries, sentimentally if not politically.
With the Pereyaslav Agreement of the 1654 the Ukranian Cossacks pledge loyalty to Russian Tsar Alexis.
The Crimean War was fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russia lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom and Piedmont-Sardinia. the Treaty of Paris, signed on 30 March 1856, ended the war. Adding to Russia's embarrassment, the treaty forbade Russia from basing warships in the Black Sea.
In 1922, Ukraine became one of the original constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Ukraine has been viewed by Russians including Stalin and Putin as Russian province, not an independent state. Ukraine has long been considered a breadbasket because of its important agricultural production. Its importance has been recognized by the tsars to Stalin to Putin.
The Holodomor, also known as the Great Famine, was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Some historians conclude that the famine was planned and exacerbated by Joseph Stalin in order to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement.
Putin's claim that Ukraine needs "denazification" and the anti-Semite Ukranian Nationalist Stepan Bandera.
That Ukraine is hotbed of Nazism seems ridiculous considering President Zelenskyy is Jewish. It's not so ridiculous to Russians. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stepan Bandera prepared the June 1941 Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood in Lviv, pledging to work with Germany. Nazis had promised Ukranians an independent Ukraine, a promise they promptly broke and placed Bandera under house arrest. The KGB killed Bandera in 1959. Bandera remains a highly controversial figure in Ukraine, with many Ukrainians hailing him as a role model hero, martyred liberation fighter, while other Ukrainians, particularly in the south and east, condemn him as a fascist.
Putin's worst fears
In 2019, Ukraine even enshrined its will to join the West in its constitution. “Ukraine will join the E.U., Ukraine will join NATO!” declared a jubilant Andriy Parubiy, Ukraine’s speaker of the house, after the measure passed. That has always been Putin's worst fear.
COVID makes the invasion "necessary"
COVID interrupted supply chains including food supplies. The pandemic-caused increased food demands made Ukrainian food production more important. Ukraine at the outbreak of COVID was the world's top exporter of sunflower oil exporter and the fourth largest shipper of corn. Ukraine's increased and urgent strategic importance was not lost on Putin.
Russian paranoia and pride, and Putin's place in history
For those strategic reasons and for sentimental reasons, Putin has long lamented the loss of Ukraine and other republics when the Soviet Union broke apart. Putin has described the Soviet disintegration as one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century that robbed Russia of its rightful place among the world’s great powers.
Donald Trump and Putin shared a disdain for NATO and EU. Trump had threated to pull the US out of NATO. That would have suited Putin just fine. Trump claimed that the European Union was "formed in order to take advantage of the United States". Music to Putin's ears. Putin undoubtedly would have preferred the like-minded Trump to be re-elected. It would have made the invasion of Ukraine much easier.
Besides Putin's NATO and EU fears and resentments, Putin at age 70 is aware that next month is the centennial of the USSR. He wants his legacy to be among other Russian leaders who increased the Russian empire.
Russia Lays Out Demands for a Sweeping New Security Deal With NATO
The proposal, coming as Moscow masses troops on the border with Ukraine, would establish a Cold War-like security arrangement in Eastern Europe that NATO officials immediately rejected.
In early December, President Biden made clear that his administration was not considering sending troops to fight for Ukraine since, among other reasons, Ukraine is not a member of the NATO alliance and does not come under its commitment to collective defense.
Mr. Biden, vowing to turn Mr. Putin into a “pariah,” has announced tough sanctions aimed at cutting off Russia’s largest banks and some oligarchs, from much of the global financial system and preventing the country from importing American technology critical to its defense, aerospace and maritime industries. Mr. Biden has also prohibited energy imports from Russia to the United States and issued sanctions against the company behind an energy pipeline connecting Russia to Germany.