Vladimir Putin. President, or more accurately, dictator. He has continuously been president of Russia since 2012 and was the president before that from 2000 to 2008. He has silenced mass protests and political opponents alike, such as Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption lawyer who ran against Putin in Russia’s most recent election and is now in jail. Under Putin’s aggressive leadership, it has been impossible to ignore Russia’s rising influence in international affairs. Years after supporting a rebellion in Southeastern Ukraine, Putin is again attempting to flex Russia’s muscles through an invasion of Ukraine. In a move that is eerily familiar (Cold War anyone?) Putin believes that it is critical for Russia to increase its sphere of influence.
Conflict between Russia and Ukraine first began in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, they were supporting separatist forces in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in Southern Ukraine. The rebel forces have been fighting for almost eight years, and Moscow has officially recognized the two provinces as independent. Now, the tension between the two countries has escalated, and the war raging across Ukraine has now killed civilians, including children, and hospitals have been subject to attack just as often as military bases. The war threatens Ukraine’s sovereignty and the current international system. This war seems to be Putin’s way of standing up to NATO and by extension the United States. Putin is spreading a message to the world that Russia should be paid attention to. If Putin is not stood up to now by NATO and the United Nations, then he will see it as an excuse to participate in similar activity in the future. It is important to put a stop to this aggression now.
Sanctions will certainly affect Russia, but also have a negative effect here in the United States (as proven by the recent explosion in gas prices). In Russia, as sanctions become more severe, it is likely that the average Russian citizen will suffer more than the Russian political elite. While the sanctions have upped the pressure on Russia, it’s unclear if they are going to have any real effect. Putin may try to just ignore them as much as possible, and if China continues to trade with Russia then they will not be totally economically isolated. Putin seems set on ignoring the West and proving some perverse point. He has gone so far as to invalidate patents in Russia – he has declared that Russian businesses can steal patents from people in “unfriendly” countries. This could indicate a larger, more permanent separation from the West. The invalidation of patents is essentially exiling Western businesses from the country. The invalidation of patents combined with sanctions is going to force an economic schism that is unlikely to heal, in my opinion.
The violence in Ukraine seems unlikely to stop until resistance is totally crushed. It has already gone on longer than many people expected but at a terrible civilian cost. Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, but not everyone can escape the cities under siege. A humanitarian crisis is building, and it is imperative that Ukraine receives aid.
Featured Image Via Lynsey Addario, New York Times, 2022