The Russian invasion of Ukraine that took place just a few days ago should have every American worried. If, however, anyone isn’t sure where exactly Ukraine is in the world a quick check of a world Atlas will show that it is in Eastern Europe and is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. The country is made up of at least seven ethnic groups – none of whom I am familiar with. So, it is, to say the least, a culturally diverse country.
Ukraine also includes the Crimean Peninsula, which extends into the Black Sea. Although this probably won’t help much, Ukraine borders the countries of Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Slovakia. Some of the better known cities in Ukraine include Kiev, Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta. Yalta was the location for the famous 1945 “Yalta Conference,” where Soviet leader Josef Stalin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to decide the fate of postwar Europe.
Some of the biggest battles of World War II were fought in Ukraine, the Battle of Kiev, for example, between the Nazis and the Soviets in 1941 in which some 660,000 Soviet troops were killed or captured. The Battle of Kharkov in 1942 killed approximately 300,000 soldiers on both sides. Later in 1942 the Battle of Kursk cost another 388,000 lives.
Ukraine has been fought over for centuries. The Crimean Peninsula is the center of the current crisis because it is a pro-Russian part of the Ukraine. It is separated from the rest of the country geographically, historically and politically. Crimea is also the primary port for the Russian Black Sea fleet, although the port is only “rented” to the Russia navy by Ukraine.
According to ABC news, “Putin rationalized the invasion by explaining to Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel that he needed to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea from ‘ultranationalistic forces’ in Ukraine. Crimea is made up of about 60 percent Russian people.”