CCU professor breaks down events leading to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 7:55 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Around the world, people woke up to the news that Russia had launched an invasion into Ukraine after months of increasing tensions in the region.

These attacks have left many shaken up, with some wondering what Russian President Vladimir Putin could be planning next.

Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis, a professor of Intelligence and Security Studies at Coastal Carolina University, said the events unfolding in Europe now are because Putin is trying to reclaim Ukraine, a country that’s been independent for three decades.


“What we have at the moment is Russia attempting to reconquer or reoccupy at least parts of Ukraine,” he said.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union resulted in Ukraine becoming an independent country in 1991. Fitsanakis said there have been tensions between Ukraine and Russia for some time, especially due to due to some parts of eastern Ukraine being more pro-Russian.

“There’s a division within the country that the Russians have manipulated and managed to exploit over the last 30 years and that is what led to the current situation,” he said.

Fitsanakis said he believes Russia’s strategy is also rooted in its opposition to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO, spearheaded by the United States and other western European allies, was formed during the Cold War to pose as a barrier to the Soviet Union.

Russia had expected NATO to disappear when the Cold War ended - but that didn’t happen.

“If anything, NATO added more countries into its ranks,” Fitsanakis said. “Countries that use to be under Soviet domination. The Russians have always said NATO is getting too close to their borders. I think what we’re seeing is they’re trying to create some sort of a buffer zone between them and NATO. We’ll see if it’s going to be successful but I think that’s at the heart of the Russian strategy in this war at the moment.”

While Ukraine is not a NATO member, talks had previously surfaced of the country joining the alliance.

“I think NATO would love to add Ukraine to its ranks,” Fitsanakis explained. " It’s a massive country, with a population of nearly 50 million people and it also borders Russia. However, Ukraine is not exactly unified, there are many people in the east side part of the country who feel ethnically Russian. So by adding Ukraine into NATO, one could argue it would be entering into the alliance populations that don’t necessarily feel they want to be a part of NATO.”

Fitsanakis added that partial Russian occupation in Ukraine would have made NATO membership even more complicated.

“Not only is Russia invading at the moment, it has in the past already invaded parts of Eastern Ukraine that have a large pro-Russian population,” he said. “So already Russia is occupying parts of Ukraine. So if you were to let Ukraine into NATO now, if one NATO member gets invaded, all countries that are members of NATO have to run to its rescue. That would mean Article 5, which is the article that stipulates that agreement, would automatically apply. Then you would have a World War involving every single NATO country versus Russia.”

Fitsanakis says although we don’t live in Europe, Russia invading Ukraine will impact Americans for many reasons - most importantly considering that Russia is one of the largest producers and exporters of energy. The invasion could cause gas prices to likely hit historic highs in the coming days.

However, Fitsanakis said one of his bigger concerns has to do with other countries that have similar aspirations to occupy and integrate other regions of the world that don’t belong to them.

“And they are all watching to see how the U.S. is going to respond to this current crisis. Is it going to respond militarily, diplomatically, economically, what exactly is it going to do,” he said.

But the question many of us are asking right now is what exactly is Russia planning next.

“Are they going to take over all of Ukraine or just focus on the regions of the country they think have more of a pro-Western culture and pro-Western population. Will they take the big cities like the capital or stop far on the eastern part of the country where they feel they are enjoying the support of the local population. I think the next week is going to be absolutely critical in determining what are Putin’s intentions in regards to this war,” Fitsanakis said.

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