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Why is Russia so interested in Ukraine?

Ukraine On the Front Lines
Posted at 1:26 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 16:43:56-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions remain high around the world as Russia continues to gather troops at its border with Ukraine.

The U.S. says there are now more than 100,00 Russian troops at the border.

But why is Russia so interested in Ukraine?

NEED FOR HISTORY

The eastern European country of Ukraine is home to 44 million people.

The capital of Ukraine and the capital of Russia are separated by about an 11-hour drive.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been high for years. Russia invaded the country in 2014.

“We are just seeing the Russians and Putin, in this case, try and restore Mother Russia,” said Jim Townsend, who is the United States' former deputy secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO.

During the Cold War, Russia was part of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union consisted of much of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine.

Townsend says its collapse in the 1990s has always upset Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin was a creature of the Cold War," Townsend said. "He laid this out in a speech this past summer, saying there isn’t really a country of Ukraine. Ukraine is Russia.”

Many Ukrainians, of course, disagree. That is why leaders there have increased their reliance on the West.

U.S. military equipment has been used in Ukraine for years.

The Florida National Guard is even training Ukrainian troops right now, which upsets Moscow.

“He doesn’t want to see those forces too close to him," Townsend says.

"He equates this to the Cuban missile crisis. 'How would you feel United States if we went back into Cuba,'” Townsend added

IMPACT ON YOU

A conflict, if it happens, could impact American life.

U.S. troops could deploy to the region and gas prices could go up since Russia produces so much of the world’s energy.

As for why now, Townsend says Russia may think conditions are right for them to get away with it.

Germany's longtime leader Angela Merkel just left office, Great Britain has left the EU and President Joe Biden is struggling to convince the world he can heal America's divisions. The messy withdrawal from Afghanistan also didn't help the situation.

“It’s a time when the West is in a bit of disarray," Townsend said.