When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the former USSR was divided into a number of independent states, each with its own history, languages, religions, and culture. Among these was Ukraine, which had a distinct but shared literary and cultural heritage with Russia.
While a small minority of Ukrainians supported closer ties with Russia, most viewed the country as a national and independent entity that could join Western institutions such as the European Union (EU) and NATO. Kyiv struggled to balance its foreign relations and bridge deep internal divisions.
After the invasion, Kiev tried to marshal a steadfast resistance that helped stall the Russian advance. It was aided by a steady stream of air defense systems, artillery, and drones from the Nato members that signed on to the fight.
Despite these successes, the Ukrainian military remains challenged in the key areas of Donbas, and Putin watchers worry that Moscow might attempt to extend its control over those regions to key cities to the west, including Bakhmut on the road to Russia’s main grain export hub.
The ramifications of the war are immense. Its consequences for the Kremlin include a badly damaged military that may take years to recover, a weakened economic outlook, alarmed Europe, and an ever-growing political isolation.
It also puts Ukraine at the center of a broader war between Russia and NATO, with both sides potentially pursuing nuclear weapons as a way to deter each other. This has been a strategic blunder for Russia, and one that has made Putin’s rule in Moscow more fragile than it was before the war began.