In February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine with a large military force. He hoped to decapitate the Ukrainian leadership and impose his rule on Kyiv.
The root causes of Russia’s invasion are complex and intertwined, but one of the most important factors was a successful democratic development in Ukraine that made it difficult for Putin to rule his country as an autocrat.
By the end of 2014, protests against Yanukovych swept across most of Ukraine, with some citizens targeting symbols of Russian domination, such as statues of Lenin and General Aleksandr Suvorov. These protests were fueled in part by the failure of Moscow to persuade Yanukovych to sign a new political deal with the European Union, a goal that was crucial for Ukraine’s future.
But the protests also accelerated the process of Ukraine’s decoupling from Moscow, which fed Putin’s concern that he might run out of time to restore his influence over his neighbor. And this worry fed a series of increasingly risky gambles to draw Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit.
Nevertheless, Russia appears incapable of taking Kyiv or occupying a major portion of Ukraine. But if the conflict is to be resolved, it will take more than the Russian military and more Western support to bring peace to Ukraine. That requires a concerted effort to get weapons and supplies to Ukrainian forces, an international coalition of nations working through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. The United States has played a key role in coordinating this effort, and it will be crucial to get critical equipment and training to Ukraine’s fighters.