Russia Invades Ukraine



Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Putin’s leadership of Russia for the past 20 years demonstrates a return to an authoritarianism that, for some, feels similar to the days of Soviet control and the Cold War. Join Active Minds as we go beyond the headlines to provide the context to understand the story of Russia under the influence of Vladimir Putin and how it has led to the warfare currently playing out in the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

Key Lecture Points

  • After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, set Russia on a course toward democratization and free market capitalism.  However, the corruption and graft of his tenure led some to label Russia a “kleptocracy,” dominated by “oligarchs,” meaning a few politically connected people who became immensely wealthy and powerful from the assets of the former Soviet Union.
  • In 1999 Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin Prime Minister. Yeltsin resigned the next year appointing Putin his successor as President. Putin’s first goal was to create order and stability after the chaos of the Yeltsin era and to regain Russia’s place on the world stage, as well as consolidate his own power over the state.
  • Under Putin, Russia saw an era of prosperity fuelled largely by its oil and gas reserves. However, domestic opposition movements to Putin’s grip on the Russian government have flared up occasionally.
  • Internationally, Putin also began a push back against what he saw as the ‘overreach” of NATO in to the former Russian sphere of influence.  In 2008, Russia invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, after it began a process of seeking NATO membership. And in 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian enclave of Crimea, and sent forces into the Eastern Donbas region in support of Russian separatists in Ukraine.
  • In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with 200,000 troops supported by Russian airstrikes invading sovereign Ukraine from north, south and east. Hesitant to undertake a direct confrontation of Russia in Ukraine, the US has not deployed troops to Ukraine, but has opposed Russia but providing arms to Ukraine, imposing stricter sanctions on Russia and bolstering its troop presence in NATO countries bordering Ukraine.

Exploration Questions

  • Describe three themes from Czarist and Soviet history that continue under Putin?
  • Russia’s tendency towards central authority seems to continue despite the end of Communist rule. What kind of explanation might we give for this phenomenon?
  • What effect is Putin's dramatic reassertion of Russian power likely to have on world order?

Reflective Questions

  • Young adults who were born in 1990 when the Soviet Union had just ended and older adults who were born in 1918 just at the end of WWI and just after the Russian Revolution have different perspectives on the Soviet Union and Russia. When were you born in relation to the Soviet Union? How do you think this affects your perceptions of the new Russia? Of Putin?
  • In your view, how has Putin contributed to making a new Russia? Positively? Negatively?
  • What do you think will be the long-term consequences of Russia's interference in other countries? Of its alliance with China, Iran, Turkey, and Syria?
  • Will Europe increase its efforts to convert to renewable energy or remain beholden to Russia for its energy supplied in the near future?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Gessen, Masha.  The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. Riverhead Books, 2018. 544 pages. Award-winning look by biographer of Vladimir Putin reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.
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  • Schoen, Douglas E., Evan Roth Smith (with). Putin’s Master Plan: How to Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.  Encounter Books, 2016. 200 pages.  The author provides an analysis of Putin’s strategy and vision to create a new empire in Europe and challenge the US.
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  • Garrels, Anne.  Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia. Picador, USA, 2017. 240 pages.  This NPR correspondent describes how life for average Russians has evolved in Chelyabinsk, a thousand miles east of Moscow and home of the Soviet nuclear program, from Soviet days to the present.  She provides an intimate portrayal of “Middle Russia” and why it remains loyal to Putin.
    Click here to order
  • Hill, Fiona.  Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.  Brookings Institution Press, 2015.  543 pages.  From the KGB to the Kremlin, Hill creates a multidimensional assessment of the man at war with the West.  As one review said, “this is not just another Putin biography. It is a psychological portrait."
    Click here to order