Today’s Issues in History

Clare Fusco, Writer

We see now more than ever the effects of global history on the world today. The historical implications of the Cold War and the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the U.S.S.R., are seen in the Ukraine and Russia conflict occurring now. In 2014, Russia began its conquest of Ukrainian land with its annexation of Crimea. Crimea is south of Ukraine along the northern coast of the Black Sea. Its population of about 2.4 million is mostly made up of Russians, a minority being Ukrainians. Crimea was originally annexed by Russia in 1783 and its history is tumultuous. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was established as an independent state and Crimea was deemed the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” Both Russia and Ukraine were able to maintain military bases there, Russia having their Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine having their naval forces there. This dueling claim to the region resulted in another conflict in 2014. In 2014, Russian-backed separatists seized a south eastern part of Ukraine and Russian troops occupied government buildings. The Republic of Crimea declared its independence and Russia then formally annexed Crimea. Despite great disputes and many country’s recognition of Crimea as remaining part of Ukraine, the region is subject to Russian power.

Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that Ukraine persecutes Russians and questions its independence. Further, he claims that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is threatening Russia by expanding east and demanded that Ukraine be prohibited from joining NATO ever. In February of this year, Putin announced Russia’s plans to enter Ukraine through a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” Ukraine. This conflict has turned into the largest European military conflict since World War II, as well as the largest refugee crisis since, as over 2.7 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of the conflict.

The United States has responded to this eastern European conflict in ways with many similarities and differences that can be seen in the Cold War. During the Cold War, in an effort to offset Communist threat, the United States developed the foreign policy of containment in which the United States would provide forms of foreign aid such as food or money to weak countries resisting Soviet advances. This is similar to the strategies of America and other countries today as heavy sanctions have been placed on Russia. It is similar to containment in that it resists Russian advances, but instead of helping other nations, it stops Russia. The sanctions lead to devastating economic scenarios including inflation, decrease of the value of the ruble, and decreased imports and exports. 


During the Cold War, America responded with military force. President Eisenhower addressed Congress regarding communist advances, asking to be granted the military and financial resources to aid eastern European powers attempting to fend off communism, advocating a high level of American involvement which would become known as the Eisenhower Doctrine. Congress agreed and this doctrine was applied to many other nations and was used for a long period of time. This differs from today’s American response to Russian advancement west. America has not responded with any military assistance as that would be considered an act of war and America, as well as other nations, would be brought into a global war, a devastating conflict. Similarly, because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the United States has said that no military aid will be provided unless Russia attacks a country that is a member of NATO. As a result of this lack of involvement, America remains separate from the conflict, despite its verbal support for Ukraine.

The treaties and alliances created during the Cold War Era exist today. Today, NATO forms the alliance that ensures member countries will be provided with support from other members during an attack. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was an alliance of twelve original members that promised support of other members if an attack was launched and attempted to counter Soviet power. NATO policy requires that applicants demonstrate a commitment to democracy and human rights, a free-market economy, and democratic control of the military. The countries that make up NATO are essential to the protection and relationships of each other. These countries are Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. When Ukraine expressed wanting to join the alliance, Russia felt threatened and demanded that Ukraine be banned from joining. Russia was alarmed at Ukraine’s request to join NATO, as it would threaten their border and security. However, when the proposal for the country’s membership was made, many member countries of the alliance did not support this addition, as it would provoke Russia. The organization never stated that Ukraine would be able to join and it was generally accepted that the nation would not join NATO in order to keep Russia at bay. The multinational alliance that was originally created for an “in case of emergency” situation, became a threat to Russia, despite its inaction. Russia is using the possibility of Ukraine’s membership as a “justification” of the invasion.


Ultimately, the long and complex history of eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia has in part led to the invasion of Ukraine. The existence of the U.S.S.R. as well as the Cold War Era has resulted in some of the hostile relationships between Russia and other nations, including the United States, have given reason to the responses of western nations including the economic and diplomatic responses. Today, we see how the history of the world affects all those today who aim to change today’s society. Much of the world’s history gives reason to the world state today.