Russia attacks Ukraine: the beginning of war in the 21st century
February 28, 2022

After weeks of threats, in the early hours of 24 February Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had just begun. Although we have to go back almost a decade to the origin of the conflict, it has escalated in 2022 to the point where we are living through a European war in the middle of the 21st century.

Why the attack? Three possible factors

The first encompasses the individual characteristics of the leaders: their personality, psychological traits, ideology or worldviews. The second type of factor refers to the internal characteristics of the country, such as its political regime.Finally, there are structural factors such as the transition from a unipolar international order (with the US as the hegemonic superpower after the end of the Cold War) to a multipolar one, where China, Russia and other countries are now able to adopt a more assertive or even aggressive position to demand respect for their interests.

This Russian offensive builds on an earlier military intervention, which has been going on since 2014, albeit on a smaller scale: the occupation of the Crimean peninsula (later annexed by Russia) and the war in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where Russia has encouraged and armed a separatist insurgency, which has been fighting the Ukrainian army ever since.

The origin of these interventions was the Euromaidan revolution, which ended with the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (more favourable to Moscow’s interests) and the coming to power of a government that aspired to join the EU and NATO, in order to distance itself definitively from Russian influence.

However, as we know from the US experience in Afghanistan or Iraq, Russia’s real problem (in the event of a full invasion of Ukraine) would be how to maintain long-term occupation of a territory where the population does not support them and which could create an armed insurgency to drive them out.