The Ukraine-Russia War Explained: History

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The Ukraine-Russia War Explained: History

Jonathan Rose puts the crisis in historical perspective

March 2022 – On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded neighboring Ukraine in an escalation widely condemned by governments around the world.

We asked experts from Drew University faculty to help us put the crisis into perspective.

Here we spoke with Jonathan Rose, William R. Kenan Professor of History and Head of the History and Culture Graduate Program at the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, who helped explain the historical implications of the war.

Can you relativize this situation from a historical point of view?

Vladimir Putin is truly a throwback to the Tsarist era, a Russian imperialist who aims to dominate the non-Russian nationalities of Eastern Europe. Recall that the old Russian Empire included the Baltic States, Finland and half of Poland as well as Ukraine.

Ukrainians, meanwhile, remember the man-made famine Stalin imposed on them in the 1930s, killing at least three million people – the Ukrainian Holocaust – which helps explain why they fought with so much tenacity.

Where are we now?

It’s hard to say whether Putin’s nuclear threats are serious or simply designed to intimidate Joe Biden, whom he perceives as a weakling. But terrible wars can break out as a result of miscalculations.

What does history tell us about where things might go from here?

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, he did not expect to fight British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had caved so many times before. Hitler was stunned when Britain declared war – it was not the war he wanted. So we have to be careful not to fall into another war that no one wants.

While the Russians will likely achieve a military victory on the ground, I predict this war will quickly become a cyber war. Hackers inside and outside Ukraine will relentlessly bomb Russian military and financial websites until they collapse, and what can Putin do about it? How to drop a nuke on a hacker?

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