Are We On The Road To War?


By Terry Canales, Staff Writer

 “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” 

 These are the words of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in a radio broadcast in October 1939, only a month after the outbreak of the Second World War, in which Germany had steamrolled through Western Poland and declared war on Britain and France. The Soviet Union, as part of a secret pact with the Germans, invaded as well – an action no one in Europe anticipated. This gave Russia a reputation for unpredictability; a reputation that rings true now, more than eighty years later. 

    We’ve been living in the longest period of global stability in human history, with the last major global conflict having ended over eighty years ago. There have been many smaller conflicts in that time period, but there has not been another conflict on the scale of the world wars since. The main reason for that is simply nukes. 

       For the first time in its existence, humanity harnessed the power to make itself extinct and kill most life on Earth – a weapon that would only be made more destructive as time progressed. Ironically, it was the knowledge that the end of humanity could happen with the push of a button that kept us from going to war. It forced world leaders to think and act rationally, as well as forcing them to expand their influence through more covert and less direct means, even if it didn’t work at times or was at more of a cost.  

    However, that period has come to an end, as old rivals have revitalized, and new ones have entered the fray, as well as weapons technology advanced to where the weapons can do a lot of damage without the world-ending nature of using nukes. Due to all this, tensions are at an all-time high between the world’s biggest powers in many places, such as China claiming the South China Sea and challenging American power in the Pacific, and North Korea testing nukes and proclaiming it will retake the South.  

   However, after months of preparation, Russian forces have invaded Ukraine. It seems that the tensions between Russia and the West are finally about to come to a head. But many are confused or unaware as to why Russia has done this, and the story to why goes back centuries and runs deep through Russian politics. 


Ukraine And What It Means  

   Currently, between 100,000 and 190,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine, with many more well on the way. Russian armor and convoys are a common sight in the East, pouring in on a constant basis from Russia proper, Crimea, and Belarus. This shocked the world. Yet many don’t understand why Russia has done this and why it wants Ukraine so much. To understand that one must look at Russian history itself.  

    First, Russia has a strong cultural connection with Ukraine, since Russia’s origin state, the Kievan Rus, was based in what is today Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, according to and to a very good video on the subject titled “The Origins of Russian Authoritarianism” by Kraut. Then, the Mongol Empire invaded and besieged Kiev in 1240, slaughtering all its population, and moving the center of Russian culture from Ukraine to near the Volga River.  

   Russia became a series of small princely states under Mongol rule for over a century. Russia as we know it today came out of one such state: the Duchy of Moscow, and it was the one who would eventually kick the Mongols out. Even since then, Russian leaders wished to conquer Ukraine to reconnect with that distant homeland, and so they did.  

    Russia through a massive expansion over the next five centuries, conquering not just Ukraine but most of Central Asia and later Eastern Europe. Russia has always been very aggressive about outsiders and must conquer land because the Russian heartland is geographically very vulnerable to invasion due to its mostly flat grassland terrain. 

     So, Russia has always needed to put as much land between itself and outsiders. That way, it could use its tried-and-tested tactic: retreat and scorch the land to overstretch the enemy’s supply lines, wait for the Russian winter to set in and freeze them to death, get them bogged down in muddy roads as the ice melts in spring, and finally harass them away with swift cavalry charges and overwhelming them with their vast manpower. 

     It’s the reason why they took control of so much of Eastern Europe after World War II: to serve as a buffer between them and the West. That was all until 1989, when the Warsaw Pact states collapsed and became democracies after more than a decade of economic stagnation and increasing demands for political freedom. Two years later, the Soviet Union itself collapsed, losing control over its Eastern Bloc and Central Asia. Russia itself would go into a downward spiral of gang violence, mass corruption, and an economic meltdown throughout the 1990s.  


 Our Present Situation 

   During that time, the new states that Russia once held began to distance themselves from Moscow and created closer ties to the European Union, who gave them better economic opportunities, with Ukraine being one of them. There were a few exceptions, such as Belarus, which became a kleptocratic pro-Russian dictatorship under Alexander Lukashenko, and the Central Asian states. In 1999, though, a new Russian president was elected. He was far more expansionist and hostile to the West than his predecessor. He wanted Russia to regain the same power and influence of the former Soviet Union, including hegemony over Eastern Europe.  

   Starting in the early 2000s, Russian president Vladimir Putin began to beef up the Russian armed forces to gain back its old status. The newly independent states wanted nothing to do with Russia after being under its boot for so long, and so Putin saw it as the perfect opportunity to flex Russia’s military muscle for the first time since 1989. He would also seize the opportunity that the West was distracted, with its attention being on the Middle East. In the Caucasus, there’s a tiny country called Georgia, an ex-Soviet republic. Along the border with Russia were the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where a lot of Russians lived. Russia would began instigating separatism there, which soured relations between the two countries.  

  After some rebels shelled Georgian villages with artillery in South Ossetia, the Georgian military rushed in and quickly rooted out all rebel activity in the area. Russia accused Georgia of violating a 1992 ceasefire with the South Ossetians and used it as an excuse to invade in 2008. The Georgian army was no match against the huge and well-trained Russians, with a ceasefire being declared after twelve days. Russia would annex both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin wasn’t done though, as he now shifted his focus to the most important place Russia had to have if it was ever going to regain its old power: Ukraine.  

     Much like other ex-Warsaw Pact states and ex-Soviet republics, Ukraine was getting increasingly close to joining the EU and NATO, making Putin very anxious. He saw the establishment of NATO bases in Eastern Europe and the Baltics as an encroachment on Russian sovereignty, even though NATO would never attack them first. They also stood in the way of Putin’s expansionist goals there. In Putin’s mind, if Ukraine joined NATO or the EU, the Russian heartland would be fully exposed to any western attack and Ukraine would forever drift away from Russia. Russia temporarily stopped it by rigging Ukraine’s elections to install a pro-Russian leader. But this did nothing but kick the can down the road, and soon it was right in front of them again.  

    In late 2013, after years of corruption, economic instability, and increasing authoritarianism, the Ukrainian people had enough and deposed the pro-Russian president, replacing him with a pro-Western one. Russia, seeing it as a threat, invaded in 2014, annexing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. However, he also did it because of its strategic importance to control the Black Sea due to its warm water ports, such as the port city of Sevastopol. Throughout history, another reason Russia has needed to expand is its lack of said warm water ports, mostly since most of its ports are frozen for half the year. Trading by land is difficult due to Russia’s size and the fact that most of its terrain is connected by unpaved dirt roads, so Russia needs to do most of its trade by sea. It’s the reason for why Russia conquered Siberia, took most of Sweden’s land in the Baltics to establish the port city of St. Petersburg, and later fought wars for Chinese ports.  

    Despite that, Ukraine went even faster toward NATO membership. To prevent that, Russia began destabilizing Ukraine in any way it could, mostly by funding and arming Russian separatists in the Donbas region near the Russian border. Since 2014, it left the region war-torn, underdeveloped compared to the rest of the country, and caused the deaths of over 14,000 Ukrainians, including civilians, and the displacement of many more. Not to mention, the list of crimes committed by the rebels and their Russian allies has only increased, such as the bombing of civilians and the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight using Russian equipment after “mistaking” them for it for a Ukrainian jet. Russia turned a blind eye to all this and shielded them from prosecution by European and international courts.  

    Last year, Putin sent an ultimatum to NATO, listing a series of demands which emphasized that Ukraine must never be let into NATO and to pull out troops and influence from ex- Soviet states; demands so outrageous that they were simply ignored. So, starting in late December 2021, Russian forces began to amass along the Russian border. The presence was small at first. However, by January 2022, there were already far more troops than those who invaded Crimea in 2014, which began to cause a lot of worry. The Russian government repeatedly denied that it was preparation for an invasion, saying it was all for a brief joint exercise with Belarus, and falsely claimed that it was pulling out its troops when little change was seen. By mid-February, over 190,000 troops were on the border.  

     On February 21st, Russia recognized the insurgent Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states, and moved their troops in. But three days later, Russia suddenly launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To Ukrainians, the moment they had feared finally came. Russian forces began by bombing Ukrainian military infrastructure, such as bases and airfields, and later switched to morale bombing – the indiscriminate bombing of civilians to cause chaos and fear to force the enemy to surrender. That caused hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to fill up the roads of the country and flee for the borders of Poland, Slovakia, and Romania, causing yet another refugee crisis the EU will have to contend with.  

   Despite this, Ukrainians have held firm and denied the Russians access to Kiev and Kharkiv, while causing more casualties that the Russians ever expected. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has refused to leave Kiev, saying that he needs ammunition, not a ride. The Ukrainians have fought valiantly against the Russians, both out of patriotism to preserve their nation’s sovereignty and simply to protect their home from invasion.  

Western Opinions 

   The situation is that many in the West, including myself, have sided with the U.S and Europe against Russian aggression and to protect Ukraine. But there are many who have instead sided with Russia, arguing that Russia should take over the West to stop “U.S imperialism” on the Left and other who argue that Russia should not be seen as an enemy and should instead be allowed to join the West and take Ukraine. The latter stems from a set of beliefs, especially common in more far-right circles, that Russia is either a victim of Western actions (ignoring all that Russia has done to deserve its punishments) or that it is the last beacon of conservatism, freedom, and values that have been lost in the West and is a conservative haven.  

      While Russia may seem like that at first, as well as a modern European-like nation, that is far from the truth. Russia is a society where political discourse is punished with prison time, where the government fails to provide many basic services, where all the nation’s power and wealth is in the hands of a small group of oligarchs, where politicians only serve to enrich themselves by extracting from the people and call out Europeans on Russian TV while spending most of their time, owning property, as well as buying most of their stuff from there. Russia decriminalized domestic violence, allows crimes and discrimination against homosexuals, allows the police to crack down on dissent with ever-increasing brutality and impunity, and is seeking to ban abortion. This is not a modern so-called “European-like” society. And this is all while average Russians live in old commieblocks and barely earn enough to sustain themselves and are the most harmed by how rotten to the core their system is.  

   Yet, many right-leaning movements that love to preach about how they are the party of the people against a small liberal elite, how they want to “protect” freedom, democracy, and free speech from the progressives who wish to destroy it, as well as leftists who call out elitism and oligarchy, either have Russian sympathies or are willing to promote them as long as Russian checks keep coming in to fund them. And the worse thing is that as progressives are essentially killing themselves with their toxic “social justice” movement and their general incompetence in anything other than that, it’s those far-right reactionaries who will take control and crush all those on their left or in the middle. We’re already seeing this across Europe, where far right nationalist parties have gained power in Hungary and Poland. All of this is playing exactly into Putin’s playbook, giving him the chance to continue expanding his sphere and bully other nations into it. And whoever dares to try to take off the shackles of Russian supremacy is crushed swiftly and brutally, just as in Kazakhstan about a month ago. 

   Russia is a monster trying to take hold of as much land, power, and influence as it can, but the slightly less bad news is that these are the actions of a sick, dying nation. Russia, although having the larger nuclear arsenal on the planet, is outclassed or evenly matched by China, India, the U.S., and even by North Korea in terms of its manpower. Russian equipment mostly consists of old Soviet weapons, trucks, tanks, and other things that have been refurbished.  Both that and even some of their newer stuff is vastly outclassed by the U.S. and China, especially in their air force. Its navy is tiny and old, and its army is riddled with corrupt and inept command. Russia is also undergoing a huge demographic and economic shift that will slowly crush it to death.  

     Russia once used to have one of the largest populations on Earth and was known to essentially throw their men to overwhelm their enemy during wartime. It worked for a long time, being maintained by Russia’s then-high fertility and birth rates. However, Russia went through a ton of calamities throughout the 20th century that changed that: from World War I, the Spanish Flu, many epidemics, the Holodomor, the Purges, and a brutal German invasion and occupation. All those events killed a hugely disproportionate amount of their young men, one of a nation’s most productive populations. All those young men who never returned home would never go on to start families or have children. So, Russia’s population has been shrinking since then. Its current population is rapidly aging, and there is a huge imbalance between the number of men and women. The Russian government has tried to stop this by giving out incentives, which have mostly failed. To make matters worse, Russia is further sinking into poverty, inequality, widespread alcoholism, and its currency has lost over half its value since 2014 due to Western sanctions, and that was before all the latest sanctions since the invasion. Putin knew that, and that is another reason why he had no choice but to attack now. Because if he hadn’t, he might have been able never be able to.  

My Opinions 

      Personally, I condemn the Russian invasion, along with all those who defend it or support Putin or his cronies in any way.  

However, it is important for me to note that the Russian people themselves do not deserve any hate for this. These were the actions of an elite that they didn’t elect who did so for their own ambitions, to satisfy their egos, and to carry out their ethno-nationalistic vision for their country – a vision that just like for other who tried to do so as well, such as the Nazis, only resulted in their own destruction. The Russian people have been dragged into this against their own will and have been very vocal about it. Despite it being illegal, Russians have protested the war in mass, only to be met by the same brutal crackdown as always by the police. 

    Putin knew was his moment as the West has been weakened by the Culture Wars, poor leadership, and an economic downturn due to the pandemic. That is why he invaded 

  One last, very important, reason why Russia invaded was due to envy. Ukraine is not in the inescapable pit of doom Russia is in. Ukraine, while still being a very flawed and corrupt nation, is a young democracy. It was growing rapidly and has a chance of becoming a player in the European economy – all without sacrificing political freedoms and personal liberties. Much like what Taiwan represents to China, Ukraine represents a Russia that could do without a dictatorship and authoritarianism, and it is a vision that Russia wants to destroy, no matter the cost. 

    Luckily, NATO is sending Ukraine tons of the latest equipment to arm their army and people. The U.S. has been a lot more hesitant to directly confront the Russian threat by pulling its troops out of Ukraine but has relocated them to other parts of Eastern Europe to face the Russians there.  

    The West is riddled with many flaws but is still a somewhat free and less corrupt society than Russia, one that must be protected. Russia poses a direct threat to that, and so do its allies. Ukrainian sovereignty must be protected, because if Ukraine falls, it will open a Pandora’s box by showing the Eastern Powers that the West is too weak to stop them and Russia will begin acting more and more aggressively and finally cause a global war. The West must continue to support Ukraine. 

   As for Ukraine itself, I admire their resilience in their face of such odds and their ability to exploit their enemy’s incompetence and terrible logistics. Most of Russia’s best elite soldiers died over the fields of Eastern Ukraine, being torn to pieces by Ukrainian machine gun fire as they were dropped in as paratroopers. So, Russia has been relying on poorly trained conscripts with low morale that they cannot even feed and fuel properly due to their lack of logistical coherence. However, with reports of more men on the way from Russia and elite soldiers from Chechnya and Belarus, the question is for how long the Ukrainians can hold out. But, even if Ukraine falls, I’m sure that the Ukrainians will make the Russians pay for every inch of land they take and hold with more blood than Russia could ever stomach. Their expulsion from SWIFT, the cancellation of Nordstream 2, and further sanctions on Russian banks and businesses will take more of a bite of their economy and strength. Russia is essentially cornered, and its only hope for its economy to survive is to become even closer to China. The danger is that as a cornered dog, Russia will bite with all it has, and signs of this desperation show as Russia has threatened Finland and Sweden with action. Soon, they won’t be the only ones, and once Russia attacks a NATO or EU state, the world will go up in flames and burn the world order to cinders. 

The Strengths of Each Side 

If things spiral out of control and a big war breaks out, it is likely that the European countries of NATO will have to fight against the Russians first and will serve to bolster U.S. numbers once they can get a sizeable amount on the continent. But in the hypothetical and very unlikely situation that only the U.S. and Russia go to war, these are their strengths: 

  • Army: According to, the Russian and American armies are more or less on even ground in terms of numbers, with Russia having about 1,014,000 personnel on active duty facing off against the U.S.’s 1,817,000 active personnel. In the moment of a total war, Russia can call upon its 2 million reserves, while the U.S can only call up about 483,000 reservists. Despite this, U.S. soldiers are better trained and armed than their Russian counterparts. 


  • Navy: The U.S. Navy is the biggest and most advanced on Earth, which many are trying to copy. The Navy can count on 296 deployable ships, against Russia’s 350. Russia might seem to outmatch the U.S., but most of Russia’s ships are submarines or small vessels, as well as old Soviet battleships. The U.S. has far more advanced and surface combatant ships than Russia does. The U.S. even has eleven aircraft carriers, compared to Russia’s only one. 


  • Air Force: Just like in terms of its navy, the U.S. Air Force is more advanced and actually larger than the Russian one. The U.S. has the largest aircraft fleet on the planet, with over 13,000 in active service. Russia comes in at only 4,100. Not to mention, most of them are old Soviet aircraft.