Ukraine’s been going through an identity crisis, which has led to heavy fighting and the worst freeze in Western-Russian relations since the Cold War.
Once upon a time, the Soviet Union was a thing and Ukraine was part of it. Fast forward to now: some Ukrainians in the country’s east are nostalgic for the old days, but most would rather strengthen ties with Europe. This doesn’t sit well with Russia, which wants to keep its influence over its neighbors.
Back in 2013, Ukraine's economy was looking like you on a Sunday morning. Many Ukrainians thought a trade deal with the EU could help. But Ukrainian President Yanukovych decided he’d rather cozy up to Russia. So Ukraine had a revolution, and ousted Yanukovych.
People in Crimea (historically pro-Russian peninsula that was technically part of Ukraine) weren’t so on board with the idea of turning over a new leaf. They voted to be a part of Russia, and Russia welcomed them into the fold. Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine got a bad case of FOMO, and started fighting the Ukrainian military to become part of Russia too. The world woke up to just how bad the fighting was when a commercial plane was shot down over Ukraine, killing 298 people. Last fall, both sides agreed to a cease-fire, but that didn’t work out. Fighting’s continued in a big way -- thousands have been killed since this conflict started.
That Russian President Putin has been sending tanks, troops, and weapons over the border to its separatist friends for months, and that is so not OK. That even though sanctions it’s put on Russia have hit the country’s economy, they haven’t seemed to make President Putin back off.
That it has no idea what the West is talking about. That it has provided humanitarian aid to the separatists, but nothing more. That sanctions aren’t scary. That Ukraine should let these eastern cities have more autonomy.
The leaders of US and Russia -- two top world powers -- can barely stand to be in the same room with each other. And after two failed cease-fires, and thousands of lives lost, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.