KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Why is Putin obsessed with Ukraine, and how does that involve the United States? What is the United States' responsibility in all of this, and why should we care?
Experts say there are multiple reasons, starting with our involvement in NATO.
The U.S. is one of 30 countries making up NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Its purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.
Ukraine is not a member, but it wants to be. The reasons why it hasn't been granted membership are complicated.
However, it's important to note Putin doesn't want Ukraine to join NATO, claiming that western influence would pose a security threat to Russia.
"Putin has been somewhat obsessed with Ukraine for a while, he doesn't view it as being a separate nation from Russia. He doesn't view it as being a legitimate sovereign state," UMKC political science Professor Rebecca Best, PhD, said. "Putin clearly has aspirations toward returning Russia to the power that the Soviet union held. So, I think there’s an argument to be made that if Putin is allowed to replace the democratically-elected government of Ukraine with his own puppet administration that will only embolden him."
Dr. Best said this goes beyond Ukraine, clarifying Putin's aspirations would impact other NATO countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Romania, just to name a few.
"It’s got to be concerning for other countries that are bordering Russia that are former Soviet states, so this is very concerning in that sense," Dr. Best said. "We are seeing more NATO troops moving into those border countries to support them and to ensure their defense in the event that this conflict you know spills over."
Still, President Biden has made it clear he's not sending troops into Ukraine. So why is this such a pressing matter for the United States?
"We could start with the fact that there are over 40 million people in Ukraine. But on top of that, on top of the cost in terms of human suffering, Ukraine is an ally of the United States and of NATO," Dr. Best said. "Again, Ukraine is not a NATO member. But it is a democratic country with a democratically elected government that is being targeted in large part because of its friendliness towards the west, toward the United States, and towards NATO."
She also said it's an important time for the U.S. and NATO to show unity and strength, noting if this invasion was allowed to go unchecked, it would not only encourage further aggression from Putin and Russia, but it would also greenlight China's ambitions toward Taiwan.
"We know China is watching we’ve got good reason to think that China is going to use this to gauge its own risks do you know if it pursues a similar policy," Dr. Best said.