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Viewpoint: Dissecting the Russian invasion of Ukraine

U of I Political Science Professor Florian Justwan explains why Russia invaded Ukraine and what Putin's likely end game is for the country.

BOISE, Idaho — The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for more than a week now. 

Shows of support for the Ukrainian people have been happening around the world, in the U.S. and here in Idaho. Countries have pledged and sent military aid to Ukraine and levied sanctions against Russia, but the Ukrainians have been fighting the Russians on their own, and fighting valiantly by most accounts.

The country is not a member of NATO, so NATO countries are not required to send in troops to fight.

Every day now we are seeing images of devastation as Russian troops advance. The destruction and the death toll are mounting. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the country and are now refugees, mostly women and children, as men between 18 and 60 years old have to stay home to fight. 

The people of Poland have opened their hearts and their homes to those who have made a treacherous trek, many walking days to get to safety.

But why is this all happening? Why did Russia invade in the first place? What's the end game? What impact will stiff sanctions have on Russia, and what economic impacts will we feel here in the U.S. and around the world because of the conflict?

University of Idaho Political Science Professor Dr. Florian Justwan shares his expertise on all of these questions. In the following excerpt, he explains the root causes of the Russian invasion and what Russian President Vladimir Putin's likely goal is.

"Putin has given lots of speeches in which he has declared that the Ukrainian regime is illegitimate in his eyes," Justwan explained. "He has declared that Ukrainian statehood is essentially just an accident of history, and he has also noted that in his eyes that Ukraine and Russia are one people. And so this matter is because over the last few years is that Ukraine has drifted slowly but steadily towards the West politically. It has sought closer ties with the European Union. It has sought out closer ties with NATO, and from Putin's point of view this is deeply problematic."

Doug Petcash: So what is the end game here? Say Russia does move in and take over. What is Putin's plan for the future of Ukraine and the government there?

Dr. Florian Justwan: "So most observers are expecting that Putin is trying to install essentially a Russian puppet regime there. So what this would mean is that current President Zelensky would be disposed and some kind of political leader friendly toward Russia would be installed in the capital. It would also mean that the kind of fragile democracy that Ukraine is and has been over the last eight years or so would probably not be there at the end of the war. Russia would probably attempt to establish a political regime that is more authoritarian than it is right now."

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