Ukraine has been an independent country since 1991. However, this status is not entirely accepted by Russia, which views Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence. Initially cordial, relations between Ukraine and Russia unraveled as Ukraine sought closer military and economic ties with the West. Russian military intervention in Ukraine began in 2014 with Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. Then, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbass-area of Ukraine escalated into an armed conflict between the Ukrainian government and the Russia-backed separatist forces. Shortly thereafter, Russian military vehicles crossed the border in several locations of Donetsk Oblast. The incursion by the Russian military was seen as responsible for the defeat of Ukrainian forces in late 2014; this low-intensity conflict continues to the present.
Ukraine has become a key concern for U.S. policymakers, sometimes in unexpected ways. Why does Ukraine keep coming back to the forefront of the U.S. debate? What are Russian intentions toward the country and why should the U.S. be concerned? Join Ukraine – Russia specialist Alina Polyakova as she makes sense of this thorny issue which now figures prominently not just in foreign policy, but domestic politics as well.