Why Does Russia Want to Invade Ukraine?

A crash course of Russian geopolitics

Martin Knapp
3 min readFeb 1, 2022



The tensions in Ukraine have become a challenge to sovereignty and self-determination. After the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. Since then, Russia has had difficulty recognizing it as a country at all.

To say it’s simply because President Putin is an egomaniac is to not understand the situation. He is an egomaniac, but no more so than any other person who rises to the same height of leadership. Russia has two very real problems it needs to solve: economic and military security.

NATO Expansion VS Russian Military Security

From this standpoint, Russia’s biggest concern is NATO. After the Cold War, the Baltic states declared their independence. In 2004 all three were admitted to NATO. This immediately raised an air of concern within the Russian government. However, these three nations don’t hold the same cultural significance that Ukraine does. Much of Russian culture stems from Kyiv. Additionally, the Ukrainian border is 460km from Moscow at its closest point. In the world of Air Defense systems, should Ukraine ever join NATO, that's a big problem if you are on the wrong side of a missile system.

Why Now?

Because Ukraine has already applied to join NATO in 2008 shortly after its Baltic neighbors, and in June of 2021 the outcome of the last NATO summit meeting was to finally support Ukraine in its application for membership (See point 69 of the briefing).

Of course Ukraine would prefer to join NATO, especially since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. There has been a slow burn conflict for the last eight years killing over 13,000 Ukrainians.

So Russia is striking while it still can.

President Putin is a strategic fellow. I’m sure he would have preferred that a military build-up would have caused NATO and the West to back off. After all, that would be far less expensive than fighting a war…



Martin Knapp

I write about economics, geopolitics, and conflict. Short posts on X @GeoPoliticaMK