So, why is Putin so keen on Ukraine?

Seems like something that we should know, right?

In a nutshell, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Russian annexation of some or all of Ukraine would increase Russian strategic landmassskilled manpower, industrial capacity, and natural resources to a level that could make it a global threat.

Let’s drill down on some basics…

Large landmass

Russia is the largest country in the world, covering about 6.6 million square miles, which is one-eighth of Earth’s inhabitable landmass and  almost double the U.S and China.


Ukraine is the largest country entirely within Europe.

The country covers an area of 231,661 square miles, which is about twice the size of Italy and slightly smaller than Texas.

Importantly, Ukraine is a buffer between Russia and NATO allies. Specifically, Ukraine (not a NATO member) separates Russia from Poland (a NATO member).

Paradoxically, if Russia were to annex all of Ukraine, there would be no buffer between Russia and NATO nation Poland.


Skilled workforce

Russia’s population is about 150 million. Ukraine’s population is about 45  million .

Ukraine’s workforce — commonly reported to be highly skilled  — is the product of the country’s educational system.  Source 

Over 70% have secondary or higher education, the literacy rate is near 100% among its youngest generations and the workforce has one of the highest levels of English proficiency in post-Soviet countries.  Source

The Ukrainian education system is intensely focused on technical and scientific disciplines.

With over 130,000 engineering graduates annually, Ukraine is home to the largest IT engineering force in Central and Eastern Europe. Source


Natural resources

Ukraine has extremely rich and complementary mineral resources that are highly concentrated and in close proximity to each other.

The country has abundant reserves of coal (12th in the world), uranium (10th in the world), natural gas, oil, iron ore, titanium and nickel. Source

And, the rich dark soil and the vast fields of wheat and other food products have earned Ukraine the nickname “bread basket of Europe.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, Ukraine produced 25% of all agricultural output in the former Soviet Union.

Today, Ukraine exports substantial amounts of grain, vegetables, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, milk and meat to Russia and the European Union.

In addition, food processing, especially sugar processing, is an important industrial segment.

Nearly one out of four workers in Ukraine is employed in agriculture or forestry related endeavors. Source



One measure of cultural affinity is language.

About 85% of the population speaks Ukrainian (68% only Ukrainian, 17% Ukrainian and Russian).

About 30% of the population speaks Russian (13% only Russian, 17% Ukrainian and Russian).

Russian-speaking is concentrated in the southern (Crimea) and eastern parts of the country (along the Russian border). Source

  • Note: Ukrainian and Russian languages are significantly similar. Both are written in close forms of the Cyrillic alphabet and about 60% of their vocabularies are common. But, linguists consider Ukrainian to be closer to Polish (Ukraine’s western neighbor state) than to Russian. Source



Another measure of cultural affinity is religion.

In rough numbers, slightly less than half of the Ukrainian population classify themselves as “non-religious believers” or atheists.

Of the half that is religious, about 90% are Ukrainian Orthodox (a variant of Eastern Orthodoxy) and the remainder are Greek or Roman Catholic.  Source

In contrast, Poland is about 85% Roman Catholic.

In Russia, about 1/3 are non-believers or non-religious; about 75% of the religious are Russian Orthodox.


So what?

Again, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Russian annexation of some or all of Ukraine would increase Russian strategic landmass, skilled manpower, industrial capacity, and natural resources to a level that could make it a global threat.

An invasion and annexation would mark a significant change in international politics, creating a new “Iron Curtain” that begins along Russia’s borders with Finland and the Baltic states and moves south through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and finally to East Asia along China’s southern flank.

Ostensibly, Russia wants “an exclusive sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the south Caucasus is to meet its security interests.”

Putin’s primary goal is a certainty that Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia will never belong to a military or economic bloc other than the ones Moscow controls.

So, the Kremlin’s demands are for an end to NATO expansion, a rollback of previous expansion and the removal of American nuclear weapons from Europe.

“In essence, this conflict is about whether 30 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, its former ethnic republics can live as independent, sovereign states or if they still must acknowledge Moscow as their de facto sovereign.”


Want more?

Read the Center for Strategic and International Studies brief “Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine”.

It backgrounds the situation, outlines Russia’s possible military moves and opines on Western response options.

It’s a good read that cuts through the blah-blah being served up by the mainstream media (and Fox).

2 Responses to “So, why is Putin so keen on Ukraine?”

  1. Alex Says:

    What % of the Ukrainian population, today, which voted 73% in favor of its current leadership in 2019, wishes to revert to being under Russian control?
    The violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by its neighboring tyrant is equally appalling and unforgivable.
    Seriously… just imagine Mexico invading Texas and California to reconstitute the glory of “the old country.”

  2. Worth Reading: Putin’s motivations and Biden’s responses. | The Homa Files Says:

    […] So, why is Putin so keen on Ukraine? Here’ “must know” background on Ukraine […]

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