This 30-Minute Video Gives a Full Summary of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
A new video from YouTuber RealLifeLore summarizes exactly why Russia has invaded Ukraine, as well as the recent political history between the two countries.
In a new 30-minute-long video YouTuber and answerer of “questions that you’ve never asked” RealLifeLore gives a rundown of what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine (as of approximately early March 2022). The video goes into incredible depth (for a YouTube video), noting and expounding on several key points that help people to frame the situation.
The channel’s narrator begins by noting that Russia has “effectively declared war on Ukraine,” as it has authorized its military to invade the country. Recently, Russia had built up 200,000 soldiers along its Ukrainian border; a force that rivals Ukraine’s entire army.
Centrally, RealLifeLore says the question on everybody’s mind is: “What exactly does Vladimir Putin and Russia want with Ukraine?” The answer the YouTuber offers: “It’s complicated.”
RealLifeLore goes back three decades in order to fully explain this year’s hot conflict, beginning with the Soviet Union’s collapse. An event that left behind 15 individual republics. The largest of which is Russia.
After the collapse, RealLifeLore explains how a rivalry emerged between NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the Warsaw Pact; the individual republics implicitly directed by Russia that buffered the country from ones in NATO.
Due to the “funnel-like” geography of the European Plain (in the image immediately below) Russia desired to push out West as far as possible toward the Plain’s pinched end, which ultimately ends in Germany. (By moving toward the pinched end of the “funnel,” Russia has less land to defend in the case of a conflict with its European neighbors.)
As of today, unfortunately for Russia, the former Warsaw Pact territories of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria are now all a part of NATO. The former soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are all as well. As a result, NATO has been able to push its effective territory much further east across the European Plain.
RealLifeLore notes that if you’re in Moscow and you believe NATO is your enemy, then this situation “looks pretty grim.” The channel’s host notes all is not yet lost for Russia, however, as it has ally states in Belarus and Armenia; the three countries together make up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO). Ukraine, however, is not a part of the alliance—in effect making it a buffer state between the two uneasy powers. And, as a result, a valuable target for acquisition for both Russia and NATO.
While RealLifeLore says Ukraine is crucial for Russia in terms of geographical advantage, he says the biggest thing Moscow wants is its neighbor’s natural gas resources. If it has any “worldwide ambitions” Russia would want access to Ukraine’s vast oil fields; particularly since it is, itself, a petrostate. That is, Russia is a nation whose economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and export of oil and natural gas. In fact, 30% of Russia’s GDP comes from exporting oil and gas to other countries.
Incredibly, 35% of the European Union’s gas comes from Russia alone. And Germany is the largest customer out of the bunch.
Because of this exchange—with money going from the EU to Russia and gas going back—NATO countries and Russia are reliant on each other. Ukraine, however, happened to have discovered more than two trillion cubic meters worth of natural gas in its exclusive economic zone within the Black Sea in 2012; largely concentrated around the Crimean Peninsula. That is, Ukraine had two trillion cubic meters worth of natural gas until 2014, when Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych was “toppled in a pro-EU and pro-Western revolution in Kiev. Moscow, subsequently, was very quick to take the opportunity to invade some of Ukraine; cease the Crimean Peninsula, and annex it ‘in the name of historical claims and protecting ethnic Russians.'” As a result, Russia ended up with 80% of Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves. As well as, in effect, control over the rest of its oil reserves. (International oil companies backed out of Ukraine as conflict arose.)
At this point RealLifeLore says Russia “can’t ever give Crimea back to Ukraine because it would surrender the entire exclusive economic zone and all of the gas resources within it back.” RealLifeLore also notes that if Russia gave Crimea back to Ukraine, it would lose a key, strategic port city.
Ukraine, however, can exercise some control over Crimea via the North Crimea Canal. RealLifeLore notes that because Ukraine still controls the Canal, and because Crimea needs the water to sustain itself, Ukraine can hamstring the latter whenever it wants. And it has. In turn forcing Russia to ship in water for the approximately 2.4 million inhabitants of the peninsula.
RealLifeLore also notes that Ukraine could, in theory, trigger Article V of the NATO treaty. Article V states that:
“If a NATO ally is a victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the ally attacked.”
Consequently, Russia fears that Ukraine could bring in the rest of NATO in order to take back Crimea. “And that is a war [Russia knows] it will lose,” according to the YouTuber.
Russia faces another issue as well: It has a “shrinking population problem.” RealLifeLore notes that “Russia is currently undergoing its largest peacetime decline in people ever.” It currently has about 25 million men of military service age, but as time goes on, that pool of men will shrink.
According to RealLifeLore, this population issue means “it could be reasoned behind the inner walls of the Kremlin that the longer Russia waits to act upon Ukraine, the more difficult is going to become in the future. So the earlier the better.” Russia, so far, has been able to keep Ukraine out of NATO, surrounding the country with troop buildups and hosting military exercises with Belarus. As a result Ukraine is forced to spend money defending itself rather than taking advantage of its natural resources.
The YouTuber then moves on to discussing Donetsk and Luhansk; a pair of Ukrainian cities that are up for grabs between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatist forces in the ongoing “Donbas War.” That is, the ongoing armed conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine that began in 2014.
As of a few days prior to the making of RealLifeLore’s video, the YouTuber notes Russia finally recognized both Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as “fully independent countries separate from Ukraine” and deployed its troops into each for defense.
RealLifeLore notes there are several routes Russia’s political leadership may be taking at this point: It may only want to cut off Luhansk and Donetsk from Ukraine so it can absorb the cities itself. Or Russia’s leadership may be plotting a strike from Crimea in order to free up the Canal under Ukraine’s control. Or, it could be looking for a complete southern takeover of Ukraine, permanently removing the smaller country from the Black Sea and the natural resources in its exclusive economic zone.
Taking over Ukraine, as well as the country of Moldova, is “all a part of Putin’s repeatedly stated goal of bringing back the old Soviet and Russian Empire for the 21st century” according to RealLifeLore.
At this point, the YouTuber notes Putin has demanded the West agree to three central terms: 1.) Ukraine is never allowed to join NATO. 2.) NATO and the U.S. must withdraw their armed forces from Eastern Europe, effectively abandoning Poland, the Baltic States, and much of the rest of Eastern Europe. 3.) NATO must freeze the alliance as is, and not allow future members. (And also not hold any military drills in the Ukraine or Eastern Europe without Russia’s consent.)
The video finishes off by noting that this conflict in Ukraine mirrors that of the one that took place in Georgia in 2008. At that point, Russia invaded its neighboring country Georgia (above), in order to solidify its control over two defecting states. In the end, RealLifeLore notes it was a “decisive victory” for Russia and for Putin as it kept Georgia from joining NATO.
“Now in 2022 it once again appears that history is repeating itself in Donetsk, Luhansk and Ukraine,” RealLifeLore says. He then refers to the Georgia conflict as the most reasonable parallel for predicting what will happen this time around with Ukraine. Those wondering about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy‘s thoughts on its conflict with Russia, he offers a sliver of insight in his 2020 World Economic Forum Speech hosted by Klaus Schwab.
Feature image: RealLifeLore
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