A look at the Russia/Ukraine crisis

Sherra Owino, Assistant Editor

If you drive a car or even pass by gas stations on your commute, you’ll notice that gas prices have begun to increase. You may even have heard or read that this is due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that’s happening now. But what is happening and why is it affecting us in the U.S.? And what’s the definition of the terms so common in the news right now? 


There are a few terms that are heard regularly but not necessarily understood. So, what do they mean and how do they play into the current conflict? 

NATO – Stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which was created in 1949 by the U.S., Canada and a number of western European countries to provide security against Russia.  

Economic Sanctions – A withdrawal of standard trade and financial relations which could include travel bans, foreign aid reductions, capital restraints, frozen assets and others. 

Autocratic vs. Democratic – Refers to governmental structure and leadership. Autocratic is to be ruled by one individual in a dictatorship, while democratic government is ruled open and free elections by the people. 


To begin to understand and answer the question of what’s happening and the effects on the U.S., one must first take a step back into history. To assist in this endeavor, Joel Ryan, instructor of history at Madison College, provided his knowledge. 

“The relationship between Russia and Ukraine is pretty complicated,” Ryan explained. 

For starters, these two countries (along with several others) used to be all part of a much larger nation considered the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). After the fall of the USSR, these countries, Ukraine included, broke off and gained their independence from what is now called Russia. An uprising and revolution occurred within Ukraine in 2014 on Maidan Square (“Independence Square”) when Ukrainians fought to maintain their freedoms such as protesting from government officials being pressured by Russia. 

An understanding was reached in the 1940s between Russia and Ukraine that Ukraine would not be part of NATO as that is not in Russia’s best interests, according to Ryan. 

Recently, Ukraine has been considering joining this organization. Ukraine’s physical position in the middle between Russia and the rest of Europe also is a factor. Ukraine, by definition and the meaning of their name is “border or frontier” Ryan said. This country joining NATO would have significant implications for Russia just with their proximity alone. 


“The world is so much more interconnected than it’s ever been,” Ryan explained. 

With this crisis and sanctions going into place, Ryan said to expect gas prices to go up as a manifestation of what’s occurring around the globe and travel, including study abroad or student exchange, halted in addition to an understanding of threatened democracy in democratic states. 

Stephanie Belmas, the Director of the Center for International Education expressed her thoughts: 

“This is a very challenging, difficult, and troubling time on many levels, especially for individuals from both of these countries,” said Belmas.