Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 was the first change of internationally recognized borders in Europe through military force since World War II.
Russia proceeded to instigate and fuel a war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed some 14,000 lives so far. Last year, Russia began massing a force of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern and northern border and in the occupied Crimea, and taking other provocative actions. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19, 2022, about Putin: “Do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO, as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will.”
Ukraine as an independent state was born from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Its independence came with a complicated Cold War inheritance: the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Ukraine was one of the three non-Russian former Soviet states, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, that emerged from the Soviet collapse with nuclear weapons on its territory.
The U.S., in a burst of diplomatic energy and at a time of unmatched global influence, worked to prevent the unprecedented collapse of a nuclear superpower from leading to history’s largest proliferation of nuclear weapons.
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