Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and the war has not stopped since then. 

According to the New York Times, national intelligence agencies estimate that at least 7,000 Russian troops were killed while 1,300 Ukrainians have died according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

To explain the conflict to Wartburg audience, Endowed Chair in German history Dr. Daniel Walther and Professor of English Dr. Joyce Boss hosted a forum on March 17th in the Buckmaster classroom. Around 15 students and faculty attended the event. Walther explained the reason behind Russia’s invasion as loss of status after the World War II. 

“[Vladimir Putin] relies on victories of the Russian military to support his position.” Walther said. “He believed that Russia was a great power, and it deserved to be a great power once again.”  

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) as a Threat 

Tonia Alderbashi, a third-year computer science major, is one of the three international students from Russia. Alderbashi is a United World College Red Cross Nordic graduate in Norway, studying at Wartburg on Shelby Davis scholarship.   

 There are two major reasons behind Russian President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: the fear of NATO and to protect the Russian citizens in Luhansk and Donetsk region of Ukraine.  

“Russia does not want NATO to be near,” Alderbashi said. “Russians are scared that if Ukraine becomes a part of NATO, then NATO will put nuclear weapons at the borders of Russia.” 

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, created in 1949. It has 30 member countries. One of its missions is collective defense, according to its website, meaning if one member is attacked then other members will respond together. 

NATO does not pose a threat to Russia, the organization says. The organization’s aim is to protect the members of the union against an outside threat. It is a defensive organization for the Euro-Atlantic area. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO but has expressed an interest in joining. Some of the countries that share their borders are also NATO members. 

Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic 

The other reason behind the invasion of Ukraine Putin presented to the public is defending the people’s rights in Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. 

Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics are two autonomous statelets in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that have claimed autonomy since 2014. The republics have higher populations and influence of Russians than in the rest of Ukraine.  

“We already had Russian nationalism asserting itself in Luhansk and Donetsk,” Walther said. “There is a really strong Russian presence there. There has been some fighting and Russia has been supporting them.”  

“About 12,000 Russians died in Donbas over eight years, which is also bad, but it also does not justify the Russian invasion, because even more Russians are going to die during the invasion,” Alderbashi said. “The reasoning that Putin or Russians put forward is logically coherent, but it is not necessary at all.” 

Eight years ago, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, which was part of Ukraine. 

Protesters in Russia 

Not all Russians are in support of Putin’s ideas and actions, but the public protesters in Russia face detainment. According to Reuters, more than 4,300 Russian citizens were detained during anti-war protests in the first week of invasion.  

“People who are against the Russian invasion of Ukraine are called the same term that Russians during the World War II that were on the side of the Nazis were called, which is the ‘enemy of the nation,’” Alderbashi said.  

According to The New York Times, Zelensky came in terms with Russia on ending the process of joining the NATO. However, Putin is not willing to negotiate his demands on the Donbas region and the war seems to continue for a while.  

“I don’t think it will stop until either Russia or the U.S. falls and stops being a world power, otherwise they will keep trying to assert dominance,” Alderbashi said.  

For more information on the situation contact Walther at  


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