Listen to The Daily: Why is US military aid to Ukraine important?

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President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to send Russian troops to surround the Ukrainian border was inspired by a fear that Ukraine would ally itself too closely with the West, buy American weapons and follow the advice of officials American military. But why is this military assistance so important to Ukraine – and so threatening to Russia?

It’s a long story, spanning a thousand years of conflict and contested territory. The word “Ukraine” means border land, and the country has long been a border between competing empires, between Western Europe and Russia. For most of the 20th century, Russia won, controlling Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union. But in 1991, Ukraine declared independence from Russia, taking a step towards the West.

Since then, the United States and Western Europe have encouraged the development of an independent and democratic system in Ukraine to prevent the re-emergence of a Russian empire and to limit the expansionist imperialist power of Moscow. In response, Russia has sought closer economic ties with Ukraine, trying to reintegrate a land and people that many Russians consider indistinguishable from their own.

This geopolitical standoff came to a head in 2014, when a popular revolution ousted the Russian-backed Ukrainian president – and a source of Russian influence continues. Since then, the United States has continued to support Ukrainian independence, providing military assistance to Ukrainian forces guarding against Russian invasion on the border.

Listen to this episode of The Daily for 2019 to learn more about the history of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine – and how that assistance may have the power to tip the scales in a larger battle between authoritarianism and democracy.

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