The Foreign Service Journal, October 2022

22 OCTOBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Understanding William B. Taylor is vice president for Russia and Europe at the United States Institute of Peace. He served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2006-2009) and as chargé d’affaires at Embassy Kyiv in 2019. He also served in Kabul, Baghdad, Jerusalem, USNATO, and in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Germany. U kraine Ukraine captured world attention when Russia invaded in February. Here, an FSJ Q&A with a former ambassador to Ukraine sheds light on this vexing international crisis. BY WI L L I AM B . TAY LOR What led to Putin’s invasion? Vladimir Putin insists that Ukraine is not really sovereign nor even a nation but is actually just a wayward part of Russia that he is determined to reabsorb. Ukraine’s resolute march toward Europe terrifies Putin. When, in 2014, the Russia-leaning then– Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was driven from office, leaving Ukraine free to sign an association agreement with the European Union, Putin invaded Ukraine, first in Crimea, then in Donbas. With Russian troops poised to massacre surrounded Ukrainian army units, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko PERSPECTIVES ON UKRAINE signed agreements in 2015 that the Russians thought would give the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts the ability to block Ukraine’s integration into Europe. The Ukrainians frustrated this plan, and on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin invaded. One way or another, he is deter- mined to dominate Ukraine. Ukrainians are determined—and willing to fight and die to ensure—that it won’t happen. We’ll see who cares more about Ukraine: Russians or Ukrainians. I know which I’ll bet on. What’s the historical perspective on Ukraine’s national identity? Contrary to Putin’s distorted view of history, Ukraine’s origins predate Russia’s. Slavic people established Kyivan Rus in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. In the center of Kyiv, the golden-domed St. Sophia Cathedral dates back to 1057. At that time, Moscow was a forest. Ukrainians are proud of their history, language, cul- ture, literature, and heroes. At the hands of Russians, they have FOCUS