Cary's Corner: Why Ukraine?

Published Thursday, March 14, 2024

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the conflict between the two countries that started in 2014. The invasion became the largest attack on a European country since World War II. It can be difficult for Americans to understand the complexities and nuances of why this devastating war began. If you'd like to understand more, the following books discuss and analyze the invasion of Ukraine from a variety of viewpoints.

Putin's Wars, by Mark Galeotti

We might agree that the "Russian Bear" likes to be on the world stage, especially since Putin became president of Russian in 2012. Dr. Galeotti covers Putin's overhaul of the Russian military, including its "relentless" information war against the West.

"Putin's Wars is an . . . engrossing strategic overview of a rejuvenated Russian military and the successes, and failures, on the battlefield designed to keep Russia front and centre on the world stage. Thanks to Dr Galeotti's wide-ranging contacts throughout Russia, it is also peppered with anecdotes of military life, personal snapshots of conflicts, and an extraordinary collection of first-hand accounts from serving and retired Russian officers." - Goodreads

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The War Came to Us, by Christopher Miller

Putin's war against Ukraine and the West started long before the invasion of February 24, 2022. Putin's full-scale attack on Ukraine is just his latest and most overt attempt to ruthlessly conquer the country, and reshape the world order.

Christopher Miller, the Ukraine correspondent for the Financial Times and the foremost journalist covering the country, was there on the ground when the first Russian missiles struck and troops stormed over the border. But the seeds of Russia's war against Ukraine and the West were sown more than a decade earlier.

"This definitive, inside story of Ukraine's long fight for freedom, told through Miller's personal experiences, vivid front-line dispatches and illuminating interviews with unforgettable characters, takes readers on a riveting journey through the key locales and pivotal events of Ukraine's modern history. From the coal-dusted, sunflower-covered steppe of the Donbas in the far east to the heart of the Euromaidan revolution camp in Kyiv; from the Black Sea shores of Crimea, where Russian troops stealthily annexed Ukraine's peninsula, to the bloody battlefields where Cossacks roamed before the Kremlin's warlords ruled with iron fists." A must-read - Goodreads

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Overreach, by Owen Matthews

"The Russo-Ukrainian War is the most serious geopolitical crisis since the Second World War – and yet at the heart of the conflict is a mystery. Vladimir Putin apparently lurched from a calculating, subtle master of opportunity to a reckless gambler, putting his regime – and Russia itself – at risk of destruction. Why?" - Goodreads

Journalist Owen Matthews has family ties to Ukraine and Russia, as well as over 25 years as a correspondent in Moscow. He guides us through the "poisoned historical roots" of the conflict, into the "Covid bubble" where Putin conceived his invasion plans amid his growing paranoia about Western threats, and finally into the inner circle around Ukrainian president and unexpected war hero Volodimir Zelensky.

Using the accounts of current and former insiders from the Kremlin and its propaganda machine, the testimony of captured Russian soldiers and on-the-ground reporting from Russia and Ukraine, Overreach tells the story not only of the war’s causes but how the first six months unfolded.

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Our Enemies Will Vanish, by Yaroslav Trofimov

"Our Enemies Will Vanish achieves the highest level of war reporting: a tough, detailed account that nevertheless reads like a great novel. One is reminded of Michael Herr's Dispatches... Frankly, it's what we have all aspired to. I did not really understand Ukraine until I read Trofimov's account." --Sebastian Junger

Yaroslav Trofimov has spent months on its front lines of this full-scale war, so he is well-positioned to give this authoritative account, tracing the war's decisive moments to show how Ukraine and its allies have turned the tide against Russia, one of the world's great military powers, in a "modern-day battle of David and Goliath".

Putin had intended to conquer, annex, and demoralize Ukraine in a few weeks, hoping to rock the geopolitical status-quo. But in the face of this existential threat, the Ukrainian people fought back, turning what looked like certain defeat into a great victory, even as territorial battles continue today. This is the very personal story of the epic bravery of the Ukrainian people, told by Kyiv native Trofimov, with deep empathy and local knowledge.

"This brutal, catastrophic struggle is unfolding on another continent, but the United States and its NATO allies have become deeply implicated. As the war drags on, it threatens to engulf the world, and we cannot look away. At once heart-breaking and inspiring, Our Enemies Will Vanish is a riveting, vivid, and first-hand account of the Ukrainian refusal to surrender. It is the story of ordinary people fighting not just for their homes and their families but for justice and democracy itself." -- Goodreads

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The Fight of Our Lives, Iuliia Mendel

When Ukrainian journalist Iuliia Mendel got the call she had been hired to work for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, she had no idea what was to come. Mendel saw firsthand Zelenskyy’s efforts to transform his country from a poor, backward Soviet state into a vibrant, prosperous European democracy. She sheds light on the massive economic problems facing Ukraine and the entrenched corrupt oligarchs in league with Russia.

Woven into Mendel's first-hand accounts, are details about her own life, as she says goodbye to her fiancé who joins the front lines, like so many other Ukrainian men. In this frank and moving inside account, Zelenskyy’s former press secretary tells the story of his improbable rise from popular comedian to the president of Ukraine. Mendel had a front row seat to many of the key events preceding the 2022 Russian invasion. From attending meetings between Zelenskyy and Putin and other European leaders, visiting the front lines in Donbas, to fielding press inquiries after the infamous phone calls between Donald Trump and Zelenskyy that led to Trump’s first impeachment. -- Goodreads

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A Message From Ukraine, by Volodymyr Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky introduces this book containing his most powerful war speeches, recounting the story of Ukraine from his uniquely personal, authoritative point of view.

Above all, it is a battle cry for us all to stand up and fight for liberty. If not now, when? -- Goodreads

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About the Author

Cary's idea of a perfect day is a complete stereotype: reading or watching British crime fiction with a cup of hot tea close at hand, her favorite quilt, and her cats Clio & Junie on her lap.