Three Reasons Russia Invaded Ukraine — It’s Not About NATO

Mark Timberlake
Published in
10 min readMar 22, 2022

Photo by Egor Lyfar on Unsplash

While media reports refer to Russia’s concerns over the expansion of NATO, Russia’s economic security, and dramatic population decline may be driving Putin’s anxiety over Ukraine.

The Russian annexation of Crimea was triggered when Ukraine was about to sign the Association Agreement with the EU that would have resulted in a free-trade deal between the EU and Ukraine.

Russia’s economic security strategy is tied to the enhancement of the CIS and further integration with member states. However, Russia faces the prospect of the collapse of the CIS if Ukraine joins the EU, and the Central Asian states drift away to the Organisation of Turkic States.

Russia’s population decline is a serious long term security issue for Russia. Russia has a vast territory in the Siberian far-east. Russia faces a future where it may not have the economic power and population to defend its far east territories from China.

Ukraine, Russia and the Geopolitics of Energy

Since independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been pursuing economic and energy integration with Europe. Recent shale gas discoveries south of the Ukraine city of Kharkiv, and in the Black Sea offered Ukraine not only energy independence, but also gas exports to Europe.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea on the fabricated pretext of protecting ethnic Russians was actually about seizing Ukraine’s gas field discoveries in the Black Sea, thereby denying Ukraine energy independence, and future energy exports to Europe.

The bulk of Russian supplied gas to Europe is sourced from Siberian gas fields and transited through Ukraine.

Since the mid 1990s legacy Siberian gas fields have passed peak production and are in decline. Legacy fields that are replaced by new fields are more expensive to develop as they involve new infrastructure in remote areas. This has driven rising prices for Russian supplied gas to Ukraine and transit gas to Europe.

The rising cost of Russian gas led to disputes between Ukraine and Gazprom which resulted in Gazprom halting gas supply to Ukraine and Europe three times between 2006 and 2009. These disputes exacerbated ethnic tensions along an East-West Ukraine divide…

Mark Timberlake
Writer for

A quest for insights from subterranean depths. Seeker of ideas, awakenings, alchemy. Thoughts from a troubled star.