CHICAGO – When Russian troops invade his native Ukraine, Northwestern University professor Johann Petrovsky-Stern worries about his family at home. They all found refuge, including his 88-year-old mother.

Many in the West are embarrassed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, and while the two countries have a complicated history, Petrovsky-Stern said the reason is quite simple.

READ MORE: Russia invades Ukraine on many fronts in a “brutal act of war”

“One sovereign democracy wants to be part of Europe, and another autocratic regime does not want to see it there,” he said.

Petrovsky-Stern said Putin was trying to rewrite the end of the Cold War, which lasted between the then Allied Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, and the United States from 1945 to 1990.

“Many republics of the former Soviet Union have declared their independence, and the Russian Federation has recognized this independence,” said Petrovsky-Stern. “Relevant documents have been signed.”

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In 1991, a large part of the Ukrainian people voted for independence from Russia.

“But the independent culture and language of Ukraine dates back centuries,” Petrovsky-Stern explained. “You had nationalist movements in Ukraine in the 1800s against kings.”

READ MORE: News of Russian invasion shocks Ukrainians in Chicago

Elizabeth Shekelford of the Chicago Board of Global Affairs said Putin had chosen to ignore hundreds of years of independent Ukraine. The question is, will the Russian population and Putin’s oligarchs do the same?

“Do they understand this nationalist view, or is it worth the expensive painful war with this neighbor to preserve this false sense of history?” She asked.

Some fear that if Putin succeeds, what will stop him from invading other countries of the former Soviet bloc? For Americans wondering why they should care about conflict overseas, experts said such instability in a globalized world would have a dramatic impact on all of us.

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