Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine
The modern state of Ukraine was formed nearly 30 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has often made headlines due to political instability and the looming threat of a Russian invasion.
In the map graphic above, we examine Ukraine from a structural point of view. What’s the country’s population composition? What drives the country’s economy? And most importantly, why is the country important within a global context?
Where Do People Live in Ukraine?
With a population of nearly 44 million people, Ukraine is the eighth-most populous country in Europe. For perspective, that is slightly smaller than Spain, and four times larger than Greece.
As the cartogram below demonstrates, a large portion of the country’s population is located in and around the capital Kyiv, along with the Donetsk region—which is front and center in the current conflict with Russia.
Not surprisingly, many of the country’s Russian speaking citizens live on the eastern side of the country, near the Russian border.
Key Facts About Ukraine’s Demographics
Ukrainians make up almost 78% of the total population, while Russians represent around 17% of the population, making it the single-largest Russian diaspora in the world.
Other minorities include:
- Belarusians: 0.6%
- Bulgarians: 0.4%
- Hungarians: 0.3%
- Crimean Tatars: 0.5%
- Romanians: 0.3%
- Poles: 0.3%
- Jews: 0.2%
The country’s population has been declining since the 1990s because of a high emigration rate, and high death rates coupled with a low birth rate.
The majority of the population is Christian (80%), with 60% declaring adherence to one or another strand of the Orthodox Church.
Ukraine’s Economy: An Overview
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine turned over thousands of atomic weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the United States, and other countries. However, the defense industry continues to be a strategically important sector and a large employer in Ukraine. The country exports weapons to countries like India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Furthermore, Ukraine is rich in natural resources, particularly in mineral deposits. It possesses the world’s largest reserves of commercial-grade iron ore—30 billion tonnes of ore or around one-fifth of the global total. It’s also worth noting that Ukraine ranks second in terms of known natural gas reserves in Europe, which today remain largely untapped.
Ukraine’s mostly flat geography and high-quality soil composition make the country a big regional agricultural player. The country is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat and the world’s largest exporter of seed oils like sunflower and rapeseed.
Coal mining, chemicals, mechanical products (aircraft, turbines, locomotives and tractors) and shipbuilding are also important sectors of the Ukrainian economy.
The Bear in the Room
Given the country’s location and history, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Ukraine without mentioning nearby Russia.
The country shares borders with Russia both to the east and northeast. For context, a car trip from Moscow to one of the Ukrainian border cities, Shostka, takes around 8 hours. To the Northwest, Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus—a country that is closely aligned with the Kremlin.
To the southeast is Crimea, a peninsula entirely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. In 2014, Russia annexed the peninsula and established two federal subjects, the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. The annexation was widely condemned around the world, and the territories are recognized by most of the international community as being part of Ukraine.
The region was of particular interest to Russia since Moscow depends on the Black Sea for access to the Mediterranean. The Port of Sevastopol, on the southwest edge of Crimea, is one of the few ice-free deepwater ports available to Russia in the region.
Due to ongoing tensions between the two countries, Ukraine has been seeking to reduce Russia’s leverage over its economy. As a result, China and Poland have surpassed Russia as Ukraine’s largest country trading partners in recent years.
However, Ukraine still remains an important route for Russian gas that heats millions of homes, generates electricity, and powers factories in Europe. The continent gets nearly 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.
Furthermore, Ukraine is connected to the same power grid as Russia, so it remains dependent on Moscow in the event of a shortfall. Even as conflict heats up, the two countries still share economic links, which will influence how the situation unfolds.
Conflict in the Donbas Region
Ukraine stands at the center of a geopolitical rivalry between western powers and Russia, and that rivalry is flaring up once again.
Two regions along the Russian border—Donetsk and Luhansk—have been a conflict zone since 2014, when pro-Russian separatists began clashing with government forces. The map below shows the relative contact zone between the two opposing forces.
Currently Russia has troops and military equipment amassed at various points along the border between the two countries, as well as in neighboring Belarus.
In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, recognizing them as independent states. This recognition serves as a definitive end point to the seven-year peace deal known as the Minsk agreement.
As this conflict heats up, it remains to be seen what will happen to the roughly 5 million people who live in the Donbas region.
Note: As of February 23rd, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military operation into Ukraine. The situation is still evolving rapidly.
Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets
War in Europe has caused Ukraine’s military spend to jump up by 640%. How do the world’s largest military budgets compare?
Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets
In the final year of World War II, the U.S. spent about 38% of its GDP on its military. When adjusted for inflation, the military budget over those four years of war came to a staggering $4.1 trillion in 2020 dollars.
Almost 80 years later, modern day military spending isn’t much of a far cry from World War II budgets. The top spenders have continued to increase their military capabilities, while war in Ukraine has caused countries in the region to re-evaluate their budgets as well.
In 2022, global military budgets hit an all-time high of $2.2 trillion, according to data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the eighth consecutive year of increase. This post looks at the top 40 largest military budgets in the world.
The Largest Military Budgets in 2022
The United States accounts for almost 40% of global military expenditures, with its 2022 spend coming to $877 billion.
Here are the top 40 largest military budgets in the world for 2022 in U.S. dollars:
|Rank||Country||Military Budget (Billions)||% of World
|5||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||$75.0||3.3%|
|9||🇰🇷 South Korea||$46.4||2.1%|
China, ranked second in absolute terms, accounts for another 13% of world military expenditure at $292 billion.
Russia, India and Saudi Arabia round out the top five biggest military budgets in 2022. Add in the UK to the mix (#6 rank), and these countries all had military expenditures that made up at least 3% of global spend.
Comparatively, the lowest budgets on the top 40 ranged include Romania at $5.2 billion, Denmark at $5.5 billion, and Chile at $5.6 billion. They each account for just 0.2% of the world’s military budgets in 2022, and of course there are many countries with even smaller spends.
Largest Military Budget Increases in 2022
Russia’s position as the third-largest military spender is a recent development, as the country’s military spend had a 9% increase between 2021 and 2022, according to SIPRI estimates.
On the other side of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was the top 40 military budget with the largest annual increase in 2022, surging nearly six and a half times above its 2021 expenditures.
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||16%||+3|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||-2.5%||+1|
Ukraine’s dramatic increase represents the highest single-year jump ever recorded by SIPRI, painting a vivid before-and-after picture of a nation engaged in conflict.
Although no other country comes close in matching Ukraine’s surge in defense spending, Qatar saw a substantial increase of 27% over the last year, marking a continuing trend over the last decade of significantly bolstering its military.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia, along with four European nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Poland), have registered year-over-year changes of over 10%.
On the flipside, 13 of the nations with the largest military budgets decreased spend from 2021, including top 15 spenders such as South Korea, Italy, and Israel.
The largest drop was seen by Türkiye, with an estimated 26% reduction in military budget. This drop may be linked to Türkiye’s inflation problem, which saw prices rise 72.3% in 2022—effectively decreasing the purchasing power of their currency in relative terms to other nations.
The Specter of War in Europe
With an ongoing conflict in the region and large financial powerhouses, its no surprise that eight of the top 10 countries with the most significant increases in military spending are located in Europe.
Consequently, European military budgets have reached levels not witnessed since the end of the Cold War.
And amid escalating geopolitical concerns, countries in Asia such as India, Japan, and China have also ramped up their defense spending. This is an indication of simmering global flashpoints such as India and China’s border skirmishes, the longstanding South China Sea territorial conflict, and concerns surrounding Taiwan’s sovereignty.
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