The Russian-Ukrainian War
Currently, the Russo-Ukrainian War has been ongoing since February 2014. After the Revolution of Dignity, Russia supported pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. In the following months, the pro-Russian forces gained a large amount of control over the country, annexing Crimea, and even establishing military bases throughout Ukraine.
Russia’s annexation of at least four territories in Ukraine
During the Russian ukraine war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the annexation of at least four territories in Ukraine. These include the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and the Zaporizhzhia region. These occupy at least 40,000 square miles, roughly equivalent to the size of Belgium or Denmark.
The annexation of these regions marks the biggest forcible takeover in Europe since the Second World War. But Moscow’s claim to control the entire territory is unproven. As of late March, the Russian army had only gained ground in southern and eastern Ukraine.
While Russia’s proxies in the occupied regions say they support joining Russia, they have not shown a willingness to negotiate a serious end to the war. Moreover, they reject any terms outlined by Ukraine.
The Kremlin has threatened to “Russify” the annexed regions and impose its own curriculum on schools. It has also fired missiles at Ukrainian power plants and cities. During a ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace, the Russian president spoke and signed “accession treaties” with the four occupied regions. These will now move to the Russian parliament and then to the constitutional court.
Russia’s rejection of Ukrainian identity
During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been an attempt to undermine Ukraine’s identity. The invasion has also contributed to the deepening of Ukrainian national identity.
In a recent poll, 86% of Ukrainians said that they supported the war, and that Russia is the country’s greatest enemy. However, most Ukrainians were content with soft nationalism, not ideologues.
The modern Ukrainian state, in many ways, is a reflection of the political reality of Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Countries in the Central European region broke with communism, embracing free market capitalism and joining the Western European Union and NATO. In turn, they reimagined their history.
The Ukrainian identity of today is a product of these events. A group of intellectuals have been demanding that Ukraine return to Central Europe since the 1990s. In fact, in the ’90s, the most visible sign of this was the creation of a pro-Western faction led by former businessman Stepan Bandera.
Russia’s strategy for the ukraine war
During the past nine months of the Ukraine war, the United States and the European Union have taken various measures to protect Ukrainians from Russian aggression. Western leaders have criticized Putin’s claims of a special military operation in the East, calling his propaganda baseless. They have also expressed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, deterring Russia from changing its borders.
The United States remains the leader of the West in this conflict. Several Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its invasion, and other countries have slowed their arms imports. However, Russian military losses have been significant, and the military’s reputation has been sullied.
According to the Pentagon, Russian casualties during the conflict have been around 70,000-80,000. That figure, however, may be low. In late March, Russian forces were in retreat in the north.
While the Russians have made little progress in the east, their reluctance to negotiate a serious end to the war has left them vulnerable to further losses.
Voting patterns indicate an emerging sense of national unity
Despite the ferocious crackdowns at home, public opinion in Ukraine remains supportive of the country’s Westward leanings. The war with Russia has created a commonality of identity between Ukrainians of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds, bringing together citizens from all regions of the country. This has encouraged calls for the country’s integration with the EU, and the war has accelerated the decoupling of Ukraine from Russia.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, a political movement sprang up to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. It was called Euromaidan, and the protests gathered momentum. The pro-Russian demonstrators gained control of local administration in Donetsk and Luhansk.
During the war in Donbas, some Ukrainians supported the separatists. But a political Ukrainian generation has grown up in an independent state and is increasingly European. Consequently, the ultimate outcome of the conflict will depend on the West’s response to Russia’s invasion.
Moscow’s ambitions go beyond preventing Ukraine’s entry into NATO. It also seeks to strengthen its influence in former Soviet states. It has been attempting to pressure Ukraine to join the Eurasian Economic Union, a supranational association that would allow Moscow to further its influence. Nevertheless, Russia’s chances of establishing lasting control over Ukraine are eroding with each passing day.