How The War In Ukraine Has Changed

War has raged between Ukraine and Russia for the past eight months, costing the lives of over 11,000 soldiers and 3,000 civilians. While it was expected to be a quick and decisive victory for Russia, that has not happened so far, as Ukraine continues to fight and reclaim recently occupied territory. On September 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed all the areas of Ukraine that were occupied by Russian troops. He attempted to justify these actions by holding elections in these regions, but these have been internationally recognized as being rigged and fraudulent. However, the latest developments in the war have revealed that many within Putin’s inner circle are starting to lose faith in him, and therefore leading to distrust within the Russian government. 

Putin’s first strategy in the war seemed to be to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv quickly, and set up a puppet government in Ukraine. However, since that failed, he has now shifted almost all focus on claiming the eastern regions of the country which declared independence from Ukraine years ago. However, even this offensive tactic has proven to be a failure, as Ukraine continues to push Russian troops back in these regions. According to an article in The Guardian, “a coup against Putin will become a real possibility” if Putin continues to wage an unsuccessful war in Ukraine. This has driven the Russian president into a desperate corner, as he is now threatening to use the nation’s vast nuclear arsenal in its effort to conquer Ukraine. While western intelligence indicates that there is no evidence Russia is preparing or motivated to use nuclear weapons, threatening to use them is still a great risk to not only Ukraine, but the entire world. US President Joe Biden has warned that “Armageddon” would be the result if Russia decides to use its nuclear weapons, a clear sign that the west would respond to an attack of that nature. 

Russia and Ukraine have a long and sorted history. Before the Soviet Union, Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire, until the Soviet Union incorporated it after a bloody civil war. During the reign of the Soviet Union, Ukraine suffered extreme discrimination and poverty. When Joseph Stalin rose to power in the 1920s, he instituted his five year plans, which forced the Soviet Union to transform from an agriculture-based economy to an industry-based one. This resulted in the Communist Party seizing grain from millions of peasants to feed the cities, which then caused millions to starve in Ukraine. This time period was also marked by mass deportations, which forced Ukrainians to move into Russia. Finally in the 1990s, Ukraine achieved independence from Russia when the Soviet Union dissolved, however, much of Ukrainian politics since then has held the question of whether it should have close ties to Russia or the European Union. Ever since Putin came to power in 1999, Russia has been pushing Ukraine to rejoin it, even going so far as to illegally annex the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Before invading Ukraine in February 2022, Putin made a speech that formally recognized the independence of several Ukrainian provinces controlled by Pro-Russian Separatists called Donetsk and Luhansk. This speech was the prerequisite for what Putin called a special military operation in Ukraine, which is the current invasion facing the country.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was expected to be a quick victory for the Russians as they are the significantly stronger military power. However, as has been proven time and time again throughout the twentieth and twenty first centuries, great military powers are not always capable of waging wars against smaller nations. Additionally, the assumption that Russia would win quickly in Ukraine vastly underestimates the disorganization of the Russian military. According to declassified US intelligence, Putin was misled by his top generals, who failed to inform him of key details about the war out of fear of angering him. What this says is that Putin was hell-bent on reacquiring Ukraine, and his advisors wanted to ensure he was achieving his goals. Meanwhile, Ukraine was receiving detailed briefs from the US, which indicated that Russia was amassing its forces at its border. The US and other Western allies sent weapons to Ukraine, which are superior to some of the outdated Russian technology. 

The war in Ukraine is increasingly unpopular and has received international condemnation. The United States and much of the European Union has publicly condemned the war, and even staunch Russian allies like China and Iran have privately said that the war was not a wise move for Russia. This condemnation is also coming from within Russia, as thousands of people have marched in the streets of Moscow, and many are attempting to get out of the new conscription laws, which have disproportionately affected ethnic minorities and the lower class. Additionally, as noted earlier, many of Putin’s advisors have started to lose faith in his ability to win the war, and thus cracks have started to form in what was thought to be an indestructible regime. While the prospect of Putin being removed from power seems inviting and potentially likely, as long as the war continues the way it has, his removal is likely to cause unrest in Russia. Putin has consolidated power in Russia for the past twenty three years, but that power is based on the Russian oligarch’s fear of him, meaning that if Putin is removed from office by the oligarchs, there will be a significant power vacuum in Russia. Putin is determined to hold power as long as he can, and is using the threat of nuclear weapons to keep himself in office.

Russia needs to end its brutal war in Ukraine, as the conflict has become increasingly unwinnable for Putin. Additionally, Russia needs to keep threats of nuclear conflict out of its political rhetoric, as this could be the first steps towards a mutually assured destruction, something that Putin is fully aware of. This war has cost thousands of lives, and unless more is done to bring the conflict to a peaceful end, more will continue to die. Not only is Putin threatening the fate of Ukraine, he is also threatening all life on earth.

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