Ukraine: A Year Later and Looking Ahead
EVa Schwartz | feb 26, 2023
Friday the 24th marked the first anniversary of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, and as President Biden stated “one year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands.” While many analysts and officials believed the war would be short-lived and result in a Russian victory, Ukraine has proved its strength and indomitable willpower as they have held on throughout the past year. The West has increased financial and tactical support throughout the past year due to its vested interest in seeing a Ukrainian victory. The war provided a wake-up call for the West, as NATO is continuing to realize the challenge that Putin represents. Additionally, the invasion forced the West to understand that having too idealistic a perspective on international security politics can lead to the disregarding of international security threats. This will only increase support for Ukraine, as the West works to mitigate the effects of Putin’s reign, especially due to the increasingly intertwined relationship between Russia and China.
The war has left Russia very isolated and weak because the ambitious initial invasion destroyed the Russian economy. Russia has been incredibly embarrassed by its failure and is suspected to launch a large-scale offensive this spring against Ukraine focused on the Donbas region. This region has been the epicenter of conflict between Russia and Ukraine since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and is of incredible importance to Russia due to the region’s connections with Russian nationalism. Ukraine successfully completed underdog counteroffensives around Kherson in the south and Kharkiv in the north while also managing to push Russian forces back deeper into the Donbas region throughout the past year; therefore, experts are confident that the Ukrainian response to this offensive will be decisive in the outcome of the war.
Analysts suspect that Russia will not be successful in this offensive, though the outcome is dependent on the quick provision of Western weapons, especially combat fighter jets. In January 2023, Western allies agreed to provide battle tanks to Ukraine after months of requests, though these tanks will likely take three months to arrive in Ukraine which may be too late depending on the timeline of the Russian offensive. Weaponry being sent to Ukraine to defend against this spring’s offensive include Marder and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles from Germany and the United States, as well as Challenger 2, Leopard 2, and Abrams tanks from the U.K., Germany, and the United States. France has also pledged to send Ukraine AMX-10 RC light, wheeled tanks to support the offensive against Russia. Thus, Ukraine is better equipped to counter Russia’s upcoming offensive and is more motivated to win the war, though the quick provision of Western weaponry will be the deciding piece in the future of this conflict.
While Western allies initially were hesitant to provide financial and tactical support to Ukraine, this rhetoric has clearly changed. However, hesitation remains around sending Ukraine combat fighter jets despite strong requests from Kyiv for these weapons. The hesitation is largely due to the possibility of the jets being used as offensive weapons instead of defensive weapons, which alludes to the well-known conundrum of the security dilemma. The security dilemma occurs due to incomplete information on defensive weapons, and due to this incomplete information, enemies often interpret increasing defensive capabilities as increasing offensive capabilities and therefore match the increase in weaponry. This situation results in a never-ending cycle of enemies constantly working to match each other’s weapon-based capabilities, which would likely occur if Ukraine was supplied with combat fighter jets.
Military officials remain convinced that the key to ending the war, in addition to supplying increased tactical weaponry, will be at the negotiation table. In the fall of 2022, this was the main rhetoric, and hopes were high that the war would end by the end of 2022. The negotiations proved insufficient. Therefore, hesitation around whether this will be the true key to ending the war is high. Additionally, experts believe that the war may end kinetically in 2023, but continue on as a frozen conflict for an indefinite amount of time. They believe that the Russia-Ukraine crisis may emulate the characteristics of the Korean War, though the Western and Ukrainian response to this spring’s Russian offensive will be the final determinant in the future of the crisis.