Ukraine, two years later

Two years ago, Europe found itself in a nightmare of anachronistic and violent dynamics that, to this day, seems to have no end while dawn still appears distant.

February 24, 2022 – February 24, 2024

Just like the worst nightmares, the invasion war by the Russian Federation against neighboring Ukraine began in the early hours of February 24, 2022. Kiev’s forces at entry checkpoints were overwhelmed by thousands of soldiers, clattering tanks, and armored vehicles. Simultaneously, the Russian aviation, in ominous attack formations, targeted objectives across Ukrainian territory. The invasion had started, and amidst general dismay – some incredulously trying to understand the reasons behind such an act and others firmly believing that the signals were clear, in a geopolitical “I told you!”, one thing seemed “certain” to many: Ukraine wouldn’t withstand.
It was, after all, a large-scale war by the Russian Federation, armed with one of the world’s most prepared armies, engaged for years in an aggressive foreign policy, involved directly or indirectly, in various theaters of war, towards Ukraine, a Nation that had already seen a part of itself annexed by Russia in 2014 – Crimea – and had been entangled in a “civil war” in the Donbass region, wearing and forgotten by the international spotlight for years.
The numbers and data were certainly not in favor of Kiev, yet few other denials were greater. In a “Leonid-like” call to arms, but above all to resistance, Ukrainian President Zelens’kyj, masterfully using his skills and media savviness, showed to the Ukrainian people and to the world his determination to resist the invader, knowing also to search help outside the borders of his country.
While Kiev’s troops reorganized and tried to resist the relentless Russian assaults in the first three major attack directions, numerous strategic and tactical errors were committed by the latter on the field. This cost Moscow not only the initiative, stalled with the retreat of its forces from the Kiev area and the end of the attempted Kremlin “blitzkrieg” but also a significant quantity of men and resources, resulting in extremely low morale and the urgent need to reorganize. In the following months, Kiev’s first counteroffensive, extremely effective as analyzed in a previous article, almost foreshadowed a collapse of Moscow’s forces. However, this did not happen, and the war entered a stalemate phase that only in the last months of 2023 and early 2024 seems close to changing again.
At this point, summarizing in a few pages the military events (and political ones like the revolt of the Russian Wagner of Prigožin) that followed would be a mere summary, reductionist, and insensitive to the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, not to mention diminishing the countless lives of fallen soldiers. Especially considering that the macro-event in question, the war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, is still ongoing.
After all, battlefields are not just the macabre aggressive manifestation of nations’ foreign policy agendas, but also the place where the strong wills of thousands of men and women collide, pursuing objectives but generally also for their own survival. And it is on this increasingly “inhuman” human aspect of war that it would be good to add another level of complexity.

The Human Factor in Ukraine: Two Years Later

We have mentioned the pride and spirit of sacrifice with which the Ukrainian people and soldiers resisted the invading army, led by President Zelens’kyj. These qualities allowed Ukraine not only to resist but also to exist. To exist not only as a sovereign nation but to exist in the public opinion of the world, especially the “Western” world. This gained Kiev the favor of many governments, translating into military, humanitarian, and economic aid, along with numerous sanction regimes against Putin’s Russia: an economic and political “cutting off ties” (more or less clearly). Images from occupied Ukraine, not only of combat (a topic we will return to) but also of the suffering of the Ukrainian people, forced to flee villages and cities darkened by smoke and riddled with gunfire, monopolized our media and social platforms, arousing indignation and great empathy.
Unfortunately, in line with an extremely widespread trend, “habituation” to those images has set in, and even events of unheard-of violence, such as those that occurred to the civilians of the city of Bucha at the hands of Russian forces, got lost in the “depths of our feeds.” Almost without realizing it, we saw the narrative of the entire war in 2023 shift from “Ukrainian men and women” to their military vehicles. Military aid became the central theme of the “Western” narrative on the war in Ukraine. Discussions and reasoning about quality, quantity, new devices, how to use them, and how they blended with international politics in its more materialistic senses, re-emerged, especially due to the prolongation of this war, which has distanced itself from our hearts and approached our wallets.

Future Perspectives?

Making predictions on such a delicate topic as the ongoing war on Ukrainian soil is extremely complex. In the realm of international relations and geopolitics, nothing is ever simple and linear. As this reflection takes shape, the situation on the front line is extremely difficult. Although military issues seem to be the absolute protagonists of the most contemporary events, now more than ever, they are the projection of international political decisions.
After the much-publicized second counteroffensive by Kiev, which began last summer, came to a halt, squeezing little more than a handful of land, Moscow’s forces have returned to push forcefully. Strong not only in numbers but also in two powerful and volatile allies: time and resources. Over time, Kiev has increasingly needed the economic and military support of “Western allies,” but this support has started to waver in recent months for various reasons, from the internal politics of the involved actors to economic-productive factors.
A period of major electoral challenges is approaching for the European Union and especially for the United States (less so for Putin’s Russia), and the pressures from internal political opposition in many states have made support for Ukraine seem more like an economic burden than a fight in defense of higher values, as it was in the early months of the war. That being said, even though the news does not seem to be the most optimistic for Kiev, support from allies has not ceased, and there are many variables in this regard, with rapid shifts in favor of Ukraine on several occasions.
On the other hand, although Russia now enjoys some significant strategic advantages, it has already seen and apparently accepted a significant downsizing of its military objectives. Despite the Russian economy holding up better than expected against sanctions, the cost of the ongoing war is very high and unsustainable, in these terms and numbers, without internal repercussions not only economically but also on the societal fabric itself. Probably, time, more than other factors, has become a crucial element (for various reasons) for both parties in the conflict.
In conclusion, unfortunately, the diplomatic path has not seen serious attempts at mediation in the recent period, not only between the parties directly at war but also among external actors orbiting this war for two years. Perhaps in the near future, this possibility could be reevaluated, while other theaters of the world are dangerously reigniting in an increasingly tense and complicated atmosphere that goes well beyond the notion of “interesting times.”.

Foto: Ukraine, two years later