The One-Year Anniversary of the War in Ukraine: Putin’s Miscalculation Is Irreparable
By: Ali Sajad Mawlaee
Exactly one year ago, on February 24, 2022, Ukraine was attacked by Russia, and since then, the battle between the two sides has only grown. Russia is unwilling to give up, while Kyiv is supported by NATO and the West, who have provided tanks and other military equipment in the past few weeks. This war has become a headline around the world, and has had a negative impact on political, military, economic, environmental, social, and technological fields. Analysts believe that this war has been a turning point in modern history, which has transformed the world. The consequences of this war have included a lack of energy in Europe, a lack of grain in the world, millions of Ukrainians displaced and immigrated, cities destroyed, and Ukraine’s energy and industrial infrastructure ruined. This war has created a profound debate among international relations thinkers, who are trying to find an answer to what will happen to the international order after the Ukraine war. In this article, I will examine the consequences of this war on both sides as well as the world.
Today, information plays an essential and fundamental role in our lives. Therefore, having access to accurate data is of great importance when it comes to decision-making. If leaders do not have access to reliable information or their interpretation of the information is different, miscalculations can occur, as seen in the case of Putin. On February 24, 2022, based on Putin’s order, the Russian army attacked Ukraine from three directions, north, east, and south. Initially, Putin believed he could capture Kyiv in a few weeks and the war would come to an end. However, it was later revealed that he had made several strategic miscalculations. The first miscalculation was regarding the military power of Russia and the Ukrainian army. He assumed he could overpower the Ukrainian army and dominate the geography of Ukraine with a sudden multi-directional military attack. Although the Russian army was superior on paper and occupied many areas in the first few days of the war, as the war progressed, the Russians became weaker, and the Ukrainian army gradually regained some of the occupied areas.
The data published indicates that the Russian army has a considerable advantage in all military aspects. They have been more powerful than the Ukrainian army in terms of personnel, equipment, and vehicles. Nevertheless, the Russians have not been able to win due to President Putin’s misjudgment. Putin underestimated the military strength, national power, and morale of the Ukrainian army, believing that the Ukrainian troops would disintegrate from within and President Zelenskyy would flee Kiev. However, this did not occur and the Ukrainian army courageously and fiercely defended their land against the Russian invasion. Another mistake Putin made was that the Russian military generals attempted to manage the war from Moscow, which resulted in more Russian casualties on the battlefield. It is also important to note the weapons aid provided by the West and NATO. Without the assistance of NATO and the West, the situation in Ukraine would likely be different than it is today, and the war would have ended much sooner.
NATO members, particularly the United States of America, have provided billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, including helicopters, drones, artillery, tanks, weapons, ammunition, anti-tank missiles, airplanes, and bulletproof vests.
Under the administration of Donald Trump, the relationship between the United States and Europe became strained, and Joe Biden has not been able to fully restore it. For instance, the United States and France experienced a deterioration in their relationship after France went ahead with the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia. However, the war in Ukraine had a positive outcome for the West, as it enabled the United States and Europe to re-establish their alliance and partnership.
International Aid to Ukraine
Putin’s third strategic mistake was his underestimation of Europe’s ability to cope with the dependence on Russian energy. Believing that a ban on the flow of gas and energy to Europe would bring these countries to their knees, Putin was surprised to find that, as winter draws to a close, Europe has not only been able to cope with the high price of energy but even replace Russian energy. In response, the West and Europe have imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia, the effects of which have been debated by analysts, though it is clear that the Russian economy has been affected. Currently, the Nord Streams 1 and 2 gas line is stopped, a major economic blow to Russia. Although European countries are paying a higher price for energy, in the end, Russia will be the economic loser. These strategic mistakes have damaged Russia’s geopolitical position, though it should not be forgotten that Russia has been successful in destroying Ukraine and demolishing a large part of its economic infrastructure, resulting in a 35% decrease in per capita income and 40% of its energy infrastructure either destroyed or under Russian control.
If miscalculations are made, the consequences for Russia and Putin could be severe. If Russia were to lose this war, it could be a precursor to the disintegration of Russia, as has been seen in the past. This could lead to a struggle for power among the Russian elite.
On the other hand, Western media and analysts have misjudged the effects of sanctions. Many Western experts believed that Western sanctions would be detrimental and would cripple the Russian economy. As previously mentioned, the Nord Stream pipeline has been halted. However, Russian energy exports have not decreased. According to the most recent data from the International Monetary Fund, the Russian economy has only decreased by 2.3% and the inflation rate in this country has risen by 5%. These figures are much lower than what the Western media has been portraying. The second miscalculation of Western critics was the internal developments in Russia and the possibility of a coup against Putin. So far, Putin has been able to successfully quell and suppress the opposing forces.
Costs of War
It is clear that all wars come with a cost, but a conflict in an era where technology has advanced and modern weapons have been developed will be even more devastating, resulting in a high number of casualties. The statistics of the war in Ukraine are shocking and alarming. On February 15, 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Commission released the figures of human casualties of the war. According to these statistics, Ukrainian forces have killed 25 Russian civilians, while the Russians have killed 8,006 Ukrainian citizens and wounded more than 13,000. The number of children killed is 486. If these figures are accurate, the Russians and the army of this country have committed a war crime. So far, 130,000 Ukrainian fighters and 130,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded.
There is no consensus regarding military casualties. The Kremlin has stated that since the war began, approximately 5,500 soldiers of this country have been killed. Conversely, the Ukrainians allege that they have killed or wounded more than 134,000 Russian soldiers. On December 9, 2022, BBC Moscow confirmed that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The United States Defense Intelligence Service has reported that eight to ten senior Russian generals have been killed in the war, while the Ukrainians claim to have killed 13 senior Russian generals. Despite the fact that these statistics can be highly inaccurate, the military casualties of both sides have been very high thus far.
According to the findings of the special research group at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University regarding the war between Russia and Ukraine, both sides have incurred significant losses in terms of military equipment and vehicles. The Russians have lost a total of 9,224 vehicles and war equipment, while Ukraine has lost 2,887 vehicles.
The figures demonstrate that the Ukrainians have been more successful in destroying Russian war equipment. The financial costs of the war have had a devastating effect on the economies of both countries, and if the war persists, both sides will be severely impacted. The Ukrainians were able to ground the Russian tanks due to American missiles. Western equipment aid to Ukraine is one of the main factors of this war, which has thus far prevented Russia from achieving victory.
Another consequence of this war is the displacement and migration of millions of Ukrainians. To date, eight million Ukrainians have migrated across Europe. According to the statistics of the United Nations Migration Department, since February 24, 2022, eighteen million people have departed from the borders of Ukraine, and millions have returned to Ukraine.
The map above illustrates that the majority of internally displaced migrants originate from the eastern, southeastern, and northern regions of Ukraine, which have been the focal point of the conflict over the past year. The cities of Odessa, Kherson, Mariupol, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Kiev have the highest concentration of immigrants.
Since October, Ukrainian forces have been able to reclaim portions of Ukrainian territory that had been occupied by Russia. Ukrainian forces have been in an offensive stance since October and November of last year, resulting in significant losses for Russian forces. For instance, on New Year‘s Eve, Ukrainian forces were able to target over 200 Russian soldiers.
The light pink dots on the map indicate the areas where Russian forces are making progress. The pink areas of the map represent the regions that are under Russian control, with the Crimean Peninsula having been seized by Russia in 2014. The yellow dots, meanwhile, signify the areas that have been recaptured by the Ukrainian army. Among these are the city of Mykolaiv and parts of Kharkiv.
At present, Russia holds 25,000 square miles of Ukrainian land, not including the Crimean Peninsula. According to data from Harvard University, the Ukrainian military has reclaimed more than 54% of the territory seized by Russia, amounting to approximately 29,000 square miles.
In Russia, 41% of citizens are in favor of war, while 59% support dialogue and negotiation. Conversely, in Ukraine, 70% of people support the war, with the remaining 30% willing to negotiate. This statistic demonstrates that Ukrainians have a strong conviction to reclaim their land and are determined to protect their country. On the other hand, a smaller proportion of people are in favor of a powerful and historic Russia. According to many war and peace analysts, this strong spirit of the Ukrainian people has enabled Russia to be victorious.
It appears that President Putin did not anticipate that the United States would provide full support to Ukraine. This was likely due to his confidence stemming from the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and part of Georgia in 2009. In contrast, American experts believed that Russia would only engage in military maneuvers. Russia‘s fear of NATO‘s expansion to the east prompted them to take the initiative and attack Ukraine, which is historically a part of Russian territory, in order to prevent it from joining NATO. This resulted in Finland and Sweden accelerating their process of joining NATO and Ukraine applying for NATO membership. The war in Ukraine over the past year has taught us several important lessons. Firstly, the mentality of war still exists and there is a potential for the use of nuclear weapons. Secondly, Western sanctions are not as effective as they should be. Thirdly, alliances are formed during times of war. Fourthly, the West is still united and committed to defending Western values. Fifthly, the United States remains the world‘s leading power, meaning that regardless of what happens on the battlefield, this country will remain the leader of the Western world for many years to come. Lastly, the dominance of realists over liberals.
At the conclusion of the day, Ukraine is the primary casualty of this conflict. It has become a battleground for two global powers, and there is no foreseeable resolution. The United States and NATO have provided military aid to Ukraine, while Russia is determined to continue the fight. Currently, Russia holds approximately one–fifth of Ukraine‘s territory and is not willing to enter negotiations. As a result, Russia will be further weakened and experience further economic hardship.
- Allison, Graham and Kate Davidson (2023). Russia – Ukraine War Report Card. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.