On February 24, Ukraine and the world marked one year since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has remained inconclusive so far. Even though President Zelensky made an impassionate speech commemorating the martyrs and the spirit of his countrymen, it is accepted the world over that Russia is not going to give up its gains, putting Ukraine in a challenging position and its future strategy in a mess.
Where Ukraine stands today and its future plans
What Ukraine is experiencing is the result of playing into the hands of the US and the West, and allowing itself to become a pawn in the Big Powers game in Eastern Europe. To date, Ukraine has lost more than 20,000 of its citizens, 15% of its territory, and a 35% drop in its GDP. Russia may have lost more military personnel in comparison, but its territory and economic growth remain intact, despite sanctions placed on it by the western world and a global media vilification campaign.
Even a year after the war began, Ukraine does not look ready for a compromise. The United States has already pumped 75 billion Euros of American taxpayers’ money into President Zelensky’s war effort, with the EU contributing approximately 55 billion euros. NATO members and non-NATO allies have supplied advanced weapons to Ukraine, including M777 howitzers, drones, and anti-tank weapons. However, despite multiple requests, no country has stepped forward to provide fighter jets to Zelensky’s beleaguered air force.
Renewed efforts by President Zelensky
On the first anniversary of the war, Zelensky has begun on a global outreach in search of partners who might provide more concrete support in bringing the war to a conclusion and helping him save face. With open calls in the US to stop supporting Ukraine with weapons supplies and European countries unable to reduce their dependence on Russian supplies, Ukraine is reaching out to countries that hold positive influence over Russia.
The biggest letdown for Ukraine has been the weak support from the Americans, which Ukraine has been relying on the most. In fact, it was US prodding that gave Ukraine the false courage to provoke Russia and invite tragedy upon its people. The US strategy of encircling Russia with NATO forces by enticing one East European nation after another was bound to invite retaliation from Russia. Ukraine very well understood that, but was under the false impression that NATO would come to its eventual rescue in such an event.
History has proven that the West cares only about its own interests and its own citizens. While Russian military lapses may have resulted in its losing control over some of the territory it captured during the war, the reality is that none of Ukraine’s military strategies have enabled it to wrest back its territory from Russia—be it Crimea, Donetsk, Lukhansk, Kherson, or Zaporizhzhia. Moreover, if the war prolongs, it seems impossible that Russia will give back any of these territories to Ukraine. Even if Russia is unable to gain any more Ukrainian territory, it has succeeded in maintaining buffer territory between its borders and those of NATO allies.
A stalemate in which Ukraine is the net loser
On the first anniversary of the war, what Ukraine received was another round of ineffectual promises as US President Biden landed in Kyiv to meet his Ukrainian counterpart. There were speeches, hugs, and handshakes, as well as commitments to provide $0.5 billion in financial support, weapons, and sanctions on Russia, all meant to demonstrate support for Ukraine as the winter comes to a close and fears of a fresh Russian push into Ukraine looms on the horizon. However, if history is to serve as a guide, none of this is expected to materialize or make a significant dent in the power imbalance between Russia and Ukraine.
By now, it has become known to all that Ukraine is the net loser in this war. It has been weakened economically and diplomatically as none of the regional or middle-order global powers are willing to be on the wrong side of Russia. There have been regional implications too. Regional countries are bearing the cost of hosting thousands of Ukrainian refugees and contributing to the financial support. All of this in the midst of a global recession and inflation that has made life difficult for people across the globe.
What lessons can other nations learn?
Ukraine’s case should serve as a reminder for other aspiring nations who seek to raise their international profile by allying with the West and adopting its worldview. This is the mistake that Ukraine made and which was exploited by the West by propping up Ukraine as a potential challenger to Russia. Ukraine took the bait and it was only a matter of time before Russian patience would run out and it would feel the need to step in and put an end to the posturing. It is a stark reminder of the fact that the West is only concerned about its own strategic interests and not those of its non-western allies.
As far as the US is concerned, it has merely demonstrated that it will continue to seek and rely on proxies to engage Russia and keep it militarily engaged to the point where it can be effectively weakened. Ukraine has proven to be a useless proxy since none of America’s strategic interests have been secured by the war. It is likely that it will continue the search for other proxies in the neighborhood that it can pit against Russia. Thus, it is continuing the Cold War strategy of using non-US forces to fight with Russia while paying lip-service to its allies. The world should realize that stoking regional conflicts is the US’s way of staying relevant and preventing any potential challengers to its global hegemony. Hopefully, the Ukraine experience would open up the eyes of such countries not to fall into the trap and instead rely on diplomacy to maintain good relations with either bloc.