• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

The War in Ukraine: One Year One

ByAlfie Shaw

Feb 28, 2023
image of president Zelensky talking at a conference

On the 24th of February 2022 belligerent Russian forces advanced towards Kyiv in an attempt to seize Ukraine. The US offered Volodymyr Zelensky a plane out of the country. However, in an act which has proven symbolic of heroic Ukrainian resistance, he obdurately refused to desert his country while it was under siege. Ever since, the war has not proven to be the walk over which Russia haughtily expected. The Ukrainians have valiantly reminded Europe of what it means to fight for freedom in the face of evil. In many ways the West have resolutely come to Ukraine’s heel.

One of the main tools used by the West to deflate internal support for Putin’s regime and curb Moscow’s funding of the war effort has been economic sanctions. However, GDP in Russia only fell by 2.5 per cent in 2022 and is projected to shrink by even less in 2023. Support for Putin will not dwindle as much as expected if economic life is only mildly disrupted. Indeed, independent polling suggests that 75 per cent of Russians approve of the war. Such measures in an authoritarian country must be taken with a pinch of salt, and the recent study by political scientist Max Schuab which estimates that between 10-15 per cent of Russians lie to pollsters confirms this. This still leaves a majority in favour, however. Funding for the war does not appear to be afflicted either. As I write, Moscow is amassing fixed wing and rotary aircraft on the border in preparation to plunder Ukraine from the sky.

Even if Russia does start to feel the pain economically, there are conspicuous questions over the territorial future of Ukraine. Zelensky has made it clear that he is not going to give up the Donbas and Crimea in return for a cease fire. However, Anne Nivat, a French journalist who visited the occupied regions in the East claimed that she ‘did not meet anyone wanting to re-join Ukraine.’ If the ultimate ambition is to recapture occupied territories, then the uncomfortable reality that citizens there may resist must be considered.

Despite these ugly premonitions, there are reasons for hope at this stage. A cocktail of dogged Ukrainian determination and willing Western military support has meant that Russia have not just been resisted, but in many cases driven back. If Ukraine are to be ultimately victorious, it would act as fortuitous foundation for the rebuilding of the state. Something akin to the effect of the Glorious Revolution on British collective memory or the trial of Louis XVI on the French. When a country has fought for its freedom, it often becomes integral to its functioning as a state and helps to reinforce its sense of identity. Perhaps this foundation myth will help Ukraine overcome the endemic corruption which has so often hindered its development.

However, in the words of Churchill, whose buccaneering war time spirit is often channelled through Zelensky, ‘without victory, there is no survival.’ At this stage, the West and Ukraine must decide what victory will look like.

Image “President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv during the Russo-Ukrainian War” by The Presidential Office of Ukraine is licensed under CC BY 4.0.