1 year on, Russia-Ukraine war seems to have no end in sight

1 year on, Russia-Ukraine war seems to have no end in sight

'This war is going to leave Ukrainians with sense of trauma and it’s going to leave anger on both sides,' says expert

By Darren Lyn

HOUSTON, US (AA) - Russia launched its war on Ukraine on this day last year, in what many people around the world thought would be a swift victory. One year later, the war seems to have no end in sight.

“You cannot ignore the fact that the Ukrainians have resisted and resisted well,” said Peter C. Caldwell, professor of history at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Caldwell told Anadolu in a video interview that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin "underestimated" the Ukrainian army and its preparedness for an all-out war with a world power like Russia.

“Ukrainian resistance was different in 2022 than it had been in the Crimean conflict of 2014. They had been spending time preparing for just such an eventuality,” Caldwell said, adding: “Ukraine in 2014-2015 really couldn’t resist even a small-scale attack, they were nearly defenseless. Their performance was actually shocking.”

“Putin’s attack in 2022 was much stronger. It was a blitzkrieg in the style of Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Throw everything at a smaller country, and it will collapse,” he added.

However, Caldwell said Putin's "overconfidence" may have contributed to why Russia was not successful in making this a quick outcome.

“I think that the Russian leadership seriously underestimated the challenge of invading a country this size," said Caldwell.

"Arrogance and lack of good intelligence could explain why they made such a stupid mistake,” he went on to say.

The professor credits the Ukrainian soldiers and citizens for unifying and defending their country.

“Even if Russia had smashed the government and killed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this war was unlikely to simply come to an end,” said Caldwell. “Because you cannot occupy a country of 40 million people who hate you without having some repercussions.”

Caldwell also said that Ukraine’s allies in the NATO and EU came to its defense quickly including the US, Poland, the UK, Germany, and even Spain.

“The equipment – the howitzers, the missiles, the shells – came at really good moments, and helped force Russia back,” he said.

- ‘War of aggression’

Caldwell said Russia's allies have been mainly limited to Iran and North Korea, with China and India sitting in the wings without contributing any military assistance.

US intelligence estimated nearly 200,000 Russian casualties over the past year, which is double the estimated total of 100,000 Ukrainian casualties.

“This has been a war of aggression,” Caldwell said. “It’s been a war that involves massive violations of the laws of war and massive atrocities, including the removal of populations from occupied areas, including the deportation of children, whether orphans or not, and their placement in foster homes in Russia with the aim of 'Russianizing' them. Already in March, the village of Bucha near Kyiv saw hundreds of civilians and prisoners of war murdered. That’s just the start,” he added.

Beyond the battlefield, he emphasized, the end of the war, whatever its outcome, will not mean an end to the international challenges.

If Russia claims victory, Caldwell said, then NATO and the EU will be on high alert.

“Where do Putin’s ambitions of reconstructing the Russian Empire end? Taking over Ukraine? Why just there?” he said. “What about Poland, what about East Germany, what about the Balkan states, what about Romania, all of which were under Russian domination after World War Two?”

“Where do you stop if you are aiming to reconstruct an empire?” he continued. “And if Putin was able to invade successfully under these conditions once, why not again?”

Caldwell said that the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – “hate Russia” after being occupied in 1940, during the period of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. The countries stand between Russia and its naval base on the Baltic coast. He added Moldova, Georgia and Belarus to the list of potential targets for a Russian "takeover," which he said would create a ripple effect from Romania to Armenia and into Hungary and Poland.

On the flip side, the professor said that even a Ukrainian declaration of victory would not necessarily mean that the violence was over.

“It’s hard to imagine Ukraine reclaiming all of the territories that it has lost, but let’s say that they expelled Russia from most of these territories. Would that end the long-term conflict?” said Caldwell. “Are the victorious Ukrainians going to go in with flowers to greet the people, including a good number of Ukrainian citizens in the east, who were engaged in trying to smash Ukraine? They’re not.”

“I don’t think that the Russian leadership will just give up their long-term goals, either,” Caldwell said. “Even if their army is decimated, Putin has shown that he is willing to do what he can to destabilize the countries he sees as his enemies, from manipulating the media to engaging in cyber-attacks that can’t be traced. He’s shown that he is willing to sacrifice huge numbers of Russians to bring chaos to other lands and open up new opportunities for Russian expansion. That doesn’t end with this war.”

While there is no crystal ball to determine when the Russia-Ukraine war will end, Caldwell said he believes it will likely continue through the rest of 2023 if not longer. Whether it ends sooner or later, he said, the outcome is not good for either side.

“War doesn’t make the world better. It makes the world worse. The dead will not come back to life. This war is going to leave Ukrainians with a sense of trauma and it’s going to leave anger on both sides," said Caldwell.

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