On Feb. 24, 2022, the world turned its eyes to Ukraine as Russian troops invaded. Now, one year later, the war continues and experts are keeping a watchful eye on how the war has changed over the year.
Dr. Thomas Ambrosio, a Professor of Political Science at North Dakota State University, has studied international relations and comparative politics in the former Soviet Union. He also held a talk last year to help people understand the war and what the future might have held. Now, he offers insight of the current situation between Russia and Ukraine and where the war stands today.
“Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year ago is actually a continuation of a conflict that has been going on since 2014 when Russia occupied and annexed Crimea, and pro-Russia secessionists sought to forcibly detach eastern Ukraine from the country with substantial Russian help and limited numbers of Russian troops,” Dr. Ambrosio explained.
Ambrosio also described what the war has meant for the ordinary people of Russia and Ukraine. For Ukraine, he stated, “It has obviously been extremely difficult. Their land has been occupied, their cities and towns bombed, and their economy has collapsed. It is clear that widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed against civilians, including children. Some have even made a case that Russia is committing genocide.”
When explaining the same for Russians, he answered, “Ordinary Russians have seen their economic situation damaged by Western sanctions and have had their sons sent to a war which was the choice of one man and his inner circle. However, a steady stream of Russian state-controlled media has painted such a picture of this war that many Russians believe that they are truly fighting an existential war to preserve Russian culture and even their very country. As for pro-democracy or liberal voices, they have either been suppressed or fled Russia.”
A lot can happen in a year. To describe the contrast between the beginning of the war to now, Ambrosio summarized, “When the war started, nearly all analysts believed that Russia would be far more successful than it wound up being. Expectations were that Russian tanks would be driving through Kyiv within a few weeks and the question would turn to whether Russia would wind up taking all of Ukraine. Due to Ukrainian bravery and Russian military incompetence, the very opposite proved to be true. The war has been an absolute disaster for Russia and they have had to retreat on several fronts. At the current time, Russia has mobilized more troops and is launching an offensive in eastern Ukraine, but this has been a grinding advance more akin to the trench warfare of World War I than the lightning strikes of World War II. The anticipation is that Ukraine is gearing up for a largescale offensive of their own, but we will have to see.”
The White House has made clear their support for Ukraine. Dr. Ambrosio explained the United State’s role in the Russo-Ukrainian war. “The White House does not want to use this language, but the US is openly and deeply involved in a proxy war against Russia. Without extensive US financial and military support, as well as America’s role in organizing and, at times cajoling, our allies to do the same, Ukraine would not be in the position it is today.”
Finding reliable sources of information can be difficult, but Dr. Ambrosio has some advice on how to find information and think critically. “My recommendation is to seek out a variety of news sources, but approach them all with skepticism and caution. As for specifics, the Institute for the Study of War (understandingwar.org) has solid daily updates about the military and political situation. William Spaniel on youtube.com, Warontherocks.com, and 19fortyfive.com have also had great coverage. For the purely military side of things, seek out anything (podcasts, videos, and articles) by Michael Kofman, who provides knowledgeable, thoughtful, and balanced analysis. Also, don’t be afraid to look at Russian state-controlled media in order to understand what is presented to ordinary Russians. We do ourselves no favors by not trying to see the world through other’s eyes, even if we reject their perspective.”
“This war is not likely to end anytime soon. Neither side is likely to achieve their war aims in the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Ambrosio. “Unfortunately, I feel quite certain that we will be marking the second anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine War in a year from now.”