The Centre for International Security Director answers three questions on anniversary of Russian invasion of Ukraine.
One year ago today, Russia invaded Ukraine, shattering years of peace in Europe. Marina Henke, Centre for International Security Director and Professor of International Relations at the Hertie School, gives her insights on how the war has changed the world and Western support for Ukraine.
It has been one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. How has the war changed Europe and the world from a security perspective?
When Russia amassed troops near the Ukrainian border this time last year and the United States warned that a Russian invasion was imminent, political debates in Germany focused on whether sending protective helmets to Ukraine would be considered too aggressive. One year later, at the recent Munich Security Conference, Chancellor Olaf Scholz complained that German battle tanks were not being delivered to Ukraine fast enough. The overturning of age-old tenets of German foreign policy is a testament to the magnitude of the changes that have taken place over the last year. And these shifts are not limited to Germany alone, as nations like Sweden and Finland, with a longstanding tradition of neutrality, have chosen to join NATO. Although Europe and the Western world are largely united in condemning and imposing sanctions on the Russian government, prominent countries like China and India have chosen to remain neutral, exposing rifts across the globe. Crucially, what is at stake here is not only the future of Ukraine, but the future of the global rules-based order: can a larger, nuclear-armed state invade a smaller, nuclear-free state, breach international law and escape punishment?
How decisive has Western support been for Ukrainian military successes?
When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last year with a force of up to 190,000 soldiers, many analysts predicted that the Ukrainian defence would quickly crumble. Yet one year on, reports indicate that Russia has lost as many as 200,000 soldiers, including numerous high-ranking military officials, while the Ukrainian army has achieved significant victories. Western support has undoubtedly been critical in enabling the Ukrainian military to take on the larger and, at times, better-equipped Russian military, but it is important to acknowledge that none of this would have been possible without the will and courage of the Ukrainian people and their government.
What are the prospects for an end to this war?
The conflict in Ukraine is unlikely to end soon – it could persist for months or even years. In a recent two-hour speech, President Vladimir Putin said nothing about negotiations, but instead reaffirmed his false claim that the West is waging war against Russia and that his country must emerge victorious. The Ukrainian government is understandably unwilling to cede territory to Russia, especially given the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in occupied Ukraine.
The next months of the conflict will be very tense and bloody. Russia intends to reap the advantages of its recent recruitment drive and its weapons supplies. Ukraine can only stand a chance if the West is willing to continue its arms deliveries. But these deliveries also carry risks: they can lead to Ukrainian battlefield successes that could force Putin to negotiate or push Russia to escalate even further. The most likely outcome is a stalemate that will eventually exhaust all parties to the conflict and push them to take steps to end the conflict.