As this week marks the first month of the war in Ukraine, our Rundown column takes a deep look into what has happened so far and what the future of the conflict holds. This week we analyze the military capacity of both sides, the lives, and future of Ukrainian refugees, the impact of Russia’s invasion on the global economy, and the prospects of stopping Putin’s war. Interested in learning more? Visit our website to hear all about it.
30 Days of War: The Prospects of the War in Ukraine And the Impact It Holds on the World
February 24th marks the day when Putin started an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Hiding behind the lies of “protecting independent regions”, he started a war of aggression that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead and wounded, cities of massive cultural value burnt to the ground and a sovereign nation scattered across the world looking for a safe space. Each week this abhorrent invasion brings more casualties but Ukraine is not giving up – from an incredible willingness to fight to civilian fighters picking up arms and standing up for their sovereign country, day by day this state is pushing the Russian forces back. This begs the question, can Ukraine really win this war?
Military capacity: how the two armies compare and what can the world expect
It comes as no surprise that the global superpower controlled by Putin has an incredible defense budget which stands at $154bil. and is clearly incomparable to Ukraine’s $11.870bil. In the light of this, Russia’s military power exceeds that of Ukraine’s. This is visible in the graph shown below – Putin’s forces outnumber Ukrainian ones in almost all areas of military capacity. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for Ukraine. Ever since the invasion began, Ukrainians have been using their air defense missile systems very effectively and have successfully saved 80% of their pre-invasion air fleet. In fact, a week ago Ukraine’s military reported to have destroyed a total of 108 Russian helicopters and 84 airplanes. Countless news reports on the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a pilot of a fighter jet that shot down approx. 50 Russian planes, have emerged online. In addition to that, stories about local dwellers taking over Russian tanks and passing them on to Ukrainian forces have been all over the news. Hence, even if Russia has more military capacity, it is clearly failing in preserving it compared to Ukrainian forces.
In addition to this, Ukraine has been receiving massive international support. Some of the EU member states have finally started aiding Ukraine militarily. Countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands and others are sending machine guns, fuel, anti-tank weapons, different kinds of rifles and other arms necessary in the fight against Russia. In fact, the European Union has announced this week that it will be doubling its aid to €1bil. while the US has prepared a $350mil. military aid plan. Ukraine has also been receiving huge amounts of medical aid and medical volunteers coming from its ally states like the Baltics. Simultaneously, stories about soldiers from all around the world traveling to volunteer in Ukraine have emerged on social media platforms. The international aid that has been sent to the war-struck Ukraine is incomparable to the one it received back in 2014. In the light of this, Russia seems to stand alone, but is this international support enough?
The Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky has expressed his disappointment with the Western states being reluctant to assist Ukraine in the fight against Russia. Even the current military support is insufficient given the scale of the war. But Ukraine’s demands for implementation of a no-fly zone (NFZ) are hard to fulfill. Russia’s air force is too powerful to be controlled by a NFZ and hence gaining air superiority is almost impossible. But even if such a measure is successful, it is a major risk for the security of the international arena. Implementation of a no-fly zone is a military action which amounts to a declaration of war against Russia. If this happens, the world can expect the conflict to turn into an international war with the entirety of Europe and outside states like China getting involved. Such a scenario is particularly dangerous for the Baltic states which already face high stakes in the ongoing conflict. Although part of NATO, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia cannot risk a war with Putin given their history and the tensions they face because of their support for Ukraine. In fact, even without the NFZ these states have been increasing their defense budgets and receiving more help from NATO, yet that seems to be only further angering Putin. There hence seems to be no feasible way to help – although guns are important, they can’t fight bombs falling from above. At the same time, another World War is too big of a risk for everyone.
Yet, not all is lost – Russia may be better equipped but it does not have the same willpower that Ukrainians have. Countless videos have emerged online showing Ukrainian citizens picking up arms and going to the streets to defend their state. Ever since the invasion started, the Ukrainian government has allowed all citizens to purchase arms. During the first week of the invasion, 18,000 weapons were distributed throughout the population but many stood in queues in arm shops weeks before the war even started. The Ukrainian fighting spirit is even more important once judged in the eyes of historical context – after decades under Soviet occupation and years spent fighting for its independence this state will do anything to protect its sovereignty. This is incomparable to the Russian forces, the majority of which consists of young people who have poor morale and do not clearly comprehend what this war is about. It seems like Russia hasn’t learned from its WW2 mistakes as it continues to send in hordes of unprepared soldiers who do not have the same willingness to fight compared to Ukrainian forces. In fact, facing food and fuel shortages as well as not having a clear reason to risk one’s life in war is forcing some Russian soldiers to surrender to Ukrainian fighters. Once you compare all this, one thing becomes clear – Russia might have greater military capacity, but it does not have the same level of morale nor international support that Ukraine has. The strength of Russian soldiers relies solely on the number of arms, hence the lack of incentive to fight, weak and unclear strategies as well as the habit of leaving military equipment unsupervised is not looking good for Putin. In the light of this once you look at the long term perspective the future is more promising for Ukraine than it is for Putin.
Refugees: where are people fleeing and what’s the future of refugees’ lives
Ever since the first day of the invasion, Ukraine’s neighboring states witnessed thousands of refugees crossing their borders on a daily basis. More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the state, seeking shelter in countries like Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Baltics, and others. Poland, for instance, has accepted 1.2 million refugees by now while Romania accepted 143,000. But these numbers do not stop here. Experts estimate that Europe can expect the refugee count to grow to 5 million if Russia continues its attack and that poses some threats.
While friendly allies are setting up special budgets to help Ukraine, many of them do not have the needed facilities nor mechanisms to properly integrate the refugees. For instance, due to lack of facilities the Lithuanian government is encouraging citizens to take in fleeing families into their homes. Simultaneously, the integration process remains unclear – there aren’t enough schools that could take in Ukrainian students who do not speak Lithuanian or could provide services necessary for them to continue their education. As a result of all this, we might see countries struggling to provide refugees with necessary services and hence facing a prolonged integration process.
But what gives hope are the amount of donations local people are providing for the Ukrainian refugees as well as families left behind. Believe it or not, as of now $13.7 million has been donated to Ukrainian charities via Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Countless charities have opened across Europe and off its shore allowing people to help out those running from war via financial aid or items of basic necessity. In the last two weeks, drop-off donation points were filled with people in countries like the Baltic states, where locals gathered food, clothing, bedding, medicine and hygienic products to be sent out to Ukraine or delivered to the refugees. This all gives hope for the future – as people’s donations allow to directly help the Ukrainian army or humanitarian services, we’re likely to see the resources be effectively used in the fight with Russia. More importantly, the growing numbers of volunteers willing to travel to Ukraine to deliver aid indicate that people are not afraid to fight for justice and support the state. Just as right now, we are likely to see the numbers of donations, aid and volunteers increasing. The incomparable levels of support hence give hope for Ukraine to defeat the enemy and protect its people from becoming casualties of war.
The global market and the Russian ruble: how sanctions will affect Russia’s microclimate and the world as a whole
Ever since the West hit Russia with financial sanctions, the ruble is worth almost nothing – as of today, one ruble is 0.0094 of euro and 0.01 of a dollar. This rapid depreciation that has caused the ruble to lose half of its value is leaving Russian citizens trapped as they are forbidden from transferring money outside of the country’s borders and accessing foreign currency exchanges. On top of that, dozens of corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Adidas, General Motors, Apple, Mastercard and many others have pulled out of Russia altogether. All this combined has harshly affected the average Russian population but it doesn’t seem to target the intended individuals like Putin, his Kremlin puppets and the oligarchs. Despite Western states freezing their assets outside of Russia’s borders the people who hold the power do not seem to be reacting. This allows to presume that individual sanctions will not be successful in the future, however, they are infuriating the Russian population. If Russia’s economy continues to deteriorate, the Western states could face flows of immigrants leaving the world’s biggest country. But there’s another part of the population that sees Putin as the nation’s savior and trusts any action he takes. Research shows that 69% of Russians support Putin, however, these levels are expected to drop as prices increase and sustaining oneself becomes barely possible. In such an event Russia’s economic status quo is likely to alter its political world – while the hardcore Kremlin supporters might keep their positions, those against it as well as the indifferent ones are likely to turn their backs to Putin. In such an event, it is probable that the international community will witness more protests in Russia and attempts by the government to silence the opponents.
But the sanctions imposed on Russia have had an unwanted effect on the rest of the world as well. The first thing that the international community noticed was skyrocketing gas prices which comes as a result of the fact that the sanction-hit Russia is one of the most important oil and natural resource suppliers globally. All individuals depending on oil have been hit hard by the changes on the global market. Regrettably, these prices are forecasted to continue increasing and that means that other products will become more expensive as well.
Since oil affects crucial aspects of other good production like manufacturing and delivery, the global population will be facing increased transportation costs and higher food prices. Such potential outcomes are even more serious when you consider the fact that one in ten exported calories worldwide are produced by either Ukraine or Russia. Given the distorted production chains in these countries, esp. in Ukraine, the states dependent on them or those that cut ties with Russia will be facing a dire need to substitute these imports. This will especially hit countries like Turkey, Indonesia and Egypt who are the biggest wheat importers worldwide and have lost their main source of wheat provision. The food price increase effect is further exacerbated by the fact that the sanctioned states of Russia and Belarus are one the biggest fertilizer exporters. In the light of this, even if some countries are not dependent on them for food production, they might be dependent on their fertilizers which in return will affect domestic food supply. Hence, in the future we can expect not only increasing oil prices but also higher prices of food, transportation and other spheres that affect our lives on a daily basis.
Legislative spectrum: what judgment will Russia receive in the eyes of international courts
Ever since Putin launched his unprovoked war on Ukraine, the world has heard more than enough stories on the violence created by Russian soldiers. But this terror does not stop at more than 2500 innocent civilians laying dead after bombings and shootings – Putin’s forces have been partaking in war crimes. The attacks which target civilians and violate human rights are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law. But that hasn’t stopped Putin from bombing hospitals, schools, shops and other crucial infrastructure used by Ukrainian citizens. On top of that, Russian soldiers are using rape and sexual violence against women and children of Ukraine – a case that is being investigated by the International Commission of Inquiry. As three international courts are investigating the alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops, there is hope in seeing Putin’s puppets awaiting judgment in the Hague. Although we may not see Putin himself in an international court, there is still hope – if the ICJ rules in favour of Ukraine and confirms that the Russian forces have been inflicting genocide and committing war crimes in its territory, then it could force Putin to stop his war and compensate Ukraine for the damages.
But for that to happen, the ICJ’s decision has to be confirmed by the UN Security Council which has Russia as its permanent member that can veto any decision it wants. Since on top of that Russia is a part of the General Assembly, it’s effectively impossible to suspend its membership. This means that it is unlikely that we will see ICJ ruling Russia to be in violation of international law. However, Russia could still be removed from the Human Rights Council. Diplomats also have the ability to suspend Russia from taking part in the General Assembly since such action is not dependent on the vote of the Security Council. Lastly, in the worst case scenario where Russia takes over Ukraine and puts a puppet government in place, the UN can refuse to recognise the government as legitimate. These actions may seem impactless but they can change a lot. Stripping Russia of the right to speak and vote in the General Assembly can force it to change its course of action. Such changes also send an important message of an international scale that could incentivise current allies of Russia to cut their diplomatic ties in fear that they would receive a similar treatment. The legislative side of a conflict is tough to judge since it’s fully dependent on rulings of courts and actions taken by international state representatives, but it does give hope in holding Putin accountable and making Russia think twice before it chooses to proceed with the war.
What we’ve come to learn by now is that this conflict has taken a toll on the world as a whole – in the future we will likely face increasing prices of crucial goods and services but just like in the case of any other global shock the economic problems tend to stabilize themselves. What is more important is pushing Putin out of the land that does not belong with him. While the effect of international courts remains ambiguous, the Kremlin is facing increasing diplomatic pressure and is witnessing more countries turning their backs to it than ever. Sooner or later, a crippled economy and people affected by it will fire back putting additional pressure on Putin and his puppets. Crucially, as the days pass we hear more horrible stories about bombings and increasing casualties, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Ukraine is losing. With an incredible willpower, determined troops and the support of the biggest global superpowers, Ukraine is pushing back the enemy whose army consists of fresh high school graduates, not even aware of what they’re fighting for. While the impact of war may seem unforeseeable, one thing is for certain – the Kremlin is messing with the wrong country, so buckle up Putin, you’re in for a long ride.
- Ballentine, Claire. “Bloomberg – Are You a Robot?” Www.bloomberg.com, 21 Mar. 2022, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-21/oil-inflation-is-raising-costs-for-uber-rides-housing-groceries-and-vacations.
- Blinken, Antony J. “War Crimes by Russia’s Forces in Ukraine.” United States Department of State, 23 Mar. 2022, www.state.gov/war-crimes-by-russias-forces-in-ukraine/.
- Burakovsky, Arik. “Putin’s Public Approval Is Soaring during the Russia-Ukraine Crisis, but It’s Unlikely to Last.” The Conversation, 24 Feb. 2022, theconversation.com/putins-public-approval-is-soaring-during-the-russia-ukraine-crisis-but-its-unlikely-to-last-177302.
- Chmura, Jonasz. “4 Ways the War in Ukraine May Affect the Global Economy.” Trans.INFO, 23 Mar. 2022, trans.info/en/war-in-ukraine-281332. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
- Daniel, Will. “More ‘Dark Days’ Ahead for Russian Ruble.” Fortune, 15 Mar. 2022, fortune.com/2022/03/15/russian-ruble-expert-opinion-invasion-ukraine-continues/.
- Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). “Ukraine: EU Doubles Military Aid to €1 Billion — as It Happened | DW | 23.03.2022.” DW.COM, 23 Mar. 2022, http://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-eu-doubles-military-aid-to-1-billion-as-it-happened/a-61226171.
- Duthois, Thomas. “Which Countries Are Sending Weapons and Military Aid to Ukraine?” Euronews, 4 Mar. 2022, www.euronews.com/next/2022/03/04/ukraine-war-these-countries-are-sending-weapons-and-aid-to-forces-fighting-the-russian-inv.
- Feldscher, Jacqueline. “It’s ‘Effectively Impossible’ to Kick Russia out of the UN, but There Are Other Options.” Defense One, 2 Mar. 2022, www.defenseone.com/threats/2022/03/its-effectively-impossible-kick-russia-out-un-there-are-other-options/362673/.
- Grieco, Kelly. “A No-Fly Zone over Ukraine? The Case against NATO Doing It.” Atlantic Council, 18 Mar. 2022, www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/a-no-fly-zone-over-ukraine-the-case-against-nato-doing-it/.
- Hanbury, Hannah Towey, Sarah Al-Arshani, Bethany Biron, Mary. “Here Are the Major US and European Companies Pulling out of Russia Following the Invasion of Ukraine.” Business Insider, 10 Mar. 2022, http://www.businessinsider.com/list-all-the-companies-pulling-out-of-russia-ukraine-war-2022-3?r=US&IR=T#28-tiktok-28
- Ochab, Dr Ewelina U. “Where There Is War, There Is Rape. Is Putin’s War Any Different?” Forbes, 23 Mar. 2022, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2022/03/23/where-there-is-war-there-is-rape-is-putins-way-any-different/.
- Ponomarenko, Illia. “Ukraine’s Old Air Defense Proves Unexpectedly Effective in Combat.” The Kyiv Independent, 16 Mar. 2022, kyivindependent.com/national/ukraines-old-air-defense-proves-unexpectedly-effective-in-combat/.
- Schmitt, Eric, and Julian E. Barnes. “Some Russian Troops Are Surrendering or Sabotaging Vehicles rather than Fighting, a Pentagon Official Says.” The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/03/01/world/europe/russia-troops-pentagon.html.
- Syal, Rajeev, and Lisa O’Carroll. “Where in Europe Are Ukraine’s Refugees Going?” The Guardian, 8 Mar. 2022, www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/08/where-in-europe-are-ukraines-refugees-going.
- Tidy, Joe. “Millions in Bitcoin Pouring into Ukraine from Donors.” BBC News, 26 Feb. 2022, www.bbc.com/news/technology-60541942.
- 9 News Australia. “Ukraine Government Arms Civilians with up to 18,000 Weapons | 9 News Australia.” Www.youtube.com, 26 Feb. 2022, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edh5dW8JWSg.