500 days of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian War allow not only to analyze the course of hostilities but also to determine the tendencies in the development of the situation in the world. This confrontation has already become the biggest challenge to global stability in the 21st century. Its completion will cause significant changes in the system of international relations that have developed after the Second World War. The nature of transformations will obviously depend on the algorithm for the end of hostilities.
Russian-Ukrainian War: global dimension
On the morning of February 24, 2022, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which had begun back in February-March 2014 with the annexation of Crimea, moved from the phase of hybrid confrontation to the format of large-scale military operations on land, in the sky and at sea. This war has become a powerful challenge for both states, and its scale significantly affected the situation in the world as a whole. Despite the fact that in February 2022, the Russian Federation felt strong enough to try to subjugate Ukraine, the Kremlin’s “blitzkrieg plan to overwhelm Ukraine” turned out to be unrealistic.
It is worth paying attention to the global dimension of the confrontation. The Russian-Ukrainian War has become the largest armed confrontation in the world in the 21st century, its influence on world politics and economy remains noticeable and growing. It demonstrated that in post-war Europe, countries practically have not prepared for large-scale hostilities, Russia was an unfortunate, thus a predictable exception. The development of the situation proved that the Kremlin’s aggressive rhetoric was a kind of warning about Russia’s further actions.
The large-scale invasion objectively proved that the Kremlin’s bet on hybrid methods of conquering Ukraine has not worked. After the annexation of Crimea and the instigation of the war in the east of Ukraine in 2014, its internal stability has grown significantly and acquired real manifestations. The parameters of stability and the degree of consolidation of Ukrainian society have been significantly underestimated by both the Kremlin and the expert environment in the West. Although in February 2022, the territory of Ukraine turned into the «bloody lands» of the Baltic-Black Sea region, it has retained its statehood and governance.
Ukraine has solved the issue of its geopolitical survival on the battlefield, proved its viability as a state. Its foreign policy subjectivity allows us to assume a new role for the Ukrainian state in the post-war world. This seems to be the key to the transformation of the Baltic-Black Sea region. Unfortunately, the low organizational efficiency in the crisis conditions of the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross has become obvious to everyone. Besides the discussion about reforming the UN, we will have to talk about the transformation of the system of international relations as such.
NB: Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine has become a challenge for the world system of international relations, a catalyst for transformations in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The Kremlin’s desire to carry out a blitzkrieg and enter the operational space of the Old World, having Ukrainian resources under its control, has failed. The desire to tame Ukraine became an unbearable burden for the Russian Federation and caused, in particular, the introduction of the largest economic sanctions against it in its whole history.
Divorce through deaths
The status of the «former republic of the USSR», which both participants in the Russian-Ukrainian War hold, does not fully convey the scale of the contradictions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia traditionally played the role of metropolis in Moscovia/ Russian Empire/ Soviet Union. Ukraine was not only colonized by a neighboring state, but for centuries it was a donor of resources (human, natural, financial) for its development. For centuries, the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions leaned on the conquered Ukraine, but in the 21st century this bet has not played out. Therefore, the Russian-Ukrainian War will be a moment of truth for the post-Soviet space, at least in view of the scale of losses and destruction caused by the actions of the aggressor.
The illusion of Russian dominance over the ruins of the USSR after 1991 is rapidly disappearing. In the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Armenia they are increasingly looking for ways to reconcile. If the negotiations on mutual recognition and the conclusion of a peace treaty are successful, the issue of liberating the territories of Georgia occupied by Russia will gradually arise. Let me remind you that after the August War in 2008, Russia has controled 20% of the territory of the largest republic of the South Caucasus. The current position of the ruling Georgian Dream Party should hardly be misleading, because the anti-Russian sentiments of Georgian society are noticeable.
No less revealing was the speech of the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, at the Russia-Central Asia summit in October 2022, calling on the Kremlin to respect the states of Central Asia. After the beginning of Russian aggression, the Kremlin began to significantly lose its leverage over the post-Soviet space. The participation of a group of leaders of the post-Soviet states in the celebration in Moscow on May 9, 2023, the Day of Victory over Nazism, was the culmination of the decline of Russian influence. The Kremlin proved capable only of using the presidents of Central Asian countries and the leaders of Belarus and Armenia as human shields. Let’s also mention the China-Central Asia summit, which took place in May 2023 in the city of Xi’an. During it, official Beijing offered the countries of the region a number of measures of political, economic, and military support, which testify to its desire to intensify its policy in Central Asia.
Belarus, led by Oleksandr Lukashenko, remains Russia’s only public ally today. The 2020 presidential election was a Pyrrhic victory for him, and in 2021, due to the «Protasevich affair» and the migration crisis, the Kremlin significantly strengthened its control over its own ally. In February 2022, the territory of Belarus became a bridgehead for the invasion of Ukraine. Later, Belarus turned into a rear base of the aggressor, became a place for Russian servicemen training. During March — October 2022, missile attacks on Ukraine were carried out from the territory of Belarus. However, this was not enough for the Kremlin, and Vladimir Putin announced the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in July 2023. Together with the possible transfer of a part of the «Wagnerians» to Belarus, this looks like a practical attempt to expand the territory of the armed conflict, to create prerequisites for involving Belarus in hostilities. At the same time, we remind you that hundreds of citizens of Belarus who are opposed to Lukashenko are fighting in the ranks of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.
In the autumn of 2022, after the announcement of partial mobilization in the Russian Federation, hundreds of thousands of its citizens left for neighboring countries, entry to which visa was not required. The subordination of the Federal Border Guard Service to the FSB of Russia shows that this algorithm of actions of Russian citizens is not accidental. It is worth remembering that the hybrid methods of influence, which have not worked in Ukraine, remain relevant for the countries of the post-Soviet space and the Balkans, which survived difficult trials in the 90s of the 20th century. Therefore, the countries of Central Asia, the South Caucasus and the Balkans can be considered by the Kremlin as springboards for its own activity in various forms.
Moldova deserves a special mention, which in June 2022, together with Ukraine, received the status of a candidate for membership in the European Union. Systemic provocations by pro-Russian forces still continue there. In the spring of 2022, the struggle of pro-Russian forces against the banning of St. George ribbon on the territory of Moldova was carried out against the background of informational provocations on the subject of a possible invasion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the territory of the self-proclaimed Transnistria. According to Russian propagandists, the goal of the invasion was to capture the artillery warehouses in the village of Kolbasna, where more than 20,000 tons of ammunition were concentrated.
In the autumn of 2022, protests organized by the Shor Party began in Chisinau, their reason being the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. Ilan Shor replaced Ihor Dodon as the leader of Kremlin policy in Moldova. However, the appointment of Dorin Recean as the Prime Minister of Moldova allowed to stabilize the situation. Ilan Shor received a court verdict in the case of embezzlement of a billion euros, the Constitutional Court of Moldova declared the «Shor» Party illegal. The holding of the second Summit of the European Political Community in the country contributed to the strengthening of Moldova’s position in the European arena. However, the coming to power in Gagauzia (an autonomous region within Moldova) of Yevgenia Hutsul, candidate of the «Shor» Party, and the upcoming local elections do not allow the situation in Moldova to be overlooked.
NB: Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine has become a signal for the countries of the post-Soviet space to seek new opportunities for their own development. Only Belarus remains in the sphere of unconditional influence of the Kremlin, others are in search of their own independent development paradigm or new patrons. The future defeat of Russia in the war against Ukraine will complete the process of decolonization of the post-Soviet space and will cast doubt on the existence of the «Russian world».
Worth knowing: the pecularities of the main war of the 21st century
Russian aggression against Ukraine has become a catalyst for the War of Independence for the Ukrainian people. The successful actions of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, which rely on the massive support of volunteers and caring citizens, contribute to the completion of the process of formation of the Ukrainian political nation. It is significant that the completion of the nation-building process takes place (of course, according to other algorithms) in Belarus and Moldova. In the foreseeable future, these tendencies will have a positive impact on the political climate of the Baltic-Black Sea region and Europe as a whole.
Although in most modern states the church is separated from the state, the Russian-Ukrainian War is a confrontation between the states with the largest Orthodox denominations in Europe. Therefore, the role of the Orthodox Church in ideologically ensuring the functioning of the state institutions of both states is at least noticeable. If in Russia the Russian Orthodox Church takes an exclusively pro-government position, then in Ukraine there is an ongoing confrontation between the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, formed in 2019, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is the largest component of the Russian Orthodox Church. The nature of the conflict allows us to predict significant changes in world Orthodoxy after the end of the Russian-Ukrainian War.
Since the model of exercising power and its sacredness in Russia and Ukraine are significantly different, it is worth paying attention to a kind of «exchange of roles» between the presidents of these states. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had no political experience before being elected to the post of head of state, after February 24, 2022 turned into a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to aggression, becoming one of the most popular politicians in the world. Instead, Vladimir Putin, who has been in power in various forms for over 20 years, is seriously degrading, becoming politically passive. It is becoming more and more difficult for the head of the Russian Federation to respond to challenges. Alarming signals for the Russian establishment were Putin’s New Year’s greeting and his presidential message, filled with ideological clichés about Ukraine and the Ukrainians and the West, which supports them. Putin is using a pre-packaged record about «Ukrainian neo-Nazis» and «the West that wants to destroy Russia». The short, unsuccessful, but eventful mutiny of the Wagner group, which took place at the end of June 2023, demonstrated the weakness of Russia and its authorities.
Since the start of hostilities on February 24, 2022, the political leadership of the Russian Federation has not declared war on Ukraine. Due to the desire to carry out a blitzkrieg, the Kremlin made a bet on the phrase «special military operation». However, the development of events, in particular, significant losses of the Russian army, forced Vladimir Putin to announce a partial mobilization in September 2022. Another interesting fact: even the military mutiny of the «Wagner» PMC, which became the biggest political crisis in Russia since October 1993, has not forced the Kremlin to declare martial law or at least the regime of a counter-terrorist operation. The Russian leadership does not dare to recognize the existing reality and respond to challenges in accordance with the requirements of the Russian legislation, which confirms the hypothesis about Russia as a failed state.
The confrontation between the military leadership of the Russian Federation, represented by Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, and the owner of the private military company «Wagner» and the media group «Patriot» Yevgeny Prigozhin became one of the key events of the 500 days of the Russian-Ukrainian War. Prigozhin has long been the executor of «delicate assignments» on a national and global scale for Vladimir Putin, and in the autumn of 2022 he legalized his leadership of the private military company «Wagner». The involvement of tens of thousands of prisoners in its ranks under the sanction of the authorities, the participation of the «Wagnerians» in the fierce battles for Vugledar and Bakhmut, ultimately the unsuccessful but high-profile rebellion of Prigozhin on June 24, 2023 and the reaction of the Russian leadership to it demonstrated the depth of the crisis of relations within the Russian government.
The Russian-Ukrainian confrontation in the international arena, in particular, in the United Nations, looks paradoxical. The vote in the UN General Assembly on the issues of pseudo-referendums, which the Russian authorities led in the occupied territories of Ukraine, demonstrated the attitude of the world community to Russia’s actions. It managed to gather a «coalition of rogues» — Nicaragua, Syria, Belarus and the DPRK (in March 2022, Eritrea voted for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, but Nicaragua did not). An informal but effective member of this coalition can also be called Iran, which supplies Russia with kamikaze drones, which it uses to launch strikes on critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine. At the same time, the activities of the UN Security Council, in which Russia abuses the right of veto, are increasingly criticized. Its apogee was in April 2023, when Russia presided over the UN Security Council. Therefore, discussions about the necessity of reforming the UN Security Council and excluding Russia from its membership are becoming more and more active.
I would remind you that the Defense Forces of Ukraine have achieved a number of successes at sea and in the airspace, where Russia’s superiority seemed unconditional. The flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the missile cruiser «Moskva», was destroyed by a missile doublet of the Ukrainian-made Neptun anti-aircraft missile defense system. This allowed the Defense Forces of Ukraine to regain control over Zmiinyi Island (Snake Island) in the summer of 2022. Hundreds of enemy planes and helicopters have been destroyed in the air, Russian strategic aviation airfields have been attacked, and an A-50 anti-aircraft defense aircraft has been damaged at the Machulyshchi airfield (Belarus).
At the beginning of the large-scale invasion, there was made an attempt to negotiate between Russia and Ukraine. Three rounds (February 28, March 3 and 7, 2022) took place on the territory of Belarus, where the Russian and Ukrainian delegations arrived on predetermined routes. However, the negotiations turned out to be unsuccessful, in particular, due to the exposure of war crimes committed by the Russian occupiers in the suburbs of Kyiv. The Istanbul Communiqué, proposed by Ukraine and which included a number of compromise positions, quickly lost its relevance due to the large-scale war crimes committed by the Russian occupiers in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv. And the fact that Vladimir Putin tried to use it in the summer of 2023 to undermine confidence in the political leadership of Ukraine testifies to the Kremlin’s technological approaches to negotiations.
The scale and impact of the Russian-Ukrainian War on the world have made the search for ways to reconcile its participants promising in view of the possibility of receiving dividends from the process. It is obvious that in this issue, the palm of the hand for the efforts made belongs to the President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, who has repeatedly stated his desire to bring Russia and Ukraine to the negotiating table. On February 24, 2023, the People’s Republic of China, presented its own peace plan while the special representative of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Li Hui, visited Kyiv, Moscow and a number of European capitals in the spring of 2023. The visit to Kyiv and St. Petersburg by a delegation of representatives of African states led by President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa should be perceived as an additional lever of pressure behind which Beijing stands (the People’s Republic of China has a significant influence on the course of events in a number of African countries). Mediation efforts were also carried out during 2022-2023 by Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Karl Neghammer.
The fierce military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine has not become an obstacle for the transit of Russian energy resources through the territory of Ukraine in the interests of the EU countries. A noticeable decrease in the volume of transit does not seem fundamental. Obviously, its possible termination for one reason or another can be used by the Kremlin to undermine Ukraine’s support within the European Union.
It is worth emphasizing the significant humanitarian and economic components of the Russian-Ukrainian War. After February 24, 2022, millions of Ukrainian citizens were forced to leave the state or become internally displaced persons. Verification of their number has not been completed today. The Russian invasion has caused the largest migration crisis in Europe since the Second World War, the consequences of which will be felt even after the end of hostilities. The Ukrainian authorities will have to make titanic efforts to return their citizens home, because the assimilation of Ukrainian temporarily displaced persons is an obvious goal for a number of European states.
Although the Russian-Ukrainian War has not spread beyond the continent, its impact is global. This was evidenced by signing the grain agreement between the UN and Turkey and Russia and Ukraine (the warring parties each signing their version of the agreement). Thanks to its functioning, Ukraine has managed to export more than 32 million tons of grain, confirming its own significant contribution to world food security. However, it is worth noting that the extension of the grain agreement is used by the Kremlin for blackmail and pressure on the world community. Russia is very interested in reviving the export of its own grain and fertilizers, emphasizing its own grain export capabilities to African countries.
A forced change in the logistics routes of Ukrainian grain caused a crisis in Ukraine’s relations with its Central European neighbors in the spring of 2023. Ukrainian grain has become a problem for farmers of countries bordering Ukraine, which has caused corresponding restrictive measures introduced first by the governments of these countries, and later by the European Commission.
These examples clearly demonstrate the economic impact of the Russian-Ukrainian War in the field of world food security.
NB: The Russian-Ukrainian War has not only become the largest military conflict in the modern world, but also has given rise to a number of significant challenges. Their classification, analysis, determination of ways of response will allow the establishment of civilized countries to better understand the origins of Russian policy and form an algorithm of measures to adequately respond to these challenges. The invasion of Ukraine has become a turning point for the discussion about the place and role of Russia in the system of international relations and the attitude of the civilized world towards it.
Kremlin’s Dirty Games
The Kremlin relied on various forms of nuclear blackmail during the large-scale invasion of Ukraine. The systematic nature of the actions of the Russian authorities allows us to talk about the planning of the measures, there is a version that the deputy head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, who had been heading the Rosatom corporation in 2005-2016, is responsible for this.
Russian troops took control over the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plants in the first weeks after a large-scale invasion in 2022. The first one is the most famous nuclear facility in the world, decommissioned more than 20 years ago, the second one is the most powerful nuclear power plant in Europe. In March 2022, the occupiers were forced to leave the territory of the Chernobyl NPP, however, the Zaporizhia NPP became the subject of constant manipulation. Vladimir Putin’s decree on the transfer of the Zaporizhzhya NPP to Russian ownership became an example of the largest theft of an energy infrastructure object, carried out publicly. Despite the visit to the NPP by the IAEA delegation led by the president of the organization, Raphael Grossi, IAEA observers remained at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, but this did not prevent the occupiers from mining this energy facility.
Russia did not limit itself to measures of a military nature. In the autumn of 2022, the Kremlin conducted a large-scale informational and psychological operation aimed at discrediting Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused the Ukrainian leadership of preparing to use a nuclear bomb in the south of Ukraine. Corresponding hints were also made by Vladimir Putin. With their statements, the representatives of the Russian Federation sought to create the image of Ukraine as a terrorist state, but they did not succeed in this matter.
It should be recalled that in October 2022, the Russian invaders began regular shelling of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure facilities. In this way, they sought, on the one hand, to stop Ukraine’s export of electrical energy to EU countries, and on the other hand, to cause a blackout and a communal disaster inside Ukraine. If the first task was accomplished thanks to powerful missile strikes, the Russians failed to provoke a systemic blackout in Ukraine. I would like to note that the Ukrainian experience of countering such attacks is widely studied by partner countries, since attacks on energy infrastructure facilities have become a kind of Kremlin know-how.
The destruction of the Kakhovskaya HPP in the Kherson region, which occurred on the morning of June 6, 2023, was not only a large-scale man-made disaster. The consequences of this tragedy for local residents, the environment, and the economy can be compared to the consequences of using a tactical nuclear charge without the direct use of weapons of mass destruction. The destruction of the Kakhovskaya HPP dam aggravated the problem of nuclear safety at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, because the reservoir for cooling the reactors was fed with water from the Kakhovskaya reservoir.
The placement of Russian tactical weapons in Belarus can obviously also represent a danger for Ukraine, but it seems that the main direction of psychological pressure in this case was chosen by the Kremlin in Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania is experiencing a political crisis and will host the NATO summit on July 11-12. Parliamentary elections have started in Poland, and the socio-political situation is quite tense. Information manipulation around nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, a combination of conventional (tactical nuclear weapons) and non-conventional (prospects of placing units of the «Wagner» PMC on the territory of Belarus) testify to the Kremlin’s plans to exert psychological pressure on countries that are quite clearly aware of the scale of the Russian threat. This is evidenced, in particular, by the publications of one of the ideologues of the current Russian government, Sergei Karaganov.
NB: After 1945, mankind had no experience in the practical use of nuclear weapons, which turned into a factor of political deterrence in the conditions of a bipolar world. Russia seeks to impose its own logic on the existing multipolar world, demonstrate its readiness to use nuclear weapons, using the «Chernobyl factor» and control over the Zaporizhia NPP. The Kremlin will continue to try to play on the «nuclear fears» of the world in its own interests.
The edge in the struggle between Good and Evil
Ukraine has become the edge in the struggle between Good and Evil after the large-scale Russian invasion. The realization of this fact by the representatives of the West caused a number of organizational steps. Already in April 2022, on the initiative of the USA and its NATO partners, the Ramstein format was created, which allowed not only to discuss the prospects for strengthening the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but also to coordinate new supplies of military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that the countries of the Alliance have provided Ukraine with 150 billion euros of aid. «Ramstein» can be considered as a prototype of future changes in the system of international relations, which testifies to the global influence of the Russian-Ukrainian War.
Although in the process of the Euro-Atlantic integration of Finland and Sweden, due to the position of Turkey and Hungary, there was an effect of imbalance (Finland became the 31st member of NATO, and the Euro-Atlantic path of Sweden turned out to be somewhat longer than expected), the factor of the Russian invasion of Ukraine can be called decisive for the next expansion of the Alliance.
Changes in NATO’s approach to the provision of military-technical assistance to Ukraine can be considered through the next stages of supplying arms to our country. It is worth recalling that at the time of the large-scale invasion, Ukraine did not have any binding agreements on the provision of military-technical assistance:
- In January — February 2022, the supply of thousands of Javelin, NLAW ATGMs and Stinger and Piorun MANPADS was organized to Ukraine. The logic of the choice of weapons was determined by the dominance among Western analysts of the belief that Ukraine would fall apart as a result of Russian aggression. Accordingly, the Armed Forces were strengthened with the help of firearms that could be used during guerrilla operations.
- In April 2022, the delivery of 155-caliber howitzers, which are in service with NATO, began to Ukraine. The first suppliers were the USA, Poland and France. The Western Allies, within just 7 weeks after the start of the large-scale invasion, were convinced that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were capable of resisting the aggressor. The war crimes of the Rashists in the occupied Ukrainian territories can be added to the complex of factors in the decision-making process. Another factor is the creation of the Rammstein format, which was discussed above.
- In June 2022, the first American HIMARS surface-to-air missiles were transferred to Ukraine. Only 20 units of this weapon were transferred to Ukraine, but they not only delivered effective fire strikes, but also became a curse for Russian propaganda. Skilled use of HIMARS by the Defense Forces of Ukraine made it possible to significantly influence the course of hostilities.
- At the border of 2022-2023, the authorities of the United States, Germany and the Netherlands approved the decision to transfer Patriot anti-missile batteries to Ukraine. The catalyst for the transfer of high-tech weapons was the massive missile attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine by Russian troops.
- In January 2023, the formation of a «tank coalition» by a number of NATO countries began with the aim of creating the military and technical prerequisites for a counteroffensive by Despite the fact that the process of transferring heavy offensive weapons to Ukraine involved political decisions, the number of tanks transferred to the Defense Forces of Ukraine is in the tens. As in the process of transferring Soviet-style tanks, Poland is the leader.
- The May Decision of Great Britain on the transfer of Storm Shadow missiles to the Defense Forces of Ukraine can be called the last completed stage of providing Ukraine with high-tech weapons. These long-range missiles have already been effectively used, in particular, against the Chongar bridge, which is strategically important for Russian troops, which connects the occupied part of the Kherson region with the Crimean peninsula captured by the Russians back in 2014.
It is worth emphasizing: if by February 24, 2022, many NATO and EU countries, in particular, Germany and France, had considered it impossible to supply our country with lethal weapons, then already in the spring of 2022, the situation changed radically. The catalysts for the change in approaches were the war crimes committed by the Russians in Ukraine and the European establishment’s awareness of the need to effectively restrain the Kremlin’s ambitions.
The adoption of the Lend-Lease law by the United States was a rather demonstrative step on the part of Ukraine’s Western ally. The term has returned to active use since World War II. Joseph Biden used this document as an element of pressure on the Kremlin and a tool of political struggle within the United States. The US President’s visit to Kyiv and his speech in Warsaw became elements of the formation of Joseph Biden’s position on the Russian-Ukrainian War. Let me remind you that he has a high level of expertise regarding Ukraine, and helping our country can become an element of political success for Biden.
NB: Ukraine has received significant military-technical and financial assistance from Western partners. It allowed her to counter Russian aggression more effectively. However, we should not ignore another fact: arms manufacturers received a unique opportunity to test their products in combat conditions in Ukraine, which caused an increase in demand for them in the world. However, the decision to supply weapons to Ukraine was primarily a political, not an economic, step.
Ukraine. Integration dimension
Russian large-scale aggression also accelerated the process of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine. The aspiration to become a member of NATO and the EU was reflected in the Constitution of Ukraine as early as 2019, but real steps towards integration by 2022 were rather sluggish. The invasion of Russian troops has caused significant changes. On February 28, 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, together with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal and the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk, submitted an application to join the European Union. It was satisfied in record time (together with Ukraine, Moldova has received candidate status). The reason for the operational decision seems to be the desire of the EU to use the process of reconstruction of Ukraine after the end of the war as an impetus for its own economic development and to strengthen its own foreign policy subjectivity in the conditions of the activation of the Kremlin.
Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine looks less successful. In September 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced the submission of an «accelerated application» for Ukraine’s entry into the North Atlantic Alliance. However, Ukraine has not yet succeeded in implementing the integration process under the accelerated procedure, at the summit in Vilnius it was promised a «powerful political signal». The Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, made it clear that the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO can appear only after the end of the Russian-Ukrainian War.
We have to admit that for a long time Ukraine was among the outsiders of Europe in terms of economic development. Problems with corruption, inefficiency of the economy, dependence on the import of energy resources were not only obvious to the partners, but also created skepticism about Ukraine’s ability to repel Russian aggression. However, the development of events during the 500 days of the large-scale invasion proved the viability of Ukraine as a state. It should be noted that the Russian invaders consistently destroyed the economic infrastructure of Ukraine during the entire period after February 24, 2022, seeking to inflict as much damage as possible. The statement of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, about the readiness of the EC to become an operator of the recovery of Ukraine shows the desire of the European Union to help our country and keep it in the sphere of its own political influence. At the same time, in the matter of rebuilding Ukraine after the end of the war, the EU will have to compete as a systemic investor with the USA, the countries of the Persian Gulf and, possibly, China.
NB: Ukraine’s path to NATO and the EU is quite long, because, for example, the Charter on a special partnership between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Alliance was signed back in July 1997. However, the large-scale invasion of Russia has significantly changed the attitude within Ukrainian society, emphasized the expediency of joining NATO and the EU. Considering the scale of Ukraine, it can be emphasized that any integration project in Europe will not be complete without its participation. After February 24, 2022, Ukraine has reasons to position itself as a defender against the Russian invasion, combining this positioning with the acceleration of transformations within the state.
Fakes and dehumanization
An important aspect of the Russian-Ukrainian War was the use of fakes and propaganda. For a long time, Russia and Ukraine were in the same ideological paradigm, created during the time of the Russian Empire (the myth of the triune Slavic people). For years, the Russian Federation has consistently dehumanized Ukrainians, using the characteristics of «militants», and «Nazis» for this purpose, continuing to demonstrate the limited legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities by using the term «Kyiv regime». At the same time, a kind of «digital fortress» continues to exist within the Russian Federation, which allows for the formation of a unified perception of the situation in the confrontation with Ukraine. Another important aspect is the confidence of representatives of the Russian authorities that they are fighting in Ukraine with representatives of the USA and NATO.
Ukraine, after a large-scale invasion, took a course to monopolize the information space by launching the «United News» telethon. Unfortunately, the state information machine failed to effectively resist the spread of anonymous Telegram channels in the domestic information field. However, Russia’s attempts to shake Ukrainian society by criticizing the state leadership has not had much success. Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s daily televised addresses can be called an effective way of communication, which emphasizes the differences in his behavior from Vladimir Putin’s modus operandi. Zelenskyy’s video conferences with European parliaments and meetings of Ukraine’s allies in various configurations have become quite effective.
The war crimes of the Russian occupiers became one of the factors that shaped approaches to the perception of this confrontation in the world. The geographical names of Bucha, Mariupol (the tragedy of the city on the coast of the Sea of Azov is huge), Izyum entered the history of mankind as examples of crimes against humanity. We can also mention the name of the camp for prisoners of war Olenivka in the Donetsk region, where in the summer of 2022, as a result of an explosion, more than 50 captured Ukrainian defenders of «Azovstal» were killed. The nature and scale of war crimes, which are based on the dehumanization of Ukrainians as part of the state policy of the Russian Federation, prompted the creation of the International Group for Documenting Russian War Crimes in Ukraine, and the process of preparing for the creation of an International Tribunal for their assessment continues.
The issuance of an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court was a revolutionary step in its content. The accusation of complicity in the abduction of Ukrainian children is unique, and the very fact of issuing the warrant significantly limited the geography of the Russian president’s possible visits. Frankly speaking, the ICJ’s decision is unique, because a warrant was issued for the arrest of the head of state with a nuclear arsenal, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This step demonstrates the systemic nature of the changes caused in international relations by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
NB: Intensive dehumanization of the enemy and systematic use of fakes have become one of the features of Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine. This component should be appreciated by the world community as a component of aggression and an element of the new political realities of the modern world.
Today, it is difficult to predict the timing of the end of the Russian-Ukrainian War, which has become one of the largest events of the 21st century and the largest war of the current century. The conclusions we draw after 500 days of the Russian-Ukrainian War are intermediate, but they demonstrate obvious tendencies in the development of the situation:
- The large-scale invasion of Ukraine was intended to help the Kremlin fulfill its own geopolitical tasks and gain operational space for further pressure on EU and NATO countries.
- Despite significant human, economic and territorial losses (about 20% of Ukraine’s territory is occupied), Ukraine has preserved and strengthened its own foreign policy subjectivity.
- The Russian-Ukrainian War became a catalyst for tectonic changes in the world security system.
- The Kremlin’s desire to quickly seize Kyiv and force Ukraine to end its resistance determined Belarus’ complicity in the aggression, its failure became a turning point for the initial period of the war.
- In the autumn of 2022, the Defense Forces of Ukraine made several counterattacks, in particular, liberating Kherson, the only regional center that the Russians captured after February 24, 2022.
- There was a situational consolidation of Ukrainian politics around the idea of protecting Ukraine, pro-Russian parties found themselves on the sidelines of social development, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy turned into a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and significantly increased his own international authority and influence.
- The West has significantly changed its attitude towards Ukraine, creating the Rammstein format and providing tens of billions of dollars in military-technical support to Ukraine.
- The war crimes committed by the Russian Federation in the occupied territories of Ukraine were unprecedented for the 21st
- Propaganda plays an extremely powerful role in the Russian-Ukrainian War, and the intensity of the use of fakes has significantly increased.
- The situation in the energy sector is paradoxical: despite large-scale hostilities, the transportation of Russian energy resources purchased by EU countries continues through the territory of Ukraine, but the European Union has significantly reduced its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.
- Russia continues the process of dehumanizing Ukraine and the Ukrainians at the state level, seeking to prove to the world that Ukraine is a failed state. Instead, the course of events testifies to the existence of significant problems with public administration in the Russian Federation itself.
- The process of demystifying Russia as a participant in the system of international relations, an economic partner and a state capable of participating in the formation of the foundations of the world order still
- NATO and EU countries imposed unprecedented sanctions on the aggressor.
- European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine received a powerful boost, however, joining the EU and NATO is possible only after the end of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.
- The dismantling of Russia in its current form is one of the prerequisites for securing Europe and the world from a repetition of its aggression.
- Although the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine is not a world war, it has created the prerequisites for the revision of the existing system of international relations after the end of hostilities.
- The Russian-Ukrainian War is changing the world, but we will be able to determine the final scale of changes only after the end of hostilities and the period of post-war aftershocks.