Making Sense of The Russo-Ukrainian War

When discussing conflicts like these from a geopolitical perspective, it’s easy to underscore human suffering. The reality is that as a result of the motives and decisions discussed, blood is shed, lives are lost, and families and livelihoods are destroyed.

In today's article, we're covering both sides of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the interests of the United States, sanctions, the risk of nuclear war, and recent updates.

Putin’s goal

Russian President Vladimir Putin demands that Ukraine disarm and stay neutral in terms of NATO membership. He also believes Russians and Ukrainians are one people, and that they should be one nation.

  • Ukraine believes that Putin’s real goal is more of the latter: to oust the Western-backed regime and establish a pro-Russian puppet state in Ukraine.

Achieving that goal: According to analysts, Putin’s campaign was supposed to be quick. Under Putin’s belief that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, the assumption was that the Ukrainians wouldn’t resist. Russian intelligence expected resistance from paramilitary battalions in Ukraine like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, but not from ordinary civilians.

  • Understanding Putin’s neo-Nazi claim: One of Putin’s talking points was about “denazifying” Ukraine. While ignored by the Western media—probably out of fear to be portrayed as Putin sympathizers—the Ukrainian government has been enabling a strong ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi presence. This is most likely because the government knows that these fighters would be willing to fight the war against Russia, alongside the weak military.

Ukrainians resist: The Ukrainian people, not just the army, have taken up arms and are defending the country. According to the Ukrainian government, 70% of the population believe in Ukraine’s victory, and 91% support President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. These numbers portray a country yearning for sovereignty, not union with Putin.

  • Because of the mass resistance, Russia’s campaign has been slow, and although Putin can conquer Ukraine, it is clear that reestablishing the USSR with all of Ukraine is unrealistic. For this reason, some analysts suggest Putin’s goal from here can only be a neutral Ukraine.

Russia’s inept military: Despite the resistance, it appears that Putin’s military has performed worse than anticipated. This could be due to poor training or the unwillingness of Russian soldiers to fight their Ukrainian counterparts, a significant percentage of whom share the same language and culture.

Zelenskyy’s goal

Zelenskyy visiting the War in Donbas in 2019 

Zelenskyy’s goal consists of expelling Russian forces from Ukraine and maintaining Western alliances. This is evident by the Ukrainian president’s recent plea to join the European Union.

The U.S. interest:  The U.S. also wants Ukraine to maintain its sovereignty and NATO support, because, over the past decade, Ukraine has been used by the West to curtail Russia’s power. If Ukraine is occupied, becomes a puppet-state, or is forced into neutrality, the West loses influence in Ukraine, which is ultimately a buffer region between Western and Eastern powers.

Winning with sanctions: NATO countries responded with quick and well-coordinated sanctions on Russia. Though the sanctions are designed to cripple the Russian economy and force Putin’s hand, it’s unclear if they’ll work; Russia thoroughly prepared and hardened their economy, foreseeing the sanctions.

  • Biden’s administration is still hesitant to sanction Russia’s oil and gas flow because of fear of dramatic global price increases.

  • Russia has also been excluded from SWIFT, the infrastructure used for global banking. This is a serious blow for Russian banks, the Russian economy, and all countries that trade with Russia.

Insufficient resources: Zelenskyy has welcomed civilians, foreign nationals, and criminals to join the fight. Despite this and receiving weapons from foreign countries, it is not possible for Ukraine to push out Russia without real military help from the West.

WW3: Because Ukraine needs more help than just aid and sanctions to drive out Russia, Ukrainian leaders have been lobbying for the U.S. to establish a no-fly zone over Russia. That would mean Russian aircraft shot down by Western powers. American congressmen have also lobbied for a no-fly zone. According to Putin, such interference would spark a nuclear war and WW3.

Current Casualties and Geographical Movements

When discussing conflicts like these from a geopolitical perspective, it’s easy to underscore human suffering. The reality is that as a result of the motives and decisions discussed above, blood is shed, lives are lost, and families and livelihoods are destroyed.

The numbers, from Ukraine:

  • 9,000 Russians killed

  • 2,000 Ukrainian civilians killed

The numbers, from Russia:

  • 498 Russians killed

  • 2,870 Ukrainian military personnel killed

The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle.

Refugees: more than 1 million refugees have left Ukraine.

  • 500,000+ to Poland

  • 100,000+ to Hungary

  • 97,000+ to Moldova

  • 88,000+ to other European countries

  • 47,800+ to Russia

Talks for peace: While negotiations between Russia and Ukraine were held on Monday and Wednesday, more are likely to happen soon.Humanitarian aid: Ukraine and Russia have agreed to create safe corridors for aid and evacuees to civilians.

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