Understanding Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

The world was taken by surprise when Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered full scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday 23rd of February. A bold and aggressive move that made the west realise that Russia has every capability to protect its interests and is ready to go to any extent to challenge western domination in the region.

Ukraine was part of Soviet Union till the fall of USSR in 1991 and Russia has always considered Ukraine crucial for their strategic interests. Putin considers that historically Ukraine was always a part of Russia and he feels that Russia has social, economic and cultural closeness with Ukraine. Putin’s claim of Ukraine being an integral part of Russia is however not exactly supported by historical facts. But yes the two countries are very much similar in my aspects one of the reasons Russia still wants Ukraine in sphere of its influence.
So as the war has entered in its fierce crucial phase and the battle for the capital Kiev is ongoing with Ukrainian forces putting a good resistance, Putin has already achieved some of it’s strategic and geopolitical goals.

1) Putin has made it crystal clear to the NATO and western powers that any move that can challenge its security and strategic interests will be met with an overwhelming force and Russia is ready to face the NATO head on in order to maintain its global standing. Of many reasons, one of the most important was Ukraine’s decision to join the NATO which prompted Putin to forcefully stop it by military intervention. It is expected after the war is over, a pro-Russian government will be installed which will protect Russian interests in the region.

2)The myth that after WW2 Europe is done with its share of wars and is now a stable region with no prospects of war in future and is protected by the powerful NATO alliance is busted by Putin by bringing war to Europe decades after the brutal second world war. Now Eastern European countries like Poland should worry about their security with Russia under Putin beginning to demonstrate its might in the region.

3) In the cold war era, US was faced with a single foe the Soviet Union and after its collapse in 1991 the world became unipolar with a single military super power. With the rise of China as emerging economic, military and global power, US was again faced with a rival that can challenge it’s interests in the world but China has a long history of not becoming a party in conflicts. Though a similar conflict involving Taiwan is boiling and tensions are rising between US and China in recent times but historically it was more an economic war with China rather than strategic and military competition that the US was facing. With all its attention towards China the US remains indifferent to the rise of post-cold war Russia under an autocratic leader on the world map with it’s aggressive military actually capable of waging a war and challenging the established world order. Russia demonstrated this fact when it became a party in Syria against American interests and annexed Crimea in 2014.

4) It’s considered an established fact that Russia and democracy are something not compatible. Russia is meant to be ruled by autocratic system where a single person decides everything. Ukraine is very much similar to Russia and success of democracy in Ukraine means shattering of Putin’s political ambition of ruling Russia for indefinite period. Putin’s stand for an autocratic government in Russia will be weakened by establishment of a successful democracy in its immediate neighbour. So it’s better to have a pro-Russian government of a similar style in your neighbour. And this war has made even Russians clear that their is no place for western democracy in Russia.

It’s said that Putin is a good tactician but not a good strategist and the long term consequences of this war will be ultimately crush the short term strategic goals achieved by Putin. Russians right now are not concerned by the sanctions being imposed by west but the thing that actually matter to them is the war extending beyond the expected time frame. It will help Ukraine to weaken the Putin’s offensive and at the same time give them time to fortify their defenses. It will also demoralise the Russians and cause heavy casualties to the Russians.

But for now Russia is achieving everything it wanted to achieve from this war and Ukrainian forces are struggling to control them. Their is gross imbalance of land, air and sea power between two countries and ultimately without any substantial support from NATO Allies the Ukrainian defeat is inevitable. The only thing that can change the outcome of this war is massive support not only in terms of military equipments but also in the form intelligence, planning and logistics from the western allies. But again all this will mean further destruction and deaths and a brutal outcome of this war bringing world powers in direct confrontation with a possibility of nuclear war.

Dr Adnan Khan is Lahore based aviation and defence enthusiast with special interest in world conflicts, history of wars and air power of nations. https://www.facebook.com/adnan.niazi.9

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