Russia-Ukraine war: war of attrition

Ukraine, Russia, war, attrition,

What are the historical similarities that we can draw between the ongoing one-year-long Russia-Ukrainian war?

This would likely be the first unofficial war between the two countries where two records and captures battle field developments live for them.  The war is unofficial according to international law as Moscow has not declared war on Kyiv.

Technically it is not a war but a conflict between Russia and Ukraine whose, otherwise, magnitude goes beyond the limit of a conflict between two countries. 

A Video-graphic Record

The future would have a perfect video-photographic record of this war shot by mobile cameras and high-altitude drones not only targeting its targets but also seeing the accuracy of how the target is being hit by them. 

The Winter War of November 1939 between the Soviets and Finnish troops has akin to the present situation where 450,000 Soviet soldiers attacked Helsinki.  Though the Soviet Union finally get the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940 forcing Finland to accept its territorial demands.

But 105 days of the Winter War starting from 30 November 1939 and ending on 13 March 1940 was militarily and strategically a nightmare for Moscow that was bogged down by a very small country than her. 

The present “Special Military Operations” of Russia in Ukraine are draining out the economic, military, and manpower resources of Moscow.  The conscription of Russian men and mercenaries (Wagner Group PMC) for the war is sagging the strength of the Russian army and its credibility as the emerging successor state of the USSR. 

Reasons for West aid?

While the US and West knowing that battling Ukrainian troops should be provided everything to defend not only themselves but also through them the European mainland as well.

The US has given a staggering amount of $77 billion in aid to Ukraine. A major part of which comprised military weapons and hardware to Kyiv. 

The European Union’s total value of war aid to Ukraine since the inception of the war during one year is $ 31 billion followed by the United Kingdom’s $ 3 billion, Germany’s $ 7 billion and Japan’s $6 billion respectively.  Other many European countries are also giving enormous aid individually, both financial and military, to Ukraine for its war.

Thus making this war the most aided one in recent history in terms of financial and military aid.

The question arises why the West and US have opened their financial spigot to Kyiv so lavishly. What motives and results are they likely to expect from this aid? Could Russia be given a defeat in this war?

The answers to these questions may vary according to the perspective and understanding of each individual.

Also Read: The X factor of politics

The most common answer to the first question would be that the US and West want to safeguard their interests and the European mainland, especially from Moscow which they believe is hegemonic and unpredictable reeling from its historical and Cold War era tussle with the West and US.

The second question answer could not be given with clarity and preciseness.  With ever-mounting aid from the US and its allies, there is less likelihood that Kyiv would be able to push back the Russian troops before 24 February 2022 position. 

After the Winter War of 1939, Finland was only able to recapture its seized territories from the Soviet Union with the active help of Nazi Germany but the War situation again turned in the Soviet favor after 1944.

An ON/OFF button

The protracted war scenario of the Russian-Ukrainian war may result in a frozen conflict between the two sides which may be on or off like an electricity switch at any time by either side. 

As none of the sides would be ready to accept their defeat or at least accept a peace arrangement that they consider below their national status or prestige. There is quite a possibility that this war of attrition would drag both Moscow and Kyiv along with their allies for a long time. 

As Russia has nuclear weapons, an organized military might with vast resources of energy that choke and continue to choke international trade and politics, the US and NATO military intervention in this war like Serbia (1999) is a remote possibility.

The eight years’ war between Iran-Iraq (1980-1988) and the Soviet Union intervention in Afghanistan resembles more or less the current Ukrainian-Russian war. 

Where Kyiv is actively supported and backed by the US and its allies like Baghdad of Saddam Hussain against Tehran and the Afghan freedom fighters, then called by the US and West Mujahideen,  against the Soviet-backed Kabul government of the 1980s. 

In both cases, the West and the US have a controlling role on their backers with the level to draw down or escalate the war their support convincing the adversary that there is no chance of a walkover for them. If they still thought of any victory, it would be a pyrrhic one.  

It was this outside support and pressure that forced the two sides in the case to sit at the negotiating table. 

But in the current Ukrainian scenario, it does not seem that Moscow would be forced to any such talk. The Soviet Union’s fall was more the result of an internal disintegration than the outside one. 

Sharp then blunt

The economic sanctions on Moscow by the  West have a nominal effect on it.  The Russian Federal Service reports that only 2.1 per cent of the Russian economy has contracted after this sanction.  The total GDP of Russia in 2022 was $4 trillion. Thus, nearly half of its economy is shrunk after sanctions.

Moscow expects that in coming years it sound to be able to sail through these sanctions safely.  After its involvement in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, it has weathered Western sanctions, thus, at least, having first-hand knowledge of sanctions and how to evade them.

One point about imposing sanctions is that, though initially, they are sharp and corrosive,  they became blunt losing their efficacy as we have Iran and North Korean examples where they are no longer effective as they once were deemed by their imposers. 

The aiding of Ukraine gives an indirect sway to the US and West in this war over Kyiv. They would try to keep the conflict at that level not to enrage Moscow to unleash its full military might as it declared last September 2022 by ordering its nuclear force to prepare for a possible nuclear attack. 

Kyiv also knew that the West and WE would not let it to rubble by the invading Russian troops. As it would also endanger both the Western interests and the European mainland as well. 

Trust deficit between two

Russia demands that Ukraine should completely demilitarize itself if it does not surrender to it. But such a possibility is also a nightmare for the Ukrainian people who are very suspicious of the behavior of Moscow.  They refer to the Budapest Memorandum (1994) in which Ukraine was assured territorial integrity by Moscow for the return of its Soviet-era abandoned nuclear weapons. 

Ukraine had at that time the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile.  US and UK assured Kyiv of a pertinent response in case its territorial integrity and sovereignty are threatened. While France and China did not sign the Budapest Memorandum but made only declarations to respect and honor the sovereignty of Ukraine by taking appropriate steps.

Keeping this situation in mind, it would be unlikely that Beijing would intervene on behalf of Kyiv against Moscow.  Because China sees the present war as an attempt to increase Western interests and curtail Russia and in the future Beijing as well. 

Our past glory

Moscow in general and Putin in particular consider this war as a restoration of the lost glory of the Soviet Union.  Once the superpower was broken by the conspiracies of the capitalist world aided by local traitors.  Now it is time to recover from this humiliation and reassert its presence in the areas that were once in the realm of the USSR.  This Ukrainian war has its unconscious links to the Cold War era and recovering the lost Soviet prestige. 

This is a war in which all and everything of the two sides is at stake.

The Russian defeat in the Crimean War in which France and the United Kingdom actively supported the ageing Ottoman Empire, the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and the defeat of the Russian Navy, and the unsuccessful Soviet intervention in Afghanistan may be raking the Russian consciousness that its Western neighbors have always allied against it, irrespective of race, religion, geographical and economic considerations.

Only to impede and stunt its influence as the world power, politically, economically and militarily!

Russia-Ukraine war: war of attrition

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