We are well into the third month of Russia’s brutal and destructive war on Ukraine, and as has become quite evident, Russia’s hopes of a quick and easy victory have evaporated completely. Ukraine has risen to the challenge and exposed the famed Russian war machine to be a paper tiger. Arrogance, obsolete tactics, corruption and incompetence have become the defining characteristics of a country that aspires to be a great world power, but whose shortcomings have relegated it to Keystone Kops status. Perhaps it has dawned on Putin that he has seriously overestimated Russia’s strength, and correspondingly dangerously underestimated Ukraine’s defensive abilities and the free world’s commitment to support democracy and a peaceful world order.
The big question now is when will Putin realize that he cannot win this war, and how soon will he seek an exit strategy before being even more humiliated in his misguided ambitions. The tide is turning in favour of the Ukrainians, as most of Russia’s combat ready units have been severely mauled, and they are turning increasingly into conscripting more poorly trained and equipped canon fodder to continue the fighting. On the other side, the Ukrainian forces are being bolstered by large numbers of experienced reservists that have been recently recalled and are entering the field of battle in increasing numbers.
It is now only a matter of time before this war ends. If Putin chooses to continue with his current strategy, then the odds are pretty good that Ukrainian forces will not only be able to retake all the territories that have been occupied during this war, but conceivably also recapture the Donbas, and possibly even Crimea. If Putin realizes the precariousness of his position and chooses to sue for peace in the near future while still holding on to some captured territory, he will have a weak bargaining hand, and Ukraine may be able to regain most of its captured areas through negotiations. If the power elite in Russia decides to cut its losses and ousts Putin and his cronies, then once again Ukraine will have a strong bargaining position in the ensuing peace talks, and should be able to re-establish control of all its original land area.
The longer-term question is what will Ukraine look like after this war ends? Though there is plenty of room for speculation, I think that there are some things that are easy to foresee.
First of all, current President Zelenskyy is certainly bound to come out of this war as a hero, and consequently can establish himself and his party as the dominant political force for many years to come. The political scene will become a lot less complicated, as many of the political parties that have been pro-Russian, or controlled by oligarchs will disappear. In fact, the Ukrainian government this past week passed a law making pro-Russian political parties illegal. Further much of the power of the oligarchs, many of whom were pro-Russian, will have evaporated, as a significant number have fled the country, while many others have seen their personal fortunes destroyed by the war. Ukrainian politics will become a lot more nationalistic, a lot more united and hopefully a lot less corrupt. It is ironic that a war will prove to be a major boost to Ukraine’s previously faltering efforts at fighting corruption.
Secondly, the Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate (MP) will cease to be a religious force in Ukrainian affairs. Increasingly, large numbers of parishes throughout Ukraine are leaving the MP and joining up with the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The MP’s Patriarch Kirill has been shown to be more a warmonger than a cleric, and the fate of the MP in Ukraine is pretty well sealed.
Thirdly, Ukraine will become a strong and influential member of the European Union and eventually NATO. It has shown its military prowess and capabilities, and the rest of the free world will be committed to keeping Ukraine strong both militarily as well as economically as a restraining force on a defeated but still dangerous Russia. The realities of the war with Russia will force Ukraine to accelerate the development of its own gas and oil resources to make it completely independent of Russia for these strategic supplies. Undoubtedly, the rest of Europe will do the same, relegating Russia to a minor player on the global petroleum markets. Further, the reconstruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure, funded by seized Russian assets, as well generous financing from the free world, will stimulate an economic boom in Ukraine that will further consolidate its position as a strong European nation.
For now, we can only hope and pray that this war ends soon.