The war between Ukraine and Russia has raged for a year, with both sides gaining and losing ground while casualties mount and no clear prospects for peace seem to emerge.
On the anniversary of the invasion, Augusta University’s Craig Albert, PhD, director of the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, sheds some light on what’s happening and what we can expect next.
While some thought this war wouldn’t last long, including perhaps Russia itself, Albert is not surprised the war continues.
“I think for Russia, it’s a huge surprise, and I think maybe for the rest of the world, it’s a bit of a surprise as well,” said Albert. “What people often forget is that Ukraine has been fighting and training for 10 years. So Moscow was going on the understanding that the way and the ease in which they went into those parts of Ukraine in 2014, that they would have the same amount of ease this time. They didn’t calculate properly or they misperceived that Ukraine soldiers have been fighting them and rotating in and out of the east for 10 years and had much more experience and were prepared for this.”
One year later, the war has taken a major toll on both Ukraine and Russia with efforts stepped up on both fronts.
“Everyone knew Putin was going to increase the attacks leading up to the year anniversary,” Albert said. “Both sides have been expecting a new counter offensive against each other coming for the spring. What we should note from this is that a couple of times over the past couple of weeks, the Russian death toll has been over 1,000 per day. Think of that as the United States lost something like 5,000 in Iraq, the entire 17-18 years the US was there. So that’s something we need to take into account. They are increasing their attacks but they’re meeting massive resistance and some are calling it a meat grinder, where the Russian side is just throwing troops into it and they are just being mowed down.”
Albert also indicated Ukraine has been able to fend off some attacks in its country thanks largely to help from the west. But in the end, Russia has too many troops for Ukraine to fend off.
“I think their resolve is based upon the fact they’re getting so many munitions from the west. I think their resolve and morality would be much worse if they weren’t getting the type of equipment, the type of war material that the west is providing them. If it wasn’t for the west helping them, I think we’d be talking a much different scenario.”
Recently, President Biden paid a surprise visit to Ukraine, a move that caught almost everyone off guard.
“It’s a huge symbolic victory. I did not expect President Biden to visit Ukraine at all. I thought that was gutsy. I think both sides of the aisle thought that was pretty gutsy. That’s a pretty scary situation and presidents generally don’t visit a war-torn country, even when the United States is at war. I think it was a show of strength, a show of unity, maybe even a show of what’s to come with EU ascension or NATO ascension for President Biden to be on the ground in Kiev.”
As far as how long this war will last, it remains unknown but Albert feels it will likely go on for another year at least.
“It depends on how far Russia is willing to go. Russia isn’t fighting the war if it fought the United States. Russia has the capability to completely bombard and send in massive numbers of untrained soldiers by the hundreds and thousands and just overwhelm Ukraine. I think why they’re not doing that is that they still want to control and have a friendly Ukrainian population once they completely have all the territory of Ukraine,” he said.”
“I think that’s Putin’s goal and that’s why he hasn’t done that so far. I think we’re looking at least another year. These types of huge wars, and this is a major, major war, it has the propensity to pull in outside parties. And when you’re talking about NATO being right there, we could be talking about something much bigger if this war doesn’t cease soon.”