Why Ukraine matters: Benedetta Berti provides a NATO perspective on the Russo-Ukraine War.

Date01 July 2023
AuthorBerti, Benedetta

When we discuss wars, and Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine in particular, and before we go into the geopolitical analysis, it is very important to start with a few facts. It is over a year since the Russian Federation, and its president, Vladimir Putin, started its unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. But, even though February 2022 is a watershed moment in terms of European and global security, we must remember, of course, that for Ukraine the war started prior to that event. It started in 2014 with Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. So that is years through which Ukraine has had to endure aggression in various forms. It is one year of full-fledged war, but we have to look at the post-2014 pattern of increasingly aggressive behaviour, illegal annexation and war against Ukraine.

So where are we over a year into this war? Anyone who claims to know exactly how this conflict will end is probably a little bit over-confident because wars have a life-cycle of their own. They do not call it the fog of war for nothing. But one year in there are a few things we do know. We know that at the very beginning we under-estimated Ukrainian resolve; we under-estimated their will or ability to fight and their determination as a society to come together to resist aggression. That is important to recognise. We probably over-estimated the Russian military capabilities, their morale, their resolve; it is important to recognise that.

Where we are today is a situation in which Ukraine, through their ingenuity, bravery and skill on the battlefield, has been able to push back against Russia's aggression; it has been able to retain and liberate territory. That is good news, of course. But none of that should make us confident or complacent that it is a done deal. Right now, we have a war of attrition. Over a year in, it is a battle of logistics and of wills. Unfortunately, the situation on the battlefield does not indicate any short-term or quick resolution of the conflict. That is an important point to make when we think about what ultimately is our policy objective for Ukraine to be able to prevail as a sovereign, independent country. In other words, our support has been important so far, but the war is not over. That is why we talk so much about the importance of supporting Ukraine for the long haul. That is point one. That is where we are in a nutshell more than one year into this war of aggression.

Before we discuss how this war has changed European security, which I think it has, and has changed the way Europe is looking at itself and the importance of collective defence, which I also think it has, it is important that we recognise that the most important impact of this war is, of course, on Ukraine. The biggest price is being paid by ordinary Ukrainians, by civilians: the number of internally displaced persons, refugees and the scale of documented atrocities. Russia's deliberate strategy of war is about targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure to undermine their will as a nation to fight. All of that is the most important element to recognise when we consider this war--the...

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