Two-year annniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine

This Saturday marks the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Initially, Ukraine surprised the world with its stalwart defence and managed to regain some of its territory, also thanks to Western military aid. However, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in 2023 was unsuccessful. What are the prospects now? And how to deal with the fact that according to new studies ever fewer Europeans believe Ukraine can win?

Večernji list (HR) /

Belief in successful resistance dwindling

The attitude of Europeans has changed in the past year, Večernji list notes, with reference to a study by the European Council on Foreign Relations:

“Support for Ukraine among Europeans remains high, but today, two years after the Russian invasion, barely ten percent of Europeans believe that Ukraine can defeat Russia. ... Europeans see a ‘compromise solution’ as the most likely outcome of the conflict. ... This time last year, more Europeans believed that Ukraine needed to regain all the territory it had lost. Now more believe that politicians need to find a more ‘realistic’ approach centred on defining what an acceptable peace would be.”

Antonio Mandir
Expresso (PT) /

Numbed and dehumanised — or dead

Ukrainian writer Andriy Lyubka sums up in Expresso:

“During the two years of war, we have learned to trust fate. We have become used to the dead around us and resigned ourselves to the thought of our own sudden death. We no longer react so strongly to terrible news, our emotional skin has become thicker. Or it has gradually been extinguished, because with each passing day of the horror that defines our lives, we have all slowly died. The human, the normal in us, is dying. Everyone has become a victim of the war, both those who have been killed by it and those who have been lucky enough to survive (so far).”

Andriy Lyubka
The Moscow Times (RU) /

The turning point came back in 2014

The change in Russian society began long before the full-scale invasion, economist Vladislav Inosemtsev explains in The Moscow Times:

“The ten years since the annexation of Crimea have seen a sweeping transformation of Russian society. Little by little, the Kremlin has managed to force Russians to accept the severing of existing ties with the world, to tighten their belts unquestioningly, and not to resist the raising of the retirement age and the many-fold increase in military spending. We have seen how spontaneous demonstrations have disappeared from the streets and squares over these ten years, while support for alternative politicians has become grotesquely low. ... Even the ‘split of the elites’, which almost all opposition members had predicted, has not materialised.”

Wladislaw Inosemzew
e-vestnik (BG) /

Russia has achieved nothing

Putin has not achieved any of his self-imposed war aims, e-vestnik points out:

“The so-called denazification is impossible in principle because there is no Nazi regime in Ukraine, so of course it has failed. ... Demilitarisation has also failed. Russia has achieved the opposite — Ukraine is much better armed today than it was before the war. ... Nato’s expansion has not been stopped either, on the contrary. Traditionally neutral countries like Finland and Sweden have joined Nato [or will do so shortly] because they are afraid of the Russian aggressor. Ukraine is a candidate country and its population is now much more in favour of Nato membership.”

Ivan Bakalov
Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Time for bolder, faster support

Timothy Garton Ash writes in Eesti Päevaleht:

“The leaders of the larger European countries should take a lesson from smaller ones such as Denmark, the Czech Republic and Estonia. Given the critical situation on Ukraine’s frontline, they must be bolder, faster, more decisive. And they need to find a more direct, more passionate, more inspiring language – the kind of language that would certainly have been used by Scholz’s personal hero, former chancellor Willy Brandt. Societies that are still enjoying a comfortable peacetime lifestyle, and where many apparently believe this war can soon be over with a negotiated compromise peace deal, must be shaken awake.”

Timothy Garton Ash
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Sanctions not a priority for the Netherlands

The economic sanctions against Russia are being implemented half-heartedly, NRC columnist Hubert Smeets notes:

“Circumventing Western sanctions has become a whole new economic branch where dummy corporations rake in good money thanks to the war, and not only in Moscow but also in the Netherlands, where the authorities don’t prioritise law enforcement in trade with Russia. ... Under the guise of a fundamental rejection of trade barriers, turning a blind eye apparently remains a cornerstone of Dutch trade culture, despite the European war which has also been threatening the national democratic legal order since 2022.”

Hubert Smeets
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Many proud Ukrainians

Ukrainian-based author Christoph Brumme writes in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that people value their freedom despite the war:

“Never before have so many Ukrainians been proud of their culture, never before have so many songs been sung about their love for their homeland. More than ever, people appreciate living in a free country where, despite martial law, they can criticise the government’s policies and demonstrate against them. In the land of the mortal enemy you get arrested for reading out the constitution or holding up a blank sheet of paper in a public square.”

Christoph Brumme
Neatkarīgā (LV) /

It could have been the Baltic states

Neatkarīgā comments:

“Looking back today at the events of two years ago, only one conclusion is possible: all of us (in Latvia and the Baltics) were extraordinarily lucky that Putin chose Ukraine as his target. If he had thought of putting Nato on the spot and invading the Baltic states to install a pro-Kremlin government in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius (most probably without even formally annexing them) in early 2022, Nato would hardly have been able to prevent them from succumbing to Russian domination. ... Fortunately, Nato today is not the same Nato as it was at the beginning of 2022.”

Bens Latkovskis
L’Obs (FR) /

Joint defence could collapse

This is also a war over public opinion and elections in the West, warns L’Obs:

“The Kremlin has found allies in the very heart of the US Senate. ... Will Europe be facing a Russian imperialism gone mad a few months from now? Can the dream of a common defence, born out of the ashes of 1945, still become a reality? At a time when far-right movements could strengthen the pro-Russian positions of Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, this is one of the crucial questions of the upcoming European elections on 9 June.”

Grégoire Leménager
El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Don’t get used to the status quo

El Periódico de Catalunya speculates:

“Much of Europe has apparently become accustomed to the war in Ukraine, although the invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s interference in European politics will undoubtedly be one of the central topics at the Munich Security Conference. ... [The late UN Secretary-General] Boutros Boutros-Ghali said that you can’t solve a crisis if you don’t talk about it. This is not the case with the war in Ukraine, but more and more voices are calling for Ukraine to give up the Donbas. ... That would set a dangerous precedent because it would violate the principle that the borders of European countries can only be changed with their express consent.”

Albert Garrido
Le Monde (FR) /

Europe’s future is at stake

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné summarises in Le Monde why Europe must not let up in its support for Ukraine:

“We must not give in to the temptation of weariness or indifference. ... Today’s efforts in Ukraine are nothing compared to the efforts we would have to make against a Russia that feels victorious. Let us retain control over energy and food prices, over our freedom and our destiny. Let us choose unity over division, as a country and as Europeans. Europe is a peace project, and the future of Europe will be decided in Ukraine.”

Stéphane Séjourné
Spotmedia (RO) /

Reinforce air combat and recruit new troops

Spotmedia analyses the options at the disposal of the new Ukrainian military commander General Oleksandr Syrsky:

“The new commander faces two major challenges which his predecessor was unable to overcome: the lack of airspace control and the dwindling number of combat troops. The fact that Ukraine will soon be able to deploy more F-16 fighter jets and the launch of domestic drone production could give Ukraine more control over the airspace. ... That leaves the problem of troops, which can only be solved by a political decision to mobilise a new wave of recruits.”

Emilian Isaila
The Economist (GB) /

Dominant in naval warfare even without a navy

The Economist admires Ukraine’s military prowess at sea:

“The sinking of the Caesar Kunikov is yet another indication of how, even without much of a conventional navy, the Ukrainians are winning the war at sea. They reckon they have taken out at least a third of the Black Sea Fleet ... and forced the remaining vessels to operate at much greater distances from Ukraine’s coast. ... The most important consequence so far of Ukraine’s naval campaign has been the opening up of a corridor for commercial shipping to carry the country’s grain exports.”

The Moscow Times (RU) /

Russia overestimating its strength

Looking back at the country’s history, The Moscow Times relativises the myth of invincibility that is widespread in Russia:

“The Russo-Japanese War showed that successful quasi-Western countries could inflict local defeats on Russia in conflicts that can be described as border disputes. ... This was soon followed by the destruction of the Soviet army in Poland in 1920 and the crushing defeat of Josef Stalin’s troops in the Winter War with Finland. In short, the theory of Russia’s ‘invincibility’ requires serious corrections: while it was (and remains) impossible to inflict a total defeat on the country that would lead to its capitulation and occupation, its rivals are quite able to secure victories against it on certain fronts.”

Wladislaw Inosemzew
Maaleht (EE) /

Help Ukraine defeat the enemy

Supplying arms to Ukraine is also the best protection for the rest of Europe, security expert Rainer Saks writes in Maaleht:

“The Western powers have missed their chance to force the aggressor into a strategic retreat. ... The difficulties and delays in weapons deliveries were among the reasons why Ukraine was unable to launch a new offensive in 2023. This strategic clumsiness must be overcome. At the moment the Nato member states need not fear an imminent Russian attack. Russia lacks the necessary resources. A big boost in support for Ukraine would tie up Russia’s military capacities even more.”

Rainer Saks