February 27, 2024


Two years of the war in Ukraine – is there an end in sight?

At the recent Munich Security Conference, there was a common theme among attendees – Alexei Navalny’s death was a turning point, and the world needs to step up in helping Ukraine fend off Russia. As the US Congress debates another military package for Ukraine, Europe and NATO are doing all they can to assemble their own aid packages.

The world now marks two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The question on everyone’s mind is, what’s next? It has already been a long, bloody, and costly war. How long can it keep going? Who’s on top? Is there an end in sight?


24 February 2022 was a watershed moment. The condemnation among world leaders was swift and forceful in the immediate aftermath of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering “special military operations” in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians have died, and millions have been displaced.

The clues were there on what Russia was up to. In April 2021, it began military drills on the border, raising concerns about some type of escalation. That September, Ukraine’s President Zelensky raised the prospect of NATO membership to seek better security. In November, he said Russia had amassed 1 lakh troops on the border.

At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in December 2021, US Secretary of State Blinken warned that Russia has stepped up its plans for military action in Ukraine. Later that month, US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with President Putin and warned him about the consequences should Russia invade Ukraine.

Things began to escalate in January 2022 as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned of “a real risk for new armed conflict in Europe.” The US placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to deploy to Europe as NATO increased support for eastern flank countries.

All the while, Russia’s position was that NATO and Europe hadn’t dealt with its security concerns and warned against Ukraine potentially joining NATO. Putin tried to form a coalition of his own. At the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a joint statement that called on the West to “abandon the ideologised approaches of the Cold War.”

In February, Russia launched its biggest military exercise since the Cold War with Belarus at its border with Ukraine. At this time, the world waited as leaders across Europe and the West prepared for a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. A few days before the invasion, in a televised address, Putin said Ukraine is an integral part of Russia and accused its government of being run by foreign powers.

To many, Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a test run for 2022. Now, the stakes are significantly higher for Ukraine, Europe, and the West. But where does the war go from here? While Putin may have wanted a swift end by anticipating an easy surrender by Ukraine, he doesn’t seem to mind the long game.

VIEW: Not all doom and gloom

In many ways, apart from what’s happening on the ground, the war is also a battle of narratives. Putin is playing the long game, hoping that NATO and the West grow tired and weary. So far, that hasn’t happened. Countries have remained united against Putin and his decision to invade and are firmly on the side of Ukraine. It’s a war of attrition, and Russia has paid an economic price thanks to a host of sanctions and companies suspending operations in Russia.

On the ground, it’s often difficult and tricky to determine who has the upper hand. For starters, Kyiv still stands. Retired U.S. Vice Admiral Robert Murrett has said Ukraine has largely won the battle of the Black Sea. It has put all its facilities in Crimea at risk. If we want to look at this glass half full, neither side is winning or losing, which means Ukraine isn’t losing. The European Union’s (EU’s) recent $54 billion package will help Ukraine’s efforts. For any country worried about how much money they’re spending on Ukraine, calculations by the Estonian Defense Ministry showed that they would need to invest just 0.25% of their GDP on military assistance.

Any assessment that the conflict is a stalemate is incorrect, per some analysts. The good thing is that the prospect of a Ukrainian victory is firmly in the hands of Europe, NATO, and the West. There’s always room for more military equipment since many say the Western bloc hasn’t been quick and forceful enough in their supplies. Ukraine, recognising the West’s hesitation, decided to take matters into its own hands. They’ve developed sea drones to decimate the Russian fleet inside Russia.

COUNTERVIEW: Putin’s got time

The long game might serve Putin better than Ukraine. Despite economic setbacks and heavy casualties, Russia shows no signs of stopping its advancements. Last year, a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive in some key territories didn’t amount to much. Russia’s defensive line is the largest and most fortified in Europe since World War II. Any hopes of retaking Crimea seem like fantasy now.

The recent news of Ukraine troops’ withdrawal from the eastern city of Avdiivka is another blow. It’s Russia’s most significant territorial victory since it seized Bakhmut last May. It was clear that President Zelensky wasn’t happy with how the war was going. He replaced Gen. Valery Zaluzhny with Oleksandr Syrsky as the new military chief. There have been differing accounts of death tolls and territorial advances from the Ukranian side. It looks increasingly likely that Ukraine will be on the defensive rather than mount any counteroffensive this year.

As mentioned earlier, time is on Putin’s side. What’s helping him is the West’s hesitancy and drip-feeding of weapons to Ukraine. The Trump card, literally, is that if Donald Trump is elected President once again this year, his disdain for NATO could prove disastrous for Ukraine’s dependence on the US for assistance. Putin has been clear about the endgame – complete Ukranian surrender. If Europe decides to abandon the US in helping Ukraine, that could be music to Putin’s ears.

Reference Links:

  • Two Years of War in Ukraine: Timeline to Invasion – Wilson Center
  • How life in Ukraine has been shattered by two years of war – Reuters
  • Experts analyze state of Ukraine war 2 years into Russia’s invasion – PBS
  • As Russia-Ukraine conflict reaches two year mark, it is advantage Putin – The Indian Express
  • Despite ‘dim prospects,’ battered but unbowed Ukraine fights on 2 years after invasion – USA Today
  • Two Years On, What’s Next in Ukraine? – Foreign Policy
  • Ukraine suffered losses during chaotic withdrawal as Russia seized Avdiivka – The Washington Post

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) There is an end in sight two years into the Russia-Ukraine war.

b) There isn’t an end in sight two years into the Russia-Ukraine war.


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