Russia and Ukraine may be on the brink of war, which, in a dire situation, could reach unprecedented proportions in post-war Europe. Regionally, Russia and Ukraine are two major European powers, both of which are heavyweight military powers.
German political expert Andreas Umland says in a report published in the American magazine “National Interest” that the regular Russian armed forces are, of course, far superior to the Ukrainian armed forces in terms of size and quality. Russia is a nuclear power, while Ukraine is a non-nuclear country, and the purchase of nuclear weapons is prohibited under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
However, over the past seven years, Ukraine has developed a strong and sophisticated traditional military, explains Umland, a researcher at the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.
Ukrainian forces are partly equipped with modern high-tech weapons, made in Ukraine and abroad. Moreover, if Ukraine faces any expansion from the Russian side, it will be supported by more Western weapons and intelligence. So, it is not clear whether Russia can win against Ukraine as quickly and easily as it did with Georgia in the five-day Russia-Georgia war in August 2008.
In addition, Umland says it is unclear how citizens in the West and Russia will react to the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Past experience has shown that negative external reactions or the peace of ordinary Russian citizens cannot be trusted as controlling factors. Russia occupied one-fifth of Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014, making it popular among the Russian population. These actions have increased support for President Vladimir Putin’s regime and anti – Western sentiment.
Worse, Umland says, Western reactions to Russia’s southern expansion are being curtailed. No significant sanctions were imposed on Moscow in 2008. Surprisingly, relations between Russia and the West improved after the Russian-Georgian war and the occupation. In 2014, due to the annexation of Crimea and its secret intervention in the affairs of the Donbass, the West initially imposed small sanctions on Russia, but at the time the resulting limited effects encouraged the escalation of the “Kremlin” situation. Further.
In the summer of 2014, the EU imposed moderate sectoral sanctions on Moscow, but in response to the killing of more than 200 EU nationals on a Malaysia Airlines flight on July 17, 2014, a section of the Russian military shot it down. Down in eastern Ukraine.
“What can Ukraine do in light of the scary lessons Moscow has learned from its adventures in 2008 and 2014?” Umland asks. He argues that the main factors that determined Russian behavior in the past and will determine Russian behavior in the future are the comparative costs of military expansion and the assessment of those costs by Russian citizens. Many Russians at the time saw material and human casualties being allowed as a result of the adventures of 2008 and 2014, and still consider it today.
According to Omland, the costs of the Moscow operation in Georgia were objectively lower. As for Ukraine, Russian citizens see a relatively total cost. Putin’s rapid occupation of Crimea was a national victory, so many Russians continue to tolerate Russia’s current socio – economic stagnation, which was triggered by the Western sanctions regime that began in 2014.
Therefore, the Kremlin’s behavior during the 2008 and 2014 events makes some sense. Extremist attacks have increased popular support for Putin’s regime and diminished Western support. Omland, meanwhile, said the political and financial costs of the Putin administration were low.
It is not clear whether Russia will be able to win over Ukraine as quickly and easily as it did with Georgia in the five-day Russia-Georgia war in August 2008.
• Traditional Russian armed forces outperform the Ukrainian armed forces in terms of size and quality. Russia is also a nuclear power, while Ukraine is a country without nuclear weapons and is prohibited from purchasing nuclear weapons.
In 2014, due to the annexation of Crimea and its secret intervention in the affairs of the Donbass, the West imposed minor sanctions on Russia. However, at that time the resulting limited effects encouraged the “Kremlin” to aggravate the situation. Further.
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