Russia may have already lost around 50,000 soldiers in Ukraine, and they have faced significant economic consequences. Due to sanctions, direct expenses, and lost productivity during the war. Some people in Western countries have been hoping that Russia’s Plan Might Be Better than We’ve Been Hoping. Failure to fully conquer Ukraine in the early stages of the war would turn out to be a costly mistake that Russia would eventually have to give up on. However, these hopes are misplaced. Russia is capable of and will continue to fight.

Russia’s Plan Might Be Better than We’ve Been Hoping
Russia’s Plan Might Be Better than We’ve Been Hoping

Although it is not yet certain, it seems that Ukraine’s anticipated spring offensive has encountered difficulties and is not progressing as expected. If this trend continues in the coming weeks, the war may reach a stalemate. One might wonder why Russia would persist in fighting a seemingly endless war, where neither side can defeat the other. To understand this, we need to consider Russia’s broader strategic perspective.

What motivates Russia?

To understand the long-term goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, we need to go back to 2014. At that time, a series of confrontations between protesters and government forces led to the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an event known as the Maidan Revolution. By examining why Russia saw Maidan as a threat, we can gain insight into Russia’s main objectives in its subsequent dealings with Ukraine.

From Russia’s perspective, the first concern with Maidan was that it could eventually lead to Ukraine joining NATO. While the protesters’ primary aim was to integrate Ukraine into the European Union rather than NATO, Russia viewed this as a dangerous path. Throughout history, whether during the Empire, the Soviet Union, or the Federation, Moscow has always considered any threats from modern Ukrainian territory, particularly the eastern part beyond the Dnieper River, as completely unacceptable. Russia is determined to eliminate hostile forces from this area, regardless of the cost. The idea of NATO forces being stationed east of the Dnieper, especially in Crimea, is something Moscow cannot even contemplate. Therefore, Russia sees NATO expansion as an existential threat of the highest order.

Secondly, Russia has a vested interest in Crimea because the Russian coast of the Black Sea lacks suitable locations for year-round naval ports.

Therefore, the Russian Black Sea fleet heavily relies on the Crimean port of Sevastopol for its operations. Retaining control over Crimea is crucial for Russia to maintain its status as a Black Sea power. Strategically, Crimea is the only part of Ukraine’s territory that holds positive value for Moscow (as opposed to negative value, which refers to deterring potential threats). However, Russia’s experience after annexing Crimea in 2014. Particularly Ukraine’s economic blockade of the peninsula and cutting off its water supply. Has demonstrated that controlling the territory directly opposite Crimea on the Ukrainian mainland is essential for supporting Crimea itself.

Lastly, Russia aims to avoid the humiliation that would result from the comprehensive defeat of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. This objective is not merely a matter of vanity for Russia; it is an important strategic goal to maintain its influence in the post-Soviet region. Russia establishes its influence by portraying itself as the protector of ethnic Russians. And other pro-Russian ethnic groups, such as the Ossetes and Abkhaz in Georgia. Being perceived as weak and ineffective in this role would significantly hinder Russia’s ongoing influence in its neighboring countries.

Russia Still Has Much to Gain From Fighting On

Despite the significant losses suffered by Russia in the Ukraine War, it has strong reasons to hold onto its current position. By maintaining control of the land bridge between Crimea and the Donbas region, Russia addresses strategic vulnerabilities in Crimea and demonstrates effective support for the rebels by expanding its territory in Donetsk and Luhansk. As long as the situation remains unchanged, Russia’s key assets in the region. Namely the port of Sevastopol and its reputation as a protector, remain largely intact.

If the battle lines remain mostly static, the main drawback for Russia is the significant areas east of the Dnieper that are still under Ukrainian control. To compensate for not having complete control over strategic territory. Russia has been effectively undermining Ukraine as a functioning state, as suggested by scholar John Mearsheimer. This approach has further exacerbated Ukraine’s existing challenges, such as being an older, poorer country with demographic instability, including low birthrates and negative net migration.

The war has intensified these issues as casualties mount and refugees increase. Additionally, Ukraine’s infrastructure has suffered significant damage. To overcome its demographic crisis, Ukraine needs to rapidly develop its economy and maximize its resources to address an aging and shrinking population. Unfortunately, the war has hindered economic growth, delayed Ukraine’s recovery, and diminished the likelihood of refugee returns.

By holding the current lines, Russia fulfills its commitment to protecting its allies, secures the long-term viability of its presence in Crimea. And continues to weaken Ukraine, increasing the likelihood of it becoming a dysfunctional and impoverished state incapable of serving as an effective NATO base. Furthermore, the impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy has been less significant than anticipated. And Russia’s large population, including millions of refugees from Ukraine. Means that any demographic effects of the war on Russia are expected to be minimal.

FAQs

Can Russians still leave Russia?

 Leaving Russia is relatively easy, as long as you have money and have not been called up to the army. But finding a permanent place to stay is hard.

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