World Unites to Condemn Russia’s Attack on Ukraine

Exceptional Ukrainian Courage Stings Invader’s Plans

Ukranian citizens take part in a demonstration against the Russian invasion in Ukraine at the Urraca park in Panama City, on March 2, 2022. (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP)
Ukranian citizens take part in a demonstration against the Russian invasion in Ukraine at the Urraca park in Panama City, on March 2, 2022. (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP)

World Unites to Condemn Russia’s Attack on Ukraine

It’s been a week since Russia invaded Ukraine. After months of massing troops and military equipment on Ukraine’s border on the Russian and Belarussian sides, Vladimir Putin announced he would be conducting a “special military operation” to “denazify and demilitarize Ukraine” and immediately began bombing Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv. The horrific act of full-on Russian invasion of its neighbor quickly turned out to be “Putin’s blunder”. One week into the war Russia has suffered major losses. The Ukrainian side has reported at least 9,000 Russian military personnel dead. Russia has also lost at least 217 tanks, 900 armored personnel carriers, 374 cars, 60 fuel tanks, 90 artillery pieces, 11 anti-aircraft weapons and more. But perhaps the greatest loss that Russia has experienced so far is one to its international standing and to its economy.


Seemingly Ukraine stands alone to defend itself from the Russian invasion. The country has put up a heroic fight. Despite most predictions that it would fall within 48 hours after the invasion, Kyiv still stands. The president of Ukraine is dubbed a hero around the world as he fights alongside his people to ensure Ukraine’s survival, and has refused to accept Washington’s offer to evacuate to safety. But over a million refugees have fled the country as cities throughout Ukraine, including Kyiv and Kharkiv, are bombed every day. Russian war crimes in this invasion are indisputable as photos and videos of Russian attacks on residential areas surface daily. The world watches in horror as residents flee to the subway stations underground to hide from the bombs. The civilian death toll grows every day. But, on the other hand, the world is also witnessing exceptional acts of bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people as they confront the Russian soldiers in the streets, hold up Russian convoys in unarmed protests, or organize to make “Molotov cocktails” and blow-up Russian tanks. Regular Ukrainians and members of parliament alike stand in lines to pick up guns in order to defend their country.


The results of a General Assembly vote on a resolution is shown on a screen during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on March 02, 2022 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)


Ukraine is not a member of NATO, thus there are no NATO boots on the ground. The West is displaying incredible caution not to get caught up in a direct kinetic war with Russia, but it has been arming Ukraine and supporting it unequivocally throughout the entire crisis since it began to intensify in April of 2021. As promised, the EU and the United States introduced swift economic sanctions that have left the Russian economy reeling. In a matter of days, the currency has fallen to historic lows, the Russian stocks have fallen, and the country’s economy has become almost fully cut off from the rest of the world as a result of the devastating economic sanctions. The United States and Europe are displaying never-before-seen unity to show solidarity to Ukraine. The West is finally awake to the full display of Putin’s malignant power and is taking decisive action to weaken his regime. Severe economic sanctions have already debilitated the Central Bank as it is now cut off from U.S. dollar transactions. Moreover, major Russian banks have been blocked from the SWIFT system and severe export bans have been imposed on Russia.  President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, top Russian oligarchs and Putin’s inner circle have also been sanctioned – this includes travel bans and foreign asset freezes. Even Germany, previously hesitant to join the harsher measures on Russia, has joined the sanctions regime and committed to increase its military spending to 2% of its GDP. Germany has also halted the NordStream 2 pipeline project, and is joining the EU’s commitment to move away from Russian energy supplies.


The anti-Russia rhetoric in the West is decisive and bold. In her address to the European Parliament, president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, perfectly summed up this sentiment: “If Putin was seeking to divide the European Union, to weaken NATO, and to break the international community, he has achieved exactly the opposite. We are more united than ever and we will stand up in this war, that is for sure that we will overcome and we will prevail. We are united and we stay united.” In endorsing Ukraine’s application for immediate EU membership she added “Today, the European Union and Ukraine are already closer than ever before. There is still a long path ahead. We have to end this war. And we should talk about the next steps. But I am sure: Nobody in this hemicycle can doubt that a people that stands up so bravely for our European values belongs in our European family.”


In his State of the Union Address on February 28th President Biden sounded similar sentiments:


“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever. Together with our allies –we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions. We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system.  Preventing Russia’s central bank from defending the Russian Ruble making Putin’s $630 Billion “war fund” worthless.  We are choking off Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.”  

There is also an intense focus on Putin’s inner circle and the top Russian oligarchs seem to be under a microscope. The European allies are vowing to no longer harbor the Russian oligarch money known to rest in safe havens in major European capitals, and President Biden too explained that those days are over in the United States as well: “Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime no more. The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs. We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”


The Western actions thus far have not stopped the war. Ukraine’s military is outgunned and outnumbered by the invaders. Russia may have suffered losses, but its military is far from fully expanded in Ukraine. As week one of the war has shown, Putin is isolated and angry, he clearly underestimated the people and the government of Ukraine. It seems he started to believe in his own lies and delusions, that the Ukrainian people lacked national identity, that they would not fight for independence, and that they were better off in Ukraine as a Russian province. Putin also did not expect that the West would unite against Russia to this degree. Moreover, the war is unpopular in Russia too. The Russian state media has had to dial up its propaganda and fake news in order to keep presenting the war as a special military operation to “liberate the people of Ukraine”, but it’s not working. Putin’s regime is fighting two wars at the moment; one to keep a lid on dissent at home - arresting thousands of Russians protesting the war, and the other in Ukraine where his soldiers appear to be unmotivated and often confused about their mission and purpose.


This is why Moscow’s war efforts are expected to intensify. Greater force deployments and more devastating attacks on Ukraine are imminent. Many experts now suspect that Putin likely has a Syria-like strategy where the Russian forces bombed cities block by block, obliterating all residential areas and essentially flattening entire towns. In mere days into the war Putin has already put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert. This shows his desperation - although he is unlikely to use nuclear weapons, introducing the threat itself would have been the last resort in any conflict and he is already starting to use all tools in his strategic arsenal.


A protester supporting Ukranian demonstrates outside the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 2, 2022. - The UN overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that "demands" Russia "immediately" withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke of Moscow's invasion by the global body charged with peace and security. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)


In Europe and the United States there are calls for establishing a no-fly zone in Ukraine. But even a humanitarian no-fly zone would be impossible to reinforce without committing to engage with Russia militarily. This option is off the table in Western capitals at the moment. The West can keep arming Ukraine, keep supporting its fleeing citizens, and keep tightening the sanctions on Russia in the hopes of decimating its ability to keep funding and fueling the war. But these are not solutions that will end the war immediately. And with every passing hour more Ukrainian (and Russian) lives are lost. This crisis is uniting not just the West, but the entire world against Russia and in support of peace. On Wednesday the UN adopted a resolution to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, with an overwhelming majority. Even Russia-friendly nations like Kazakhstan are sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and reassuring President Zelensky of their support.


Amid the crisis Vladimir Putin is no longer seen as a cold and calculating former KGB agent-turned-president. His mental stability is now questioned every day. His speeches make him sound more unhinged every time he appears on television. He is said to be self-isolating and surrounding himself with only yes-men who filter information from the outside world for him. He is hated abroad, but also increasingly distrusted and questioned at home. His special forces are now detaining grandmothers and children for peacefully protesting the war. This may be a tragic time for Ukraine, but this is also the beginning of the end of Russia as we know it.


* Maia Otarashvili is a Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Her research is focused on geopolitics and security of the Black Sea-Caucasus region, Russian foreign policy, and the post-Soviet protracted conflicts.

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