London: When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the objective was to seize control of the country within three days, overthrow the government and establish a new, pro-Kremlin regime.
To achieve this, Russia assembled an estimated 200,000-strong force around Ukraine’s borders to participate in the largest attack on a European country since the Second World War.
And yet, into the war’s second anniversary in 2024, Moscow’s prospects of achieving its initial aims remain as remote as ever. Far from completing the conquest of Ukraine, Russia’s military effort has become bogged down in a costly war of attrition, with neither side appearing capable of achieving a decisive breakthrough.
On the contrary, with both sides sustaining significant casualties in terms of men and equipment, the Ukraine war seems set to become just another of the world’s “frozen” conflicts, especially as neither Moscow nor Ukraine’s wartime leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, have shown much appetite for entering peace negotiations.
The longer-running conflict between Russia and Ukraine will, after all, mark its tenth anniversary in 2024, after Russian forces launched their initial assault to capture Crimea and large tracts of eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014.
Since then, both sides have been involved in a relentless and bloody campaign for control of the disputed territories, one that ultimately led to Putin’s decision to launch his ambitious plan to seize control of Ukraine in its entirety in 2022 with his so-called “special military operation”.
But as the invasion’s second anniversary looms, neither side seems willing to compromise, even though, for different reasons, both leaders are under pressure to do so.
War fatigue sets in
The biggest threat Zelensky faces in his quest to liberate every inch of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory comes from his allies in the West. They increasingly suffer from war fatigue despite providing Kyiv with the weaponry required to sustain the military effort against Russia.
The willingness, moreover, of key Western leaders to maintain their support for Zelensky has been undermined by Israel's war on Gaza which broke out in October 2023 and has understandably diverted world attention away from Ukraine.