By Eric Vallen
For the last 30 years, Europe has not seen significant, large-scale war. Even then, the Croat-Bosnian war wasn’t exactly anything to get scared about. There were few casualties, few markets were affected, and proportionally few people were displaced. Yet now, in the 21st century, in the midst of the most peaceful time in western history, we have the largest European war since World War II. Ukraine shares a nearly 3000 mile long border with Russia and Belarus, the countries which it means to defend itself from. More than 500,000 soldiers combined are fighting on both sides. Millions of people are fleeing west, flooding Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Why did it come to this? Ukraine and Russia are historically similar countries, having been part of the same country under tsarist and totalitarian rule for the greater part of three centuries prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Their demographics are practically the same, with Russian and Ukrainian languages being nearly identical. They share a common culture, were previously on very good economic terms, but, they have one massive difference: ideology.
Prior to 2014, Ukraine was essentially a Russian puppet state. The president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, was thrown out by the public and replaced by pro-Ukrainian businessman, Petro Poroshenko. As a result, Russian military units were ordered to invade the then Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Since that event, Ukraine has been inching closer and closer to the West, attempting to join NATO and at some point, even the EU.
In November of 2021, NATO talks were growing more serious, spurring Russian military buildup and subsequent invasion this past month. However, this is no conventional war. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, planned as if it were, believing the war to likely be over in a matter of days. This is no proxy war, but the West acts as if it is, sending millions of dollars in cash and equipment to the Ukrainian government and military in their efforts against Russia.
As of March 14th, the vast majority of land that Russia has captured is rural, valueless land. The Ukrainians hold weak air superiority at the moment and are engaging in guerilla warfare in the cities. As such, Russia has begun massive bombing campaigns of cities, disregarding civilian lives entirely. This war in Ukraine is not likely to end, at least in the next few years. Both the Russian and Ukrainian militaries are too far gone. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, economies have been ruined, more is at stake than simply losing a war. Ukraine has the entire western world’s economic power behind it, and Russia has it’s massive, albeit antique, military bolstering its ranks.
If it wants to win, Russia will have to level every Ukrainian building it can find, and is anyone willing to stop it? Ukraine may have money on its side, but money does nothing when a gun is pointed in your face. Furthermore, Russia has a trump card: oil. They may not be able to fuel their own vehicles, but they fuel the entirety of Europe. If they shut off those pipelines, gas prices won’t just be in the high singles, they’ll be in the high double digits. Infrastructure will also be heavily impacted, even in the most developed areas of the world.
The balance between East and West has come to a tipping point, and unless the West truly wants to get its feet wet, Ukraine will soon be a Russian puppet state once again. If no one comes to the aid of Ukraine, then who’s to say someone will aid Israel? Taiwan? South Sudan? Ukraine is Russia’s, and hence the world’s, test of the West’s will. Their willingness to fight. The West might, and likely will, have to act if they want to keep the peace they’ve experienced for the past 30 years.