January 15, 2023
Some people woke up on New Year’s morning with a hangover and some woke up with resolutions they will never fulfil. But my friend, and Ukrainian politician, Kira Rudik, woke up that morning at 7 am in Kyiv to a massive bombing attack on her residential neighborhood. It blew out her windows, damaged the structure, demolished a five-storey building, destroyed shops, and killed neighbors. Putin rang in the New Year across Ukraine with his biggest air assault since 2022, unleashing 300 missiles and 200 Iranian drones on civilian targets and killing 120 and maiming 480 civilians, to terrorize and demoralize Ukrainians and the West. But he only reaped more defiance and resolve. “No one talks about stopping after this happens,” said Kira. “The sanctions aren’t working. The West must stop procrastinating with ammunition, air defense, and financial support or what we are getting here will come to their countries. Do you want Russia on your borders? Do you think they will stop?”
After hundreds of New Year’s attacks against civilians, a special session of NATO was convened and allies agreed to provide Ukraine with “billions of euros” to bolster its air defenses. Finally, few believe that Russia’s genocide will end. That realization, along with America’s preoccupation with wars elsewhere, have convinced Europeans to dramatically step up. They are next on Putin’s hit list, and it is clearly a fantasy to believe that Ukraine will ever agree to a ceasefire or that Russia will give up its goal to conquer Ukraine. Any stoppage in fighting would simply permit Putin to regroup for a third invasion of Ukraine down the road.
“Russia needs to walk away with the understanding that they lost, that they will lose the next war,” said an Estonian defense official in an interview with Newsweek. The outcome should be “that economically they are ruined, we outlasted them, we kept our industry on a better footing, we have the technological advantage, we have better training, better morale, and that they don’t stand a chance. They need to walk away with the understanding that international law and the rules-based world functions, and that you cannot bend it as you wish. This is the only way to draw a line there, so that this wouldn’t happen again. If one of those elements is not fulfilled, then in a few years we will face another crisis, and not only from Russia, because everyone is learning.”
Economic powerhouse Germany just took the historic step of deploying soldiers outside its borders in Lithuania, for the first time since the Second World War. Chancellor Olaf Scholz encourages more military assistance from all EU members and the expansion of Euro military-industrial centers. German politicians are even contemplating conscription. Berlin has announced plans to buy missiles on behalf of Ukraine from non-Western countries — just as Russia now buys weapons from Iran and North Korea. “This means buying ammunition and weapons for Ukraine where they are available,” his spokesman explained. “We also need to increase the production of weapons and ammunition for our security and the security of Ukraine. Putin is counting on the fatigue of Ukraine and the West. We need European efforts.”
Just before Christmas, Britain and France – Europe’s other nuclear powers – jointly reaffirmed their determination that Russia’s invasion ends in failure and that allies must better leverage their economic might to overtake Russia’s war machine. Britain’s new foreign minister, David Cameron who is a former Prime Minister, pledged that the two nations will support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” — in stark contrast to President Joe Biden’s climbdown in the face of Congressional pushback, that American support will last “as long as it can”.
Cameron also boosted spirits and noted that the economies of Ukraine’s allies are 25 times bigger than Russia’s. “What we have to do is make that economic strength and that commitment pay,” he said. “If we can, I have no doubt that we can make sure that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin loses and it’s essential that he does lose.”
Another sign of unity and coalescence is that several Northern European countries have recently rushed to sign new defense agreements with the United States that will facilitate the fast-track deployment of American troops. These arrangements mark a major shift and involve Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. “This allows the U.S. to say: This entire region is one defense region. How can we work together, both in planning, exercises, and deterrence operations? Now you can do it all in a rational way, rather than having to say ‘we can’t refuel in Sweden,’” said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in a Politico interview. NATO members also race to replenish the weapons they have sent to Ukraine in anticipation of an ongoing or increased confrontation with Russia.
Another realization across Europe is that not only must Putin be defeated, but that he can be defeated because he has been unable to “win” in Ukraine despite going all out, said Ben Hodges, former Commanding General of US Army in Europe. Putin’s first invasion occurred in 2014 which grabbed 7.5 percent of its land mass because Ukraine’s corrupt Putin-backed President fled and left the country with a tiny army and few weapons. The second invasion on February 24, 2022 has grabbed another 10 percent, at an unsustainable cost of 315,000 Russian casualties thus far and economic degradation. “Russia started this war nine years ago with every advantage and after nine years, soon to be 10 years, they still control only about 17 per cent,” said Hodges. In the past two years, Ukraine has clawed back half the lands occupied immediately after 2022 and now wreaks havoc in the Black Sea region plus inside Russia despite lacking air or sea dominance.
Eastern European expert and historian Alexander Motyl also notes: “The Russian regime, army, and economy have gotten weaker, and there is no reason to expect things to get better anytime soon. Contrary to much conventional wisdom, in Russia and the West, time is not on Putin’s side. He’s not getting any younger, and his regime is not getting any stronger. The West should therefore refrain from negotiating with Putin until his country and regime weaken beyond easy repair.”
In essence, many now realize that Ukrainians are “winning” the war and demoralizing Russians by killing 1,000 a day, by devising superior warzone technology, and by deploying partisans and “fifth-column” special ops inside Russia and the Black Sea region. Poisonings, assassinations, and drone swarms have been unleashed inside Russia and its occupied territories. And in 2024, hopefully by spring, Ukraine will have an airforce that includes dozens of F16s to protect its skies and troops, donated by European nations. Besides that, Europe’s leaders claim they will prevent any obstruction to Ukrainian funding by Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who says he will veto a planned $50-billion military package to Kyiv this year.
Another blow looming for Putin is that support grows in favor of seizing the $300-billion in frozen Russian assets held in foreign central banks to help defray the cost of the war and rebuild Ukraine. The European Central Bank opposed the notion of seizing Russia’s Euro-denominated assets but last week the White House endorsed confiscation of US-denominated assets. Many believe that on February 24 — the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion — the G7 will decide to confiscate these Russian assets held abroad.
Most importantly, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky remains ebullient and Ukrainians remain on side. In his January 10 statement he said “Russia will not survive if we continue to beat it. I am sure that Russia will also retreat. We cannot name a specific day when this will happen. We cannot list every detail of how it will happen. But we know that it will happen. And our freedom will prevail. It will be the day of a new chance for Belarus. It will be a day of new power for our entire Europe, which is now learning true unity while defending itself against Russian hybrid attacks. We all know what steps are needed. We all know what we can lose and what we can gain, and then we will achieve our goal. There will be no more empire”.