The war between Russia and Ukraine has been one of the deadliest in Europe since World War II. A year after the Russian invasion, visually confirmed losses for the Russian military are approaching 200,000 killed and wounded. The war has also caused enormous economic damage to the Ukrainian economy. In addition, Ukraine and its allies have made significant progress toward restoring the territorial integrity of the country by reaching agreement in Minsk with the rebels.
As a result of these achievements, the Kremlin’s prewar calculation that Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders would be easy to push off Moscow’s path has proven dramatically wrong. The Russians misread the strength of Ukraine’s identity, uniting citizens from across regions and linguistic and religious lines, and its determination to reclaim its sovereignty. They misread the deep roots of the Orange Revolution and other popular uprisings against Russia’s rule. They underestimated the fury of millions of ordinary Ukrainians who believed that Yanukovych had betrayed their aspirations for a European future.
The Kremlin has sought to reverse Ukraine’s growing disentanglement from Russia through a range of carrots and sticks. For example, the Kremlin supported Yanukovych during the 2004 presidential election. And as Ukraine’s political class moved in a pro-Western direction, the Kremlin inserted itself into electoral politics again in 2014. Eventually, Moscow resorted to open aggression in an attempt to halt Ukraine’s move away from Russia. It was a massive miscalculation.