Amid a rising tide of geopolitical rivalry, Ukraine finds itself on the frontlines. The escalating Russo-Ukrainian war is the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II, and it threatens to damage Russia’s relationship with many of its European allies.
For decades, the two countries forged close economic and cultural ties. But the outbreak of war in 2022 has rekindled long-running divisions. In the west, the majority of Ukrainians support closer integration with Europe, while in the east, most want closer ties with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin framed the war in terms of his quest to restore Russia’s status as a great power. Losing control of Ukraine and letting it fall into the West would have been a blow to Moscow’s image.
Nine months into the war, it’s unclear how long the fighting will last. The outcome is even more unsure given that Russia’s forces appear incapable of recapturing Kyiv or occupying significant territory beyond the separatist enclaves of Donetsk and Crimea. Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces have made progress in regaining territory through offensive operations.
At the same time, Russia has escalated intimidation tactics. Chatham House Stavros Niarchos Academy Fellow Magdalene Karalis writes that the onset of war has also brought a new kind of information warfare, with Ukrainian forces relying more on civilian reporting through open-source intelligence (OSINT). The result is that the traditional kill chain has been altered, and Ukraine now has a more flexible and resilient network of intelligence, she says.