It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a month since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Putin thought this would be quick and easy, yet the Ukrainian military – backed with weapons from a number of other countries – has resisted, and the Ukrainian people have refused to accept occupation of their cities and land. Russian soldiers might have been told they were liberators, but the strength of opposition to their presence will have told them a different story, and logistical problems have turned this into a bloody, brutal campaign.
Ukraine says it’s forces have killed 15,000 Russian soldiers, whilst Russia’s only official statement on casualties places their losses at 498 (albeit their figures are from the 2nd of March). The truth lies somewhere in-between, but the reality for Russia is that they’re suffering higher losses than they could have imagined, because they vastly underestimated their enemy.
Yet the destruction of so many lives continues unabated. The city of Mariupol has been defiant but it has also been virtually destroyed by shelling. Civilians are trapped and Russian forces are making it impossible to get aid in or people out. Many other Ukrainian cities have come under attack, and Russian forces are not discriminating between military and civilian targets. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by this senseless, needless invasion.
Ordinary Russians are experiencing pain, albeit nothing like what Ukrainians face. Western sanctions are biting hard. Protestors have been detained and censorship is at an all-time high. The Russian economy is suffering and everything in Russia has become more difficult. In short, no one is winning this war. The trouble is, Putin will need to save face. He won’t end the war by withdrawing his troops, as that would seem like a surrender. He is demanding Ukraine give up territory and insisting they never join NATO, but surely it’s up to Ukraine to determine its own future?
Throughout all of this, there is the risk that a line gets crossed where other countries are forced to intervene. If Russian missiles land in neighbouring Poland or other NATO countries, or if by some unlikely chance NATO does impose a no-fly zone, we could well be looking at World War III. If Putin decides to use biological, chemical or even nuclear weapons against Ukraine, it’s hard to imagine the rest of the world doing nothing. The consequences of such an escalation could be what dooms our species.
The clearest, most sensible way out of this is for Russia to withdraw. They are sustaining much higher casualties than expected, their economy is being heavily damaged, and with each passing day the likelihood of Russian citizens deciding enough is enough grows. Putin needs to end this peacefully and immediately. This is his war, that he started for dubious reasons, and now he needs to end it, before it consumes us all.