Two years of war in Ukraine: Important questions and answers

There has been a fierce war in Ukraine for two years. Here are the pressing questions and their answers:

A bitter war has been going on in Ukraine for two years, provoked by Russia on February 24, 2022. Below are the questions and their answers:

WHY did the war start? What are the aims of the declared war?

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” on February 24, 2022, in order to disarm Ukraine and save it from the “Nazis”. In his speech shortly before the invasion, Putin said that the country existed only thanks to Lenin and Bolshevik Russia and criticized the US for allowing Ukraine to become a “puppet regime”. In March 2022, Russia redefined its goals. The focus from then on was said to be the complete liberation of the separatist region of Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

The Kiev government, on the other hand, evaluated the “special operation” as Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine and erase its sovereignty. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg believes that the purpose of the invasion is to prevent Ukraine from moving towards NATO and the European Union. In an interview with the German Press Agency, he said that after two years of war, Ukraine is now closer than ever to NATO and the EU.

What is the history of the war?

With the warnings he made in 2008, Putin managed to prevent NATO from expanding to include the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia. Membership was sought by then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko before the NATO summit in early April 2008, and was also supported by former US President George W. Bush. However, due to the threat of Russia, Germany and France opposed this. Russia also intervened in Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU. The then pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended the association agreement with the EU in 2013. Months of mass protests against this decision followed.

In February 2014, the Kremlin deployed Russian troops to the Ukrainian border. On February 27, Russian troops occupied the parliament and government building in Simferopol on Crimea’s Black Sea peninsula. According to organizers, a referendum was called for March 16, with a large majority in favor of joining Russia. On March 18, Putin accepted this and the 21st Parliament approved the official admission of Crimea.

In April, Russian irregulars and pro-Russian separatists occupied administrative buildings in several cities of eastern Ukraine and declared “independent people’s republics” in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. A long-running armed conflict ensued, in which 14,000 people died, according to UN estimates. Since Volodymyr Zelenskyj was elected Ukrainian president in 2019, the intensity of the conflict has greatly decreased: 25 people died in 2021, out of a total of 3,400 civilian deaths between 2014 and 2021. Putin redeployed Russian troops to the border this year. . On February 21, 2022, it recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as “people’s republics”.

How did the war go?

According to Army military expert Markus Reisner, the war is now in its sixth phase. This is Russia’s second winter offensive. In the invasion on February 24, 2022, Russian troops attacked Ukraine from the north, east and south. After a successful resistance, Moscow changed its strategy and concentrated on the east and south of the country. Here Russia achieved significant territorial gains. In the counteroffensive launched by Ukraine starting in the spring of 2022, the Ukrainian armed forces managed to recapture some regions.

In the first Russian winter offensive that followed, Russia focused on infrastructure and destroyed a large portion of its energy supply, among other things. Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the summer of 2023 failed due to lack of ammunition and air superiority. Russia launched its second winter offensive. The Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which has been fought over for months, recently fell into the hands of the Russian army.

What is Russia’s military balance of power?

According to Norwegian intelligence, Russia is gaining military superiority in Ukraine thanks to its larger troop reserves and material support from countries such as North Korea and China. Russia has doubled its funding for state defense contracts compared to 2022 and increased production of “certain weapons” tenfold, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov said. Almost a third of the state budget is spent on the military, and according to the Vienna Institute for International Economic Research (wiiw), defense spending will rise to 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year.

What is Ukraine’s capacity?

Ukraine also wants to increase domestic arms and ammunition production. However, Ukraine is largely dependent on Western support. “Ukraine is now like a vaccine-dependent patient,” says General Staff Colonel Reisner. Germany, in particular, has recently called for greater commitment in military support to Ukraine and, according to its own statements, wants “three to four times” the amount of artillery ammunition delivered in 2024.

The EU had promised one million bullets, but according to experts, it had not yet sent half of them to Ukraine. According to calculations by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), the EU has promised aid worth more than 144 billion euros. According to the EU Commission, the actual fund allocated for financial, humanitarian and military support is 88 billion. The $60 billion US aid package is currently in the approval process, and approval by the US House of Representatives is also uncertain.

What does Russia’s victory mean?

EU Military Committee Chairman Robert Brieger emphasizes: “Russia should not win the war.” Ukraine’s security is closely linked to the security of Europe. In an interview with “profile” magazine, Brieger explained that Russian control over Ukraine would shift Russia’s influence 100 kilometers to the west, thus creating a potential threat similar to that in the Cold War.

There are also fears in the West that Russia’s victory could be seen as an incentive for Putin or other countries to pursue their goals militarily and disregard international law.

Will the war end this year?

Ukraine itself does not expect a decision until next year, according to military expert Reisner. Russia expert Gerhard Mangott also does not expect a possible Ukrainian attack to drive out the attacker until 2025. Prominent Ukrainian historian and intellectual Jaroslav Hryzak also has no hope that the war will end in 2024.

WHY are there no peace talks?

Ukraine currently rejects peace talks because it sees it as a threat to its existence. At his annual press conference in December 2023, Putin once again said that peace can only come if Russia achieves its goals. He warned that Ukraine’s state existence would end in mid-January. Andrij Yermak, head of the presidential office in Kiev, emphasized that Kiev wants to start peace talks only after Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine.

Negotiations have already taken place: Negotiations held between intermediaries in Istanbul since March 2022 have not produced a solution. So are the mediation efforts of heads of state and government such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP).

Do sanctions work?

The sanctions imposed by the EU had an impact. First, they caused the Russian economy to go into recession. According to Economy Minister Martin Kocher, more than 1,100 multinational companies have left Russia since the start of the war; This represents a huge loss of knowledge and technology for the Russian economy. The export ban on goods and technologies also led to a shortage of spare parts in 2022.

However, Russia complied with the sanctions. Last year, the Russian economy grew by 3.5 percent again. But experts at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Research (wiiw) see growing signs of overheating due to the armament boom. There is a shortage of workers due to the war, and basic interest rates have been increased to 16 percent due to high inflation; this is expected to limit growth to 1.5 percent this year. “Russia is becoming more and more dependent on the ongoing war,” said Wiiw Russia expert Vasily Astrov. This year’s budget deficit is just under 1 percent, and financing the war is not a problem, according to Wiiw.

WHO supports Russia?

It receives military support from Russia, Iran, Belarus and North Korea. According to information received from Norwegian military intelligence, China supplies machinery, vehicles, electronics and spare parts to the Russian defense industry, not weapons. According to experts, Türkiye also supplies parts. Polish security expert Slawomir Majman, vice president of the Institute for Security and International Development in Warsaw, also sees Russia’s allies in India, Africa and Latin America; “Many people here are happy to see the Russians kicking American ass.” Military expert Reisner talks about a conflict between the West and the Global South.

Should Europe prepare for the expansion of war?

The Austrian armed forces assess the risk of a conflict between the EU and Russia as “very high”, as Major General Peter Vorhofer said recently at the Ministry of Defense’s “Risk Picture 2024″ presentation. This means that we are likely to see hybrid warfare in 2024.” Specific risks include cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns in the current super election year. The expert also cited attempts by external actors to undermine European integration “through targeted attacks and pressure.” The aim is to prevent Europe from becoming a key player in security and foreign policy.It was recently announced that Russia put Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and other members of the Baltic states’ government on its wanted list last year.

How is the West preparing?

NATO states and their allies are trying to expand their deterrence and defense capabilities and are increasing their armament spending. NATO is also carrying out its largest exercise in recent years. According to NATO information, in case Russia attacks the alliance territory, a rehearsal of “Faithful Defender” will be held, involving approximately 90,000 soldiers.

How neutral is Austria in this situation?

According to Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP), military neutrality does not mean political neutrality. Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) states that Austria stands in solidarity with the sanctions against Russia and supports Ukraine. Nehammer said Austria is focused on humanitarian aid, accepting war-wounded people, and also facilitating military aid within the EU. Austria also supplies Ukraine with non-lethal protective vests and helmets, as well as fire trucks. The federal government rejected President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for support with demining equipment.

Is participation in Sky Shield compatible with neutrality?

On the other hand, Austria participates in the “Sky Shield” missile protection system launched by Germany. Experts such as the federal government, former Chief of Staff Brieger, and European and international law expert Walter Obwexer explain that Sky Shield is compatible with Austrian neutrality “as long as the decision on the use of weapons remains in Austrian hands.”

(Compiled by Alexandra Demcisin/APA)

(APA/Red)

Source: Vienna

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