April 19. 2024. 8:45

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The second year of war raises the stakes for Ukraine


Having saved their country and nation from Russia in 2022, Ukrainians now look toward victory – and NATO and EU membership, writes Roman Rukomeda.

Russia started its massive military aggression against Ukraine one year and one month ago, hoping to occupy and control the country and its people in just two or three weeks. But now Russia is losing more than 1000 troops daily, having problems capturing small towns in Donbas, like Bakhmut, where it has been stuck for nine months.

Russia has reduced its offensive operations to Eastern Ukraine in Donbas. However, each day there is a need for several thousands of shells and special ammunition for artillery and other systems, which is problematic to receive, as the civilised democratic community does not produce them at the scale of the needs of a real war.

Now there is an urgent need for Ukraine and its partners to rebuild and modernise their military industries. Part of this challenge is military logistics. However, those challenges are on their way to being solved. Training hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and officers to use the new equipment is much more complicated.

The most complex challenges are in people’s minds. Air raid sirens, blackouts of electricity for several days, and lack of heat and water in winter are familiar challenges.

There are also significant shifts in the scale of values of Ukrainian society. In one of the sociological surveys conducted in March 2023, 64% of respondents said that they believe that Ukraine should try to liberate its entire legitimate and sovereign territory, including Crimea, even if there is a risk of a decrease in support from the West and a risk of a long war with Russia.

People in Ukraine witnessing the suffering of war do not want to transfer them to the next generation and are ready to fight to the end, even if it will be much longer and more costly.

However, the attitude of Ukrainians to EU and NATO integration also changed. In January 2023, support for joining NATO increased and is the highest in history: 86% of Ukrainians would vote in favour of a referendum. The majority of society firmly believes that NATO integration is the only genuine guarantee of security for Ukraine from possible future Russian aggression.

At the NATO summit in Vilnius this year, there should be a clear vision and statement about how Ukraine will become a NATO member. Ukraine’s membership in NATO will become a powerful argument for establishing peace and security in Eastern Europe in the long term.

At the same time, 82% of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine’s prosperity depends on the country’s accession to the EU. The shock of war, understanding the problems of the current Ukrainian state and the level of support from the EU and NATO in the war are the best arguments for joining the EU family.

The perception of timelines in Ukrainian society has also changed. The majority of people have the sense that the war will last at least until the end of this year and possibly further into 2024.

Many Ukrainians understand that if Russia avoids military defeat in this war, it will immediately start to prepare for a new battle in the future.

In any case, the main challenge for Ukraine in 2022 – to save the state, the nation and the country – has been faced successfully. In my opinion, the main challenge for Ukraine in 2023 is to win the war with Russia and secure the guarantees of future peace for Ukraine through NATO integration in a short perspective.

All other “peaceful plans” about stopping the warfare and freezing the war are equivalent to putting Russian aggression against Europe on pause and saving Putin’s power in Russia, even though he is now indicted as a war criminal. We feel that the main challenge for Ukraine in 2023 will also be accomplished with success.