Europe must be functional for Ukraine to survive.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has escalated once again in recent days. On October 8, Ukraine blew up the only vehicular and rail transit bridge into Crimea from Russia. Russia responded by firing missiles into the Ukrainian capital. The back-and-forth threatens to increase civilian casualties while also reflecting Russia’s increasingly untenable position in the conflict. Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization has done little to turn the tide. He has resorted to nuclear threats and sham annexations, but there seems to be little expectation that these are more than bluffs and saber-rattling.
Observers believe that these developments point to an eventual Ukrainian success. The Russian government seems unlikely to be able to launch a full mobilization of its people, given their vehement opposition to a partial draft. Every takeover of Ukrainian land is soon repulsed by the Ukrainian army. Russia has had to resort to buying ammunition from North Korea, and there is always the chance of an end to its vital relationship with China. In short, Russia does not seem to have a clear path to victory in this protracted conflict.
But these disadvantages for Russia are complicated by the caveat of Russia’s size and massive army. Russia may not be performing well in the war so far. But there is no reason to think that it will give in anytime soon. There are still millions of soldiers in the Russian army. Russia has lost between 5,000 and 45,000 soldiers as of late August, a high amount for the 21st century but a small percentage of the nation’s armed forces. Some observers believe Ukraine can win the war, but they think it may take years. In a span of five years, anything can happen to change the calculus and improve Russia’s fortunes.
The remainder of the war depends on Europe’s commitment to the Ukrainian cause. The United States may withdraw at least some of their funding in 2023 if Republicans take back the House of Representatives. But European nations border Ukraine and can provide weapons and logistical support more efficiently. This support will evaporate, however, if European countries cannot cope with the soaring energy costs that have resulted from the withdrawal of Russian natural gas. There are already cracks showing in the…