The central question faced by Western democracies as the new year begins is how to stop the war in Ukraine and establish a new normality, as the old normality clearly no longer exists, writes Roman Rukomeda.
Roman Rukomeda is a Ukrainian political analyst. This is his 74th account of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the last days of 2022 and the first day of 2023, Russia bombarded Ukraine with airstrikes. The waves comprised approximately 80 rockets, with a further 40 Iranian drones launched in the final hours of December, as the rest of the world celebrated the new year.
The main target of attacks was the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Ukraine’s air defence forces skilfully destroyed the majority of rockets and drones, though some of them as well as their parts caused damage to civilian objects in Kyiv, resulting in injuries and some fatalities.
Russia again showed its aggression and full inability to reach any military goals in its determination to terrorise peaceful Ukrainians even on the night of the new year. Thanks to the help of NATO and EU partners of Ukraine, especially with air defence systems, many Ukrainian lives were saved.
The war that started on 24 February 2022 changed the world and Europe: The battle between democratic and totalitarian countries moved to the hot stage. The first battlefield – Ukraine – was chosen.
When commentators say that Putin’s Russia planned and launched an attack on Ukraine alone they are deeply mistaken. Such an attack would have never been possible without China’s blessing and the assurance of support from the authoritarian and totalitarian states of Iran, Belarus, and North Korea, all of which are strongly interested in the failure of Western democracies.
Ukraine broke the scenario. Instead of fast capitulation, Ukraine and its people gave a fight that astonished everyone including the aggressor. Instead of a rapid victory within two weeks, Russia is stuck in a war that has lasted for 10 months.
What was planned
The main Russian goal was to capture Kyiv and establish a puppet government that would help them to destroy the Ukrainian resistance. The atrocities would have been far greater than we have seen in Bucha, Izyum, Mariupol and other occupied towns, and the Ukrainian casualties would have run into the millions.
Russian documents, abandoned by officers during their retreat in the Kharkiv region, attest to this plan to replicate Stalin-style massacres in Ukraine and put the country and people under total Russian control.
A second probable step would have been the military occupation of Moldova and Caucasian states, to comprise the restored ‘Soviet Union 2.0’ that was supposed to receive rebirth on 30 December 2022, on the 100th anniversary of its foundation.
A third step may have been the beginnings of aggression against Poland, the Baltics, possibly Romania and Bulgaria, and some other NATO member states. At that stage, Russia might have threatened Europe and the USA with the use of nuclear weapons, as Moscow sought to restore a former Soviet zone of influence.
No doubt Russian aggressors planned to mobilise hundreds of thousands of captured Ukrainians into their army as they did in the captured parts of Ukrainian Donbas and Crimea. The situation could have been further complicated by a simultaneous Chinese attack on Taiwan, stretching the ability of NATO countries to react in several war theatres in different parts of the world.
However, Russia’s plans appeared to fail. Ukrainian resistance and heroism stopped the master plan of the new global war at its first stage – Ukraine.
While Ukraine successfully fights off Russian aggressors, all other parts of this plan cannot be realised. Luckily, there is an understanding of the real threat that Russia and its allies represent to Europe and Western democracies.
The massive military, financial and energy assistance to Ukraine has proved it. But in the coming 2023, Ukraine needs much more of this Western aid to achieve the military defeat of Russia.
The fastest, cheapest and shortest way to avoid the scenario of the new global war and victory of a global alliance of dictatorships is to help Ukraine defeat Russia in 2023 – and hold Moscow accountable according to international law.
No return to old normality
The central question faced by European and Western democracies now is how to stop the war and establish a new normality. It is absolutely clear that the old normality no longer exists, as all the basic rules of international cooperation and coexistence have been broken.
How to save the situation? The answer is simple: Help Ukraine achieve Russia’s military defeat, punish the aggressor and achieve full demilitarisation and denuclearisation of the Russian Federation.
Russian aggression without punishment would lead as an example to all the authoritarian and dictatorship regimes all around the world to start their own wars for the “restoration of historical claims”. As we enter 2023, it is time to correct the mistakes made in 2022.