After a month of fighting in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, things have not turned out as initially expected. As the Russian army stalls and Ukrainian forces cement their bravery, the legacy of Vladimir Putin is being forged.
In late January, I published an article predicting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The article explained that it was within Russia’s best interest to invade as soon as possible. A few weeks later, on the night of February 24th, 2022, the first missiles started flying at Ukrainian cities as Vladimir Putin gave a likely pre-recorded speech declaring the start of the so-called “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine. What followed has become the biggest war in Europe since World War II.
When the invasion first began, experts predicted that Ukraine would capitulate in days. In fact, it has been revealed that the Russians planned to take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in a matter of 48 hours. One month later, Kyiv still stands strong. This war has shown the immense courage of the Ukrainian people. Thousands signed up to defend Ukraine at the start of the war. Those who couldn’t take up arms found other ways to help, such as assisting in the mass production of Molotov cocktails. Several videos have gone viral showing how the Ukrainian people have been working together and standing up to do their part. The first two weeks of the war created national legends and myths, such as the soldiers who stood their ground at Snake Island and famously said, “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.” Their message has become a rallying cry worldwide.
Despite overwhelming military superiority, Russia has failed to achieve any of its major objectives since the start of the war. Russian vehicles have been found on the road with empty fuel tanks and few rations. Many Russian soldiers have had to resort to stealing from local stores in order to have a little bite to eat. Several Russian generals have even been killed in the conflict. This is extremely surprising considering that modern communication technology has allowed generals to command their troops far from the front lines.
The reality is that Russia is not currently winning this war. While it is still way too early to say with certainty who will win this war in the end, it is not absurd to predict Russia will not come out of this conflict with the victory Putin had expected.
During the months preceding the invasion, discourse surrounding the Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border became extremely prominent. This discourse inevitably created several takes on the possibility of war in Ukraine. Even though the United States government was revealing intelligence saying Russia would invade, a large portion of our national discourse still insisted that a war would not occur. It would be suicide they said; it would be irrational.
Those who doubted the possibility of war failed to understand that irrationality is the natural consequence brought on by tyrants who have no checks on their power and are fueled by a revanchist ideology. After 20 years of rule, 20 years of posturing towards the rebirth of Russian glory in the form of a neo-Russian imperialism, Putin feels he has to solidify his legacy for Russia.
In the end, Vladimir Putin has gotten his wish. His legacy has been solidified. It has been solidified as the tyrant who destroyed Russia’s economy. The tyrant that murdered thousands of Ukrainians. The tyrant who–we can only hope–lost a war to Ukraine.
Caden Umansky is a first year International Studies student in the School of International Service. He is a Staff Writer at the American Agora.
Image from Creative Commons.