At the end of February, the Kremlin was convinced that, by late summer, they would have largely conquered and changed Ukraine. That at the end of August teachers in Ukraine would be preparing a new curriculum, which teaches that Russia and Ukraine are one, as Russians and Ukrainians are, and that thanks to the “special military operation”, which ended a long time ago, a big historical mistake was corrected.
In Kyiv, loyal and reasonable people would be in power just like in every city from Lviv to Kharkiv and Odesa. It goes without saying that Crimea would be satisfied due to the record summer tourist season, one spent in peace and relaxation. The “operation” was supposed to be quick and aseptic, few people in Ukraine and no one in Russia would feel it.
It’s been six months since Russia and Putin collided with reality, showing that on February 24 they knew nothing about Ukraine and Ukrainians, much less about themselves. They knew the least about the world that surrounds them and about the times in which they live. They only believed in the myth of their greatness and invincibility, which they have been feeding on for centuries and they praised their leader when, on February 24, he put that myth on tank tracks and crossed the Ukrainian border.
Russia persistently lied to the whole world that it would not attack Ukraine; it even lied to its own people. They also lied to each other in the Kremlin, where apart from the commander-in-chief and a few close associates, no one knew about the invasion until it began. The lie continues even today, because the word “war” is forbidden in Russia, it is punishable by prison, the only thing that people are allowed to say is “special military operation”, as Putin announced six months ago. They lie to themselves that the economy is on its feet, while hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, while closed companies are repainted in the colours of the national flag, and airplanes are “cannibalized” at airports, removing parts from working ones and placing them on broken ones.
Since nobody serious believes anything coming from such an environment, let’s try to find out the price Russia is actually paying for the past six months from someone with credibility. The Russian army lost 80,000 men in six months. Besides the dead, there are also wounded and deserters, British Defence Minister Ben Wallace has said by way of summary. In the 10 years of the invasion in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union lost 15,000 people. The economy is on its knees, and companies that, according to calculations made at Yale University, produced 40% of GDP have left Russia. Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe, from the UN Human Rights Council, from all sports organizations; only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea still support Russia in the UN. Russian diplomats are leaving international conferences because no one wants to talk to them.
This is only part of the price that Russia is paying for the past six months of aggression against Ukraine. But what is it paying for? Not even the Kremlin is quite sure of the purpose behind it raising its army to invade Ukraine. At the beginning, Putin spoke about the “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine. Few people understood the first goal, so they withdrew it from circulation as quickly as possible, and as for the second, the Ukrainian resistance has been proving to the Russians, for half a year now, that demilitarization will not happen.
The goal was, and still is, the unification of Ukrainian population with Russian population, with their “real” nation and identity, their “conversion” to Russia and Russians. The Ukrainians, however, understood very well that it was a pure military occupation, their violent “conversion” into Russians and the erasure of their identity.
Their united resistance to such a monstrous plan has amazed the world for six months. The goal of the Russian invasion was also to prevent the further expansion of NATO towards its borders. Not only did they not prevent it, but they accelerated it, not to Ukraine, but to the other side, to rich, developed and militarily superior Finland and Sweden.
Built on lies, deceiving the world and itself, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine after half a year leaves no doubt about its outcome. As if they themselves are aware of it, its military leaders try to hide the obvious.
After six months, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says that the Russian army is going slowly on purpose, because it wants to protect civilians!? Those thousands killed in Mariupol, Bucha and elsewhere, who will probably get justice in some future court for war crimes. Putin said in July that “they haven’t even started seriously in Ukraine yet”, encouraging himself above all, but also his countrymen, from whom he has long been unable to hide the fact that Russia is bleeding heavily and that it will be a miracle if it ever recovers.
Neither on the first day of the aggression, nor today, six months later, is there any doubt about the real Russian motives, and even less about the correctness of the Ukrainian resistance.
A European nation stood up to defend its freedom, identity and its right to decide its future, against a force that wanted to take it all away. It showed and is still showing that it is ready to pay the highest price for it.
For that, Ukrainians have received the support of everyone who has the same values at heart. Russia has drawn a border around itself that has never since the Second World War separated the free from the unfree world so clearly.
If Russia did at least one good thing with the campaign against Ukraine, it was forcing, until then disoriented European and Western civilization in general, to remember that its roots lie in freedom of choice, democracy and resistance to any tyranny. Many had forgotten about those roots, and they should thank Ukraine and its struggle for reminding them.
No one can predict when peace will reign in Ukraine. The former commander of American forces in Europe, General Ben Hodges, believes that the Russian forces are “exhausted” and will “burst” before the end of this year. It is possible. But what is certain is that Putin and Russia will not achieve their true goal in Ukraine, which is to occupy the country and subjugate its population.
Ukraine has already, with great international solidarity, military and economic support, stopped the most terrible demolition project since the Second World War. The free world owes Ukraine for that.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.
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