Overnight, Russia has launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, initiating the biggest war in Europe since World War II. In what the Ukrainian government calls “a full-scale attack from multiple directions,” tanks rolled over the border from the north, east, and south, and air-strikes dropped bombs in over a dozen cities across the Texas-sized nation. Ukrainian citizens are anxious and unsure of what is to come as they face a war unbelievable in modern times.
The attack began at almost the same time as Vladimir Putin announced its initiation in an angry speech–starkly contrasting the emergency United Nations Security Council meeting called in a final effort for peace that occurred at the same time. In Putin’s address he said that it was a peacekeeping mission to “demilitarize” and “denazify” (this claim is especially absurd as Ukrainian President Zelensky is Jewish) the government. The claim that Putin wants to protect the people of Ukraine is difficult to believe while those very people crowd into makeshift bomb shelters in subway stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations and A.T.M.s throughout eastern Ukraine. In the capital city of Kyiv, people flee the city in their cars, but do not know their destination as it seems that no place is safe in the country. A Ukrainian woman says, “We’ve lived eight years of unending war. There’s nowhere to run. All Ukraine is exploding.”
No one can be completely sure of what Putin’s end goal is in attacking Ukraine, as he has lied and continues to lie about his motives for the invasion and makes unbiased claims about the Ukrainian government in order to justify the invasion and increase confusion. The deputy interior minister of Ukraine believes that Russia plans on encircling Kyiv and removing the government and replacing it with a pro-Russian puppet government. American intelligence thinks that Russia aims to take hold of the eastern 2/3s of Ukraine. Many analysts fear that Putin, who is obsessed with the idea of a Soviet Union-like Russia, wants to take all of Ukraine or possibly go even further than that. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to predict how long or to what extent the war will play out.
Based on Putin’s current method of attack, it grows increasingly apparent that he aims to remove the Ukrainian government at the very least. He has bombed several air bases and cities throughout the country, with reports saying over 160 bombs have been dropped in Ukraine so far. Ukrainian forces have burned down bridges outside of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, in order to delay the Russian advance. Russia has also taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is near Kyiv. Fierce combat has ensued as Russian troops close in on the capital city, but American intelligence worries that the city could fall within days because of Russia’s steep military advantage. If Russia was to take control of Kyiv, many fear that they will try and remove the government and possibly attempt assassination. “The enemy has listed me as target number 1,” says President Zelensky. “They want to destroy the country.”
The Ukrainian people remain defiant and fully intend to defend their country. Unlike what occurred in Afghanistan, the Ukrainian government will not flee despite the serious threats it faces from Russia, choosing to stay in the country and put up a fight against the invading forces. Putin had expected the Ukrainian army to not fight at all, but they are fighting back doggedly. President Zelensky said that he will provide weapons to all those willing and able to fight, and many civilians have been joining volunteer defense units in the days leading up to the invasion. Many people left cities and fled to the Polish border, however all men aged 18-60 are required to stay in the country. The vast majority of Ukrainians are against Putin’s agenda with over 80 percent of the population supporting independence and more than half approve joining NATO. The Russian threats have only created a stronger sense of national pride and unity amongst Ukrainians.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” President Biden said. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way.” So far these actions include sanctions on Russian institutions such as their banking systems and on the elites that are close to Putin.
“This is the largest conventional war in Europe since 1939,” said Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia. “And this has consequences not just for Europe, not just for Ukraine, but for the future of international stability at large.”