War and Peace in 2024. IPN debate

The war of aggression waged by the Russian Federation against neighboring Ukraine imposed itself as one of those that marked people’s lives very much, if not the most the past year and is expected to influence them further. What the tendencies of this war have been the past year, how it can evolve this year and what the chances are for the long-awaited peace to replace the war were among the topics discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “War and Peace in 2024”.

The permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said that from the standpoint of Ukraine’s and the international community – European states and institutions – the war started on February 24, 2022 by Russia against Ukraine is a military aggression aimed at destroying the Ukrainian state, accompanied by war crimes that are investigated by specialized international institutions. “Russia’s official viewpoint camouflages the aggression against its neighbor, which it calls brother nation, with specially invented terms, as if Ukraine is against Russia and should be therefore disarmed and denazified,” explained the expert.

According to him, Ukraine’s allies are officially the states that are part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, also known as the “Ramstein” format. It is an international coalition whose members offer military assistance to Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion. More than 50 countries – all NATO member countries, most of the EU member states and allies from Africa and Asia – are part of this group.

“Russia has no declared allies in the war against Ukraine, except Belarus. Unofficially, Russia considers its allies the states that hadn’t voted for UN resolutions condemning its aggression against Ukraine. From Russia’s point of view, there are about 35 such states. But there are also states that supply weapons to it, especially Iran and North Korea, as well as states that help it avoid the sanctions imposed by the West – a number of CIS member states – Kazakhstan, Armenia – and also large states, such as China, India, etc.” said Igor Boțan.

Marin Gherman, director of the Institute of Political Studies and Social Capital in Chernivtsi, Ph.D., lecturer at “Ștefan cel Mare” University of Suceava, noted that this war can be considered a continuation of the 2014 war. “In February this year, we will mark 2 years of war or 10 years of war.  We should not forget that Russia has attacked Ukraine starting with the annexation of Crimea and supporting of separatist movements. However, after February 24, 2022, there were several distinct periods. The first period was the defense of Ukraine and the defense of Kiev. For a long period of time, Kiev was under threat of siege and occupation. Later, the Russian troops were withdrawn owing to the heroism of the Ukrainian army and the combating of this offensive, with a long period of fighting in Donbas, when Russia focused on occupying the territories of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Afterward, they saw that this goal was too great and the human resources were too small to occupy Kiev and overthrow the government. A happy period for the Ukrainian army followed – the successful counteroffensive in the Kharkov region and the successful counteroffensive in Kherson, when the Ukrainians liberated a large part of the territories occupied by the Russian army. And 2022 ended on this happy note,” explained Marin Gherman.

According to him, 2023 began with a battle of positions and big expectations of the Ukrainian army as regards the organization of a counteroffensive. But this was launched with great delay, in June 2023. “Back then, there was a lot of talk about the counteroffensive, and Kiev was complaining that it didn’t have enough weapons for this, didn’t have air superiority and many other important components. The Ukrainian counteroffensive, unfortunately, didn’t achieve its goals as those in the West believed that Ukrainian territories would be liberated according to the scenario of 2022.” And finally, says Marin Gherman, the counteroffensive generated fatigue from the Ukraine war in the West as well as a collateral effect.

“There were economic effects, namely the impoverishment of the population. Ukraine is in a very bad economic situation. It is totally dependent on Western economic support. Since May 2022, Ukraine is totally dependent on ammunition and weapons coming from the West. This panic or concern in Kiev, which we saw at the end of 2023 and at the beginning of this year, comes from here – what could Ukraine do if it is left alone to defend itself from the aggression of the Russian Federation? So, this context – what if it is left? – is I think the main topic of discussions in international analytical circles at the beginning of this year,” said the university lecturer.

Marin Gherman also said that at ideological level, there is still great popular support for the efforts made by the Ukrainian authorities to defend themselves. According to him, no one in Ukraine agrees with the idea circulated in the propaganda press and even in the Western one - to concede particular territories. There were too many casualties and sacrifices to discuss territorial concessions to Russia. At the same time, Russia is considered Ukraine’s main enemy by 95% of the population.

Constantin Dicusar, a journalist for Podul.ro publication, believes that 2023 was a more difficult year for Ukraine because the neighboring country has not achieved a number of goals related to the liberation of its territories, such as the Kherson region, Zaporizhzhia and even the Donbas region. Among the population, but also among the foreign partners, there were many and high expectations in this regard.

“Now each partner of Ukraine had and has its own contribution to helping this state. However, it is the United States of America that has the largest share in the provision of military support. That is why there is so much pressure on the shoulders of the U.S. and implicitly on the U.S. Congress, which delays the granting of financial aid,” said the journalist.

In his opinion, this situation is also related to the 2024 presidential election in the U.S. and this factor also influences the economic and military support coming from partners to Ukraine.

Constantin Dicusar considers that without international partners’ support for Ukraine, the picture would have been probably different today. “Ukraine already has experience of resistance. It has been more than two years of military resistance. However, the allies have provided Ukraine with enough military support and aid to keep its current positions. The discussion was about the counteroffensive and that the Ukrainians were not advancing. But at this moment, I think we have a war of attrition, a war of positions – something similar to the final stages of World War I,” stated Constantin Dicusar.

The public debate entitled “War and Peace in 2024” was the 298th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” which is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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