A year of war in Europe

Think tank: Centre for European Reform

Author(s): Various Authors

February 22, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Centre for European Reform looks at how the war in Ukraine has unfolded and gains and losses. 

When Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces across the Ukrainian border on February 24th 2022, he clearly expected a quick victory with limited if any negative consequences for Russia. He probably believed that the US – already looking weak after its ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan – would acquiesce in the removal of Ukraine’s sovereignty and concede the sphere of influence in Europe that Russia craved. A year into the war, he has not achieved success, but nor has he lost. The war has nonetheless had major effects on Ukraine, Russia and other powers and organisations, including the EU and NATO. The most serious consequences have inevitably been for Ukraine. Almost 20 per cent of its territory is now occupied (including Crimea and the areas of the Donbas that have been under Russian occupation since 2014). Its military losses, in terms of killed and wounded, may be between 100,000 and 150,000 (according to Western estimates – Ukraine itself has avoided giving figures), with tens of thousands more civilian casualties. More than 8 million Ukrainians are refugees and another 5.4 million are internally displaced, out of a pre-war population of 44 million. GDP shrank by 35 per cent in 2022 and is likely to stagnate or even fall again this year. After initial losses, however, Ukraine has pushed the Russians back in the north and the south. It has received massive military and economic aid from its Western partners, with the promise of more to come, as well as visible political support, culminating in US President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv on February 20th 2023. After 30 years of unsuccessful lobbying, it finally has a perspective of EU membership (though the road to it will be much longer than Ukraine hopes); and Western officials are starting to discuss the kind of post-war security guarantees that the country would need. There is even serious discussion among analysts and a small number Western politicians of taking Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership more seriously. Still, it would be wrong to say that Ukraine is winning the war; so far, its success consists in not losing it, despite facing Russia’s much larger forces and economic resources.