The Long Game: Why Protraction Continues to Underpin Moscow’s Strategy to Reclaim Ukraine

Photo Credit: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

By Shawn Rostker
Editor in Chief

Conditions were cloudy with a chance of showers as the sun rose over Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Thursday, February 24. The literal fog of war had set in across the nation of roughly 43 million people, and for residents in and around the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Kherson, Dnipro, and Odessa, the showers raining down took the form of high-powered ordnance. In the waning hours of Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day—a holiday commemorating the inauguration of the Red Army—Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a national address stating that Russia would execute a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine to “demilitarize” the nation. Though framed as an obliged response to Ukrainian aggression and ambitions of strategic capabilities, the actions amount to a deliberate invasion of Ukraine and a blatant violation of its sovereignty. A costly and protracted war is now likely to be in the forecast for the foreseeable future, but this has always been the Kremlin’s plan. Putin has always played the long game when it comes to regional ambition, and the strategy for reclaiming Ukraine has always been one of protracted conflict resulting in long-term economic strangulation. The storm of violence currently pummelling Ukraine is one of historical vendetta—one with the potential to threaten the prevailing security arrangements that have underpinned Europe and the international order for over a generation.

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