The war in Ukraine started in 2014 when local militias of the eastern Donbas region proclaimed its separation from Kyiv due to new centralistic laws that emerged after the Maidan revolution that affected the Russian-speaking majority population. This region has always overwhelmingly voted for pro-Russian candidates and the militias had military support from Moscow.
The civil war from 2014 to 2021 killed around 15,000 civilians and soldiers from both sides. Peace agreements were signed in 2015, but none of the belligerents respected them. After 8 years of impasse in the war, Zelensky’s 2019 constitution change to abandon neutrality, and growing NATO activity in Ukraine, Putin issued an ultimatum in December 2021 about these issues. NATO and Ukraine rejected them and Putin responded by invading in February 2022.
After just a few days, the Russian army was on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and controlled around 25% of the territory. Russia offered a peace deal by which Russia would not kill Zelensky but would annex the eastern regions of the country that wanted to separate in 2014; and Ukraine would be allowed to join the European Union but would drop its goal of becoming part of NATO. Ukraine and Zelensky accepted this proposal but the US and the UK were completely opposed and prevented the Ukrainians from signing any such a deal.
One year ago, the Ukrainian army managed to substantially push back the invasion to the point where the Russians only control 17% of the territory in Ukraine by now. The EU institutions have since given Ukraine $92 billion in military, financial, and humanitarian aid, with individual member states giving billions more. By comparison, the United States has given a total of $77 billion.
However, in the last 12 months, there has been no advance and support in the Western world for supplying Ukraine with money and weapons has diminished. In the EU, according to Eurobarometer, only 26 percent of Europeans are now completely in favor of providing financial support to Ukraine, down from 42 percent one year ago; and about supplying military equipment to Kiev, only 24% entirely supports this policy. In the US the figures are very similar, specially among Republican voters, as more people prefer the policy of giving Ukraine less resources than the contrary, resulting in a legislative impasse to release more funds.
As a consequence, there has been nearly a 90% drop in newly committed financial aid from western countries to Ukraine between August and October, compared with the same period of 2022. As a consequence, Ukraine is aiming at getting more weapons from its own factories, but its capacity is limited to the Russian industrial complex, which just agreed with India to jointly produce more weapons.
And very importantly, as the top generals of the Ukrainian army have recognized, the war in the east has reached a stalemate, which means that the country that has the biggest number of soldiers is poised to win. So far, Ukraine has suffered around 200,000 military casualties (killed or severely injured), whereas the number for Russia is 300,000 according to the US Department of Defense.
Ukraine, which is said to have about 1 million people under arms, has barred military-age men from going abroad, but has spared the “young and educated in order to preserve the future”. Russia, which has not called for a general mobilization, meanwhile might have as much as 500,000 troops fighting in the front.
In this dynamic, many Ukrainians have been angered by the extensive corruption among drafting officials, accused of taking between $500 and $10,000 to provide fake documents for people to shirk mobilization or travel abroad. Trust in the government and parliament has tumbled from 74% in 2022 to 39%, and 58% to 21%, respectively, prompting Zelensky to remove all the heads of the regional recruitment offices this year.
Moreover, the Ukrainian parliament is debating a law that would stop people over the age of 30 using higher education as a legal way around mobilization, as the number of men aged over 25 who booked places at universities in the first year of the invasion increased by 55,000 compared with the year before.
Facing these challenges, the Ukrainian is now asking the mobilization of an additional 500,000 men by lowering the conscription age from 27 to 25 years old. Indeed, the average age of Ukrainian soldiers at the front is 43 years old. Russia has 140 million inhabitants compared to 40 million for Ukraine, so it seems that the time in this stalemate war is running in favor of Russia.