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  • Sean Voitov

Ukraine War - A Hard Winter approaches

This year will be a long winter for many of us. Political instability, economic uncertainty both plague the world. But in Ukraine the war carries on as well as its people, who face the hardest and heartless winter many of us cannot begin to imagine.

In February earlier this year, when Putin mustered an army to take over Ukraine, it was a war of survival of the fittest. Ukraine was attacked from the North, East and South and missiles and bomber planes were being sent to even the most Western towns and cities and Ukraine’s beloved capital faced imminent destruction. The world braced on edge as the battle for Kyiv and ultimately Ukraine’s survival took place. Whilst the war continues on, Ukraine has in many ways won it. The attack on the capital was repelled, the advance from the East was halted and even started to be pushed back.

This is very much an oversimplification of the events prior to October. But it is important to see how in the 8 months since the war started, Putin’s strategy has already begun to change. He is losing the military fight as now he scrambles for soldiers to try and keep what remains of a battered front line, he is losing support at home with rare protests taking place in Moscow and tens of thousands fleeing their homes moving to other countries to avoid conscription. Putin is now clinging onto survival. Lose this war and his position in the country is in danger, and if he who lives by the sword dies by the sword, then his life might also be at risk.

So given the dire circumstances Putin has changed his war. From a war on Ukraine, to a war on the Ukrainian people directly. Ukrainians face an oncoming winter, one where snow fills the land and average temperatures are -5C and Putin knows this. He has now fired missiles onto the energy supplies of the stations, he has sought to wipe out the electricity of Ukrainians and he still tries to cut them off from the world by taking down their networks. He has also hit the nation’s water supply and critical facilities forcing many to queue for water at pumps. This is a war of attrition but with a modern twist. He cannot starve the Ukrainians, the breadbasket of the world is able to just about feed itself, even with the extra struggles. Instead Putin is waging a war of energy and water attrition, to deprive people from warmth and comfort.

Don’t be mistaken, it is unlikely that this is an attempt to still take over the majority of Ukraine, this is to just try and hold onto the Eastern provinces that he has taken over. Winning the war in Ukraine for Putin is to see the Eastern provinces of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and perhaps even Kharkiv under his control. Winning the war for Ukrainians is to kick Putin out of their home so he never returns.

But as may be obvious, this war is not just between Ukraine and Russia, it has a world dynamic to it. NATO has been supplying weapons to Ukraine since the start of the war and military spending has gone up as a result. The billions that have been sent in the form of financial and military aid have helped massively with Ukraine’s efforts and they have been the lifeline for its survival. Putin likewise has since the start of the war tried to repel the West from helping Ukraine, whether it be by making threats of escalation, perhaps even nuclear, threats to cut off energy supplies to Europe or to starve the world. The first two have proved somewhat ineffective. Europe and America have been well organised with each other and despite the national political problems that each country has faced this past year, they have not let that affect their coordination with helping Ukraine, they have stood together in the face of threats and are trying to supply themselves with energy, switching to renewable energy and America has been exporting more of its gas to Europe. Because of this, Putin switches to food.

Ukraine supplies most of the world’s wheat and sunflower oil in the world and many countries rely on it. At the start of the war Russia blocked Ukraine from exporting this but after UN negotiations, this ended and an agreement between Ukraine and Russia allowed Ukraine to export its grains. This all changed this month as Putin pulled out of the agreement after a supposed Ukrainian drone strike on the Russian fleet and now Ukraine and the rest of the world face interference from their trade. Putin wants to make his message clear. We face a winter of hardship if he faces a winter of hardship, but whilst he might try, he will not succeed.

This Winter will be hard for the international stage. Nationally many countries face domestic political problems and all over the world governments face economic challenges in part caused by the war. But these governments must carry on working together and unify no matter the domestic outcomes, the authoritarian, militaristic vision of Putin is the biggest threat and whilst it will ultimately be at the hands of the Russian people that Putin will fall at, we must remember they live in a system designed to keep the head alive, whether it be fresh or rotten, so it is up to the international community to stand firm and protect ourselves.

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