Last week, Russia announced that it will make “major changes” to strengthen its armed forces’ during the 2023-2026 time period, a sign that Moscow is recasting its approach in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s new strategy is focused on fighting a large-scale war rather than a “special military operation.” Here’s why this change will likely result in a permanent conflict in the European theater.
Russia and US-led NATO — a proxy party to the war — view each other as their respective top security threats. Biden’s current National Security Strategy describes Russia as an “immediate threat.” Russia’s post-Soviet military doctrine has codified NATO as the “primary danger.”
Ukraine is the buffer state that each side seeks to rely on in the event of a direct NATO vs. Russia war. Trading territory for enemy’s blood to protect the heartland is the essence of this approach. It is why the question of control over Ukraine has been festering since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, and it is where the balance of power in Eurasia has been contested for centuries.
Having won the Cold War, the U.S. has been incorporating Ukraine into the Western orbit, allowing the U.S. and Europe to reduce their military posture in Europe. Ukrainians are valiantly fighting the Russians, having sacrificed thousands of military personnel and 20,000 to 40,000 civilians to death or injury to hold the line, while the majority of NATO countries, 22 of 30, fail to contribute the required two percent of GDP towards common defense. Washington views the arming of Ukraine as a sound investment to bleed the Russian military.
Russia, which has been invaded three times in the last 200 years and has seen its buffer zone with NATO reduced to as little as 100 miles, after the Baltic states joined NATO in 2004, has drawn a red line over Ukraine.