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Smart Take | Ukraine Hits Grim Milestone: Two Years Since Russian Invasion

February 23, 20242:09

On February 24th, 2022, Russian forces crossed the border into Ukraine and began an invasion the likes of which has not been seen since WWII. Now, as the war in Ukraine enters its third year, Russia and Ukraine are deadlocked, US funding for Ukraine is hanging in the balance, and war-weary troops on both sides are re-grouping after the months-long battle for Avdiivka. 

William Pomeranz, Director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, describes the status of the war, the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy, the state of its military, and the success Ukraine has had defending and regaining territory during the past year.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    The war has developed into a quagmire, and no one has the upper hand. That may change after the Russians took Avdiivka. But nevertheless, the war is a war of attrition. And Ukraine has still maintained a significant defense in light of Russian actions. 

    The two lessons of this war and its two year anniversary is how successful Ukraine has been in order to defend itself. It did not have the second counteroffensive, but it has been able to take a lot of the territory that it lost in the beginning of the war. 

    The second major takeaway is that the Russian army has not performed as well as people expected and so whether the Russian army has the forces and the equipment to maintain its battlefield position is a question mark. It has relied on convicts. It has relied on troops from Nepal and it has had problems gaining Russians to join the army. So I think one of the biggest obstacles for Russia in the long term is how it maintains its military force. 

    I am looking at the impact of sanctions on the Russian Federation and there is every indication that sanctions are beginning to bite, whether it be in terms of inflation, interest rates, economic development and so forth. So I believe the thing that will be a huge determinant as to how this war ends is whether the Russian economy implodes. Ukraine has made a commitment, and I think Europe has made a commitment that Ukraine will be a part of Europe. And that scares Vladimir Putin and his idea of the greater Eurasian space.


William E. Pomeranz

William E. Pomeranz

Director, Kennan Institute

William Pomeranz, the Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, is an expert guide to the complexities of political and economic developments in Russia, particularly through the lens of law. He leverages extensive, hands-on experience in international and Russian jurisprudence to address a wide range of legal issues, from the development of Russia’s Constitution to human rights law to foreign investment and sanctions. He is also the author of Law and the Russian State: Russia's Legal Evolution from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin (Bloomsbury, 2018).

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Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more