The War in Ukraine started in the early hours of February 24th. We all saw shaky iPhone footage and livestreams of rockets and jets flying overhead and explosions in the distance. I thought Kiev would have Russian flags flying in it by the end of the week. But something unexpected happened. Ukraine stuck up for itself. Volodymyr Zelensky’s Churchillian leadership and down-to-earth video speeches gave something for the Ukrainians to rally around. Soon I saw footage of Russian tanks stalled outside of the capital city, and then they disappeared totally. Black and white film of Ukrainian drones shredding Russian tanks and vehicles proliferated across the internet.
Sayings of support abounded, and blue and yellow flags started flying on many buildings. It seemed the world had found something to look up to among the chaos of the past few years. The shining, knight-like resolve of the Ukrainians was something pleasantly different than the grey depression of the pandemic and cycles of bad news that seemed to drag on forever. Here was something utterly unprecedented: a 21st century European land war with clear heroes and villains. It was totally alien from our experience of sand-tinted forever wars and other low-intensity conflicts. In fact, this Ukrainian war does not seem to belong in this time. Putin’s invasion is more reminiscent of the shameless colonial power-grabs, conquests, and territorial wars of the last century or two. But just like those kinds of wars, there will be a clear winner. The Russians are demoralized, inexperienced, and frankly incompetent. The recent forced conscriptions are only making these characteristics more extreme. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, have motivation, intelligent leadership, and the power of momentum on their side after their recent offensive. I would say the victor of this unlikely war will be the defender.