April 13-14, 2023
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, no one believed that a supposedly weak Ukraine could maintain its independence. As for Vladimir Putin, he expected to topple the Zelenskyy government in a matter of days—or less. And so, flagrantly violating the norms and laws that had promoted world peace and stability for 70 some years, a heavily armored column of Russian troops headed for Kiev. They never got there.
How could Putin have got it so wrong? Hubris, of course, but mostly miscalculation. Putin never expected to confront a brave and fervently patriotic population, a revamped military and the ingenuity and bravery of Ukraine’s civilian and military leadership. Nor did he anticipate a rejuvenation of NATO (Turkey and Hungary excepted) united in support of Ukraine, thus enabling a massive flow of Ukraine-bound weaponry from its arsenals. Or that his invasion would result in neutral Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership.
It’s too early to predict the shape of a post-invasion Ukraine. Nor can we be certain that Russia will never again seek to roll back history by invading apparently weak neighbors. But one thing is certain. Putin and his army are being humiliated. He won’t get what he aimed for in Ukraine. Moreover, this conflict’s international ramifications – testing the foundations of the world order – are massive.