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Ukraine Crisis of 2022: The Final Battle of the Cold War

Kyiv, Ukraine
Image of Russian TOS-2 Weapons. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Over the past thirty years, the West has fallen prey over and over again to mirror-imaging its adversaries, and as a result, it continues to find itself repeatedly in a situation where the same mistakes are repeated over and over again, and the same national security problem set is forced upon us yet again.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in how the West behaved in the run-up to the second Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The majority view amidst the pundit class before the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was that the Ukrainian army was overmatched and that it would only be a matter of days before the country would collapse.

Three days into the war, none of these predictions have come true. In fact, the Ukrainian army is putting up stubborn resistance, Russia does not control the air space over the country, and its four-pronged attack axes, with their failing logistical chains, proved to have been too clever by half.

Now Putin is trying to up the ante by insinuating he would resort to nuclear weapons (sic!) – a sign of a man trapped in his own design and increasingly out of ideas on how to prevail.

After twenty years of leveraging Russia’s military power to score major geopolitical wins, first in Georgia in 2008, then Ukraine in 2014, and Syria in 2015, Putin’s bluff has been called.

It has been the patriotism and dedication to the nation that the Ukrainian people have displayed since the first shot was fired that is changing history. Suddenly the vaunted Russian army looks much less impressive, Putin’s threats sound hollow, and the West is united as it has not been for decades. Today German Chancellor Olof Scholz gave a seminal speech in the Bundestag, committing Germany unequivocally to stand by its NATO allies in opposition to Putin’s aggression.

Twenty years of Russian foreign policy that sought to sow discord within NATO and to build a bilateral relationship with Germany as a pre-condition for a new “Concert of Great Powers” in Europe lies in ruins.

Momentum is building in the opposite direction, with the West sensing how weak Russia actually is today, as though waiting for the first boy to yell that the emperor has no clothes.  And so even if the invasion force overpowers the Ukrainian army in this campaign, the war will not end and the guerrilla resistance that follows will make the Soviet encroachment into Afghanistan look like child’s play.

Western Ukraine, with its supply chains anchored in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania will have the ability to keep the fight going and to bleed the Russians without pause.

The source of Russian revisionism post-Cold War lies in Putin’s narrative of what transpired in 1990, i.e., that Russia was never really defeated, that it was betrayed by its own elites and the West.  The truth was much more pedestrian – the Soviet Union simply ran out of gas, unable to stay in the game and compete with the United States at a time when the digital revolution was about to remake power indices and reshape the world.

And yet the story stuck, with Putin building his power base around this retelling of Russia’s alleged grievance. This all but guaranteed that Putin’s Russia would sooner or later re-emerge to demand its place in the sun yet again. Putin has capitalized on his narrative of grievance, transforming the three post-Cold War decades of peace in Europe into a de facto armistice, within his view – the great question of Russia’s place in the new European order unsettled and in need of adjudication.

Thus, from Moscow’s perspective the second Ukrainian war is in effect the final battle of the Cold War – for Russia a time to reclaim its place on the European chessboard as a great empire, empowered to shape the Continent’s destiny going forward. The West needs to understand and accept that only once Russia is unequivocally defeated in Ukraine a genuine post-Cold War settlement will finally be possible.

Until then, Putin’s Russia will remain the militarist camp planted on the Continent’s periphery, determined to undermine peace and stability in Europe and to return it to the past where Russia would once again become the “prison of nations.” Under no circumstances can the West become complicit in this Russian project. The battle for Ukraine is one campaign Putin must lose, completely and unequivocally. The future of the West is at stake.

Andrew A. Michta is Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany.  He is also former a Professor of National Security Affairs at USNWC and a former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis in DC. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Written By

Andrew A. Michta is the dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and a new Contributing Editor for 1945. He is the former Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College and former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMichta. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Alex

    February 27, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    Russia has taken into account all the risks, not of a short-term, but of a medium-term and long-term nature. All the efforts of the West to destroy Russia will only lead to one thing – the collapse of the West. Russia asked. Russia warned. Not so long ago, Putin spoke about Russia’s determination to nuclear war. You laughed. Russia’s nuclear forces are now on special alert. Are you still funny, madmen? Do you want Britain under water, scorched Europe and the Canadian-Mexico strait? The West has only one step left to see if Russia is joking and who will laugh later. If there is anyone left in the Western world.

  2. Comnentar

    February 27, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    It’s far from being a final battle – this currently ongoing conflict in ukraine is just the beginning of an undisguised and unmasked struggle between NATO & US and Russia.

    This struggle at some later stage will drag in other nations, especially china, a country that already has a big bullseye painted on it.

    But if one looks at a map, a combined russia- china can easily cut off almost all flight routes needed for travel and trade by the NATO & US plus minions nexus. Minions like Japan and Germany will be unable to fly to each other’s airports, thus fully kaputing their economies.

    The struggle ahead will be long and hard, and the winner will be the one who’s capable of outlasting his opponent.

  3. BANEGAS

    February 27, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    Appreciate your that thorough content! We predict it is rather precise.. abaya dress The effectiveness of the online world right now is definitely an essential tool for the organizations as well as peoplealike.

  4. from Russia with love

    February 28, 2022 at 5:29 am

    interestingly, after Russia wins a complete victory in Ukraine, will the author of this article delete it, which will not be dishonored, or leave it as a monument to his short-sightedness? 🙂

  5. Brent

    February 28, 2022 at 7:56 am

    Seems like there are a lot of Putin’s trolls in the comment sections these days. You can tell that they’re Russian, due to their lack of culture. A historic cultural issue for the country.

  6. DinkumThinkum

    February 28, 2022 at 8:50 am

    If this whole thing was just maybe Putin’s personal project then maybe internal strife in Russia will bring an end to it.

  7. Lance Benson

    February 28, 2022 at 9:11 am

    “Minions like Japan and Germany will be unable to fly to each other’s airports, thus fully kaputing their economies.”

    You think the majority of trade between Japan and Germany (or Europe) goes by air? And you think planes can’t travel other than by great circle routes?

    Troll.

    “Putin spoke about Russia’s determination to nuclear war … The West has only one step left to see if Russia is joking and who will laugh later”.

    You think in the event you foresee anyone surviving would be laughing?

    Troll.

  8. Alex

    February 28, 2022 at 9:43 am

    How interesting: if you write the truth – it’s not cultural, but if you say propaganda – it’s fine. Yes, this is the difference between Russia and the Western world. But often a Nazi is clearly visible behind the propagandist.

  9. Edd

    February 28, 2022 at 11:38 am

    Commeting Communist and Soviet trolls looking for Nazi propagandists behind an article authored by an expert on the issue, are simply very funny.

  10. JMIII

    February 28, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    The truth is that Russia gambled that they could steamroll Ukraine and win in days much like the US in the Iraq invasion of 2003. They should realize that attacking major cities, in the face of determined opposition is very difficult. Their own experience in Stalingrad and Berlin should have taught them this.
    Putin’s gamble is clearly based upon an estimation that the Ukrainians and the West are gutless and only care about $$$. The extent that anyone cares enough to put their lives on the line for freedom, dooms his plans.

  11. Don

    February 28, 2022 at 12:46 pm

    Putin must be terrified of Covid. When he meets with world leaders he sits a great distance from them at the end of a very long table. When he announced his new nuclear alert the two generals present were sitting next to each other at the far end of an even longer table.

  12. Alex

    February 28, 2022 at 12:55 pm

    There is only one recipe: demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. Recognition as a neutral country. Otherwise – the third world war. There will be no winners in the third world war, and while the Western countries are playing with their Nazi terrorists in Ukraine, this can happen. Westerners must understand that these games of their governments will lead their countries to extinction.

  13. thelaine

    February 28, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Yes, Putin trolls are to be pitied. They make just enough money flogging the keyboards for their master to buy another bowl of cabbage soup. It is a slave’s life, but allows them to survive for another day. In Putin’s Russia, citizens are so debased they are grateful for it, and consider themselves lucky. It is truly pathetic.

  14. Alvin Kim

    February 28, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t it’s the final battle. That’s going to be between the two Koreas.

  15. Observer

    February 28, 2022 at 1:42 pm

    Many people don’t realize that Putin is no Stalin or Hitler. Many people in the West commited and continuing to commit a terrible error of judgement by thinking that he is the worst possible politician in Russia. No, there are many potential replacements for him compared with whom he’s a pacifist. There’re some who not only dream of getting all former USSR republics back but even Alaska… In fact, Putin was and is one of the best counterparts for the West who used to be very patient and friendly to the West. Unfortunately, the US and the West were drunk after the fall of the USSR and ignored or shrugged off Russia’s interests despite its apocalyptic nuclear potential which is incredibly stupid. In fact, Putin is one of the safest options for someone who is in charge of such horrible arsenal. Unfortunately, the US and the West should blame themselves for current situation. Let’s hope that Putin will not push that red button that could lead world to apocalypsis…

  16. Andrew P

    February 28, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    It may well be the final battle. Putin is not willing to lose. He will use nuclear weapons to force a Ukrainian surrender. The only real question is whether the nuclear action will be confined to Ukraine, or to Eastern Europe.

  17. Alex

    March 1, 2022 at 6:54 am

    Only idiots think that Russia can use nuclear weapons first and even on their own brothers.

  18. JMC0819

    March 1, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    “Until then, Putin’s Russia will remain the militarist camp planted on the Continent’s periphery”..spot on Mr. Michta. Feliks Konieczny, father of comparative science of civilizations, classified Russia as a Turanian civilization, a blend of Asiatic and Orthodox cultures. In essence, every since Mongol invasion in 13th century, Russia has been a large military camp, conquering its immediate neighbors one by one. They just don’t understand concept of borders or respect them.

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