Child unfolds the Ukrainian flag against the background of a broken tank during Ukraine Independence Day parade, which coincided with the six-month mark of Russia’s invasion.

WQ Dispatch August 2022

– Stephanie Bowen

Read, and watch, what our authors are saying now that the Russia-Ukraine war has surpassed six months.

Since the publication of our summer issue, Ripples of War, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has surpassed six months. Last week, the Kennan Institute held an event with several Wilson Quarterly authors, who provided additional insights on implications for Russia, energy and the economy, and what might lie ahead in the coming months, especially as it relates to European security and governance.

William Pomeranz, director of the Kennan Institute, discussed the heavy price the Russian leader is paying for his territorial quest. “The consequences of this war have been devastating in terms of Russia’s global exposure and global access to international institutions,” said Pomeranz.  “I think what is important about this war is that it essentially took, I would argue, two weeks to destroy and eliminate all the things that Russia has achieved in the past 30 years.” His article, “Putin’s Imperial Dream,” examines Putin’s motivations against the backdrop of Russian history.

From the earliest days of the invasion, the blow of rising fuel prices in the US and Europe, soon gave way to deeper implications. Robin Quinville, director of the Global Europe Program, heard from many the hope that Putin would remain a reliable energy partner, as he did during the Cold War. “They have seen now that for Putin, energy is a weapon. They also see that energy security for Europe is really a whole-of-Europe discussion,” she said. Quinville, who recently served as Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Berlin, Germany, is one of several foreign policy leaders who shared key learnings in our summer issue.

Andrian Prokip, an energy expert and senior associate with the Kennan Institute based in Ukraine,  predicted Russia would ultimately fail to alter the European energy picture, including its move to green energy, but did offer caution. “We do see already more attention to coal usage, more attention to nuclear, and maybe Russia will, with blackmailing, achieve the goal of selling more energy to Europe than Russia expected.” Prokip then issued a stark warning: “I believe that the situation with nuclear terrorism at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is something that he may try to use in this game. That is something that we—the whole world—should prevent, because it is going to be a disaster for the whole of Europe.” As we saw in recent days, the Zaporizhzia plant—and surrounding area—has seen active combat, and is the center of tense inspections that indeed have the world on edge. You can read more from Prokip, whose article in our summer issue offers several scenarios for Russia’s energy future.

As Bruce Jentleson, Duke University professor of public policy, observed, the Russian economy is not in complete collapse, but it has paid a heavy price in sanctions. “The projections of the GDP now are like they were in the early 1990s chaos that Russia went through then.” He went on to say that sanctions on semiconductors have been some of the most effective. “I think almost over 2,500 armored vehicles have been lost, largely through the bravery and skill of Ukrainian resistance and US and NATO aid. [Russia has] fired over 75%, by one Pentagon count, of their precision-guided missiles, and they’re taking semiconductors out of refrigerators and dishwashers, which, you know, probably aren’t designed the same exact way.” Here he examines the impact of sanctions, and key takeaways for their future use.

Global fellow Jill Dougherty, moderated the lively discussion, which included a number of questions from an educated and engaged audience. In her article for the summer issue, she shared the experiences of Russian journalists who have fled their home country.

One thing seems increasingly clear: the shape of Europe is forever changed.

“It is important to understand that Ukraine after this war will not be a post-Soviet country, it will be a European country, or at least that’s what its intention is,” said Pomeranz.

“You now see the EU deciding to offer candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. You see NATO saying, right, we’re going to take on Sweden and Finland, who changed decades of their neutrality in order to join an alliance to deter further action, to strengthen that alliance,” said Quinville. “What you see then is Europe has a new threat perception, it’s changing to meet it, and individual countries are changing to meet it.” Quinville went on to call on European leaders to double down on their efforts in the coming months to both support Ukraine and strengthen its own security.

In closing thoughts, Pomeranz brought things back to Russia, and Putin. “I think that what this war also demonstrates is that Russia still doesn’t understand its own human capital, and doesn’t take advantage of its human capital. Bruce has talked about sanctions, but the brain drain will be a significant loss for Russia going forward. So I‘m looking at how does Russia recover from the sanctions, and the brain drain, and its isolation from the rest of the world.”

Bookmark the Wilson Center’s Hindsight Up Front: Ukraine webpage for ongoing analysis of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Cover image: Kyiv, Ukraine, August 23, 2022. Child unfolds the Ukrainian flag against the background of a broken tank during Ukraine Independence Day parade, which coincided with the six-month mark of Russia’s invasion. Shutterstock/Godlikeart