On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and started a war. Russia conducted active operations in Kherson, Kyiv, and East Ukraine, fighting nine battels on that day. The horrors of warfare are making the world pay attention to the war, but the history between Russia and Ukraine is perhaps less well known. The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, thinks the Ukrainian root of ancestry, culture, language, and religion is the same as Russia's. He is eager to regain the powerful status that the former Soviet Union enjoyed. Pharos has investigated how this war happened by observing the economic, social, and political situations of the two nations and the general international community.
First, Pharos interviewed seven Kyonggi University students about their opinions regarding the Russia-Ukraine War. To the question, "What do you think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine?", most interviewees answered, "Russia is a war criminal obviously, and President Putin's behavior is unacceptable because the war causes so much harm to civilians who are innocent." A few answered, "The war is a result of the fight for superiority among NATO, Russia, and Western countries, so the position of Russia is partially understandable." To the following question "How has this war affected you and South Korea?", many interviewees answered "I think South Korea should be vigilant with the regard to our surrounding countries and we need to possess nuclear weapons." One interviewee said he hasn't felt any direct effect, while other interviewees said that they felt the fear of war. Some of the interviewees shared their experiences such as not being able to contact their Ukrainian friends or hearing the news that civilian residences have been heavily bombed. Also, there were some opinions on economic impacts, for instance, the soaring price of crude oil. In summary, most students are criticizing Russia for having started the war and are feeling the necessity to increase national power. However, in-depth opinions about economic and political aspects were rare.
The biggest issue recently was the increase in the price of natural resources from Russia. The United States is planning to boycott natural gas and oil from Russia and requested European countries to participate. Despite the request, Germany and the Netherlands refused to boycott Russia because they don't have any alternative for Russian resources. The EU is supplied with 40% of gas and 30% of oil from Russia. Russia is threatening the EU, asserting that the EU will face more economic damage than Russia if they start to boycott Russian resources since the EU is unable to find alternatives quickly. In Korea, the fear of 'slowflation' is growing because consumer prices were rising constantly even before the war. Slowflation is a situation in which a slow market recovery and inflation occur at the same time. Many countries are in a state of tension as the COVID-19 situation has already stagnated the world's markets. Meanwhile, China announced that it will continue cooperative trade with Russia as usual. Trading between Russia and China has been growing. In 2021, the amount of trade between them increased by about 36% from 2020. Nevertheless, China has to reduce imports from Russia because Russian banks are banned from the Swift global payment system, making it hard for China to receive payment. The United States, which leads the way on boycotts, doesn't place much importance on the Russian market. Therefore, most people are paying attention to the EU's next step.
Russia is one of the most powerful nations that can compete with the United States politically, economically, and militarily. Especially, Russia wields strong military power, compared to Ukraine. Building a volunteer army is a helpful strategy for both physical war and diplomatic war. The title "a soldier who voluntarily fights for another nation" itself is meaningful. It helps to keep international attention on the war and encourage the local citizens. PMC's, which stands for Private Military Companies, have had an increased influence in various battles. More than 10 American PMC's are fighting for Ukraine. Interference from PMC's can make the war crueler, but Russia is also gathering soldiers of PMC's from Syria in response to Ukraine's strategy. The Russian PMC 'Vagner Group' which is considered Vladimir Putin's private army, fought wars in Middle Asia and Africa in the past. The global society is strengthening sanctions on Russia in aspects of 'soft power,' as well as of hard power, such as economic sanctions and military strength. Soft power means the ability to influence the behavior of others to achieve desired results. Specifically, it means the power of culture, art, science, technology, and education. While hard power is exercised by threatening others' interests, soft power is exercised by making others to follow a path willfully.
Another concept derived from soft power is sharp power. Sharp power has also been used in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Sharp power refers to the use of intangible means such as the media to curb other countries from forming public opinion against them. It is mainly a form in which dictatorships maliciously advertise their unfavorable state's claims and policies or spread fake news through the media. On March 4, Russia banned the use of various social media and suppressed independent media to prevent the spread of information related to the invasion of Ukraine. The Russians, who couldn't hear the accurate news of the invasion, did not believe that the war had begun. Russia denied the attack on civilians, saying that Ukrainians or military officials seemed to have covered grape juice over a body in a photo of a bloody Ukrainian civilian victim. However, in the present era, looking at the progress of the war, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is characterized by a hybrid war through the use of SNS. It is a modern war that combines cyber terrorism, public opinion manipulation, and political maneuvering to achieve more than a regular war without firing a gun. Conventional wars take place on the ground, but in virtual space it is comprised of cyber, psychological, and non-regular warfare. War videos are being uploaded on SNS to lead the public opinion battle between the two countries, including the attack scene of tanks and fighter jets and the special military operation scene. These results are examples of sharp power through effectively using social media among the public.
To find out why the war began, including the background and present situation, Pharos looked at what Putin has in mind through the insights of scholars around the world.
Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky said in an interview.
"I think Putin thought he would be met with flowers in Ukraine, if you convince people you were there to liberate them, from these so-called Nazis that he keeps going on about. Putin is firmly convinced that people don’t fight for freedom themselves. There must be some Americans forcing them to do it. So, today he’s shocked."
-CNN Interview- 2022.03.04.
When pro-democracy movements or anti-Putin power arise in Russia, Putin refers to them as Western spies. For example, during the Euromaidan Revolution, a demonstration against the Russophilism policy of the former Ukrainian president, Putin would be under the same illusion that the United States incited a demonstration to slander Russia.
Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev insisted in The New York Times.
"There’s a distinction between revisionism and revanchism. Revisionists wish to build an international order of their liking. Revanchists are driven by the idea of payback."
-The New York Times- 2022.2.27.
He saw Putin's aggression as more likely to be based on revenge than on a strategy. In the past, NATO bombed Serbia as Serbia brutally slaughtered Albanians. Serbia and Russia opposed the act because they believed that they had a deep ethnic bond, but at that time Russia was powerless due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. That's why Russia had to intervene in the war in Kosovo and proceed with the agreement, only to watch the bombs drop on Serbia. He interprets it as a result of Putin's vengeance since Russia felt helpless at the time.
French economist Jacques Attali wrote in an economic newspaper, Le Echos
"Dictatorship cannot stand democracy. In democracy, we can live a good life, and there is no war between two democracies. There are many problems in democratic countries, but today's dictators cannot stop people from realizing that democracy is the best system to realize their own potential."
-Le Echos- 2022.02.25.
A dictatorship must persuade the people he oppresses that their future under a liberal regime is not better. If you look at the anti-American posters of the Soviet Union, they exaggerated the benefits of socialism and expressed the negative aspects of liberalism in the United States.
So how has this war changed our view of the world?
Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari explained:
"Why Vladimir Putin has already lost this war, nations are ultimately built on stories. Each passing day adds more stories that Ukrainians will tell not only in the dark days ahead, but in the decades and generations to come. This is the stuff nations are built from. In the long run, these stories count for more than tanks. The Russian despot should know this as well as anyone. As a child, he grew up on a diet of stories about German atrocities and Russian bravery in the siege of Leningrad. He is now producing similar stories, but casting himself in the role of Hitler."
-The Guardian- 2022.2.28.
These include the story of the president, who stayed in the capital until the end to convey his will to fight desperately, the story of defenders on Snake Island who did not give in to a Russian warship asking them to surrender, and a citizen who blocked a tank without hesitation. Through these stories, the Ukrainian people are becoming stronger and stand together.
What will happen after all the wars are over?
Pharos quotes American economist Paul Krugman word.
"And despite the incredible heroism of Ukraine’s people, it’s still more likely than not that the Russian flag will eventually be planted amid the rubble of Kyiv and Kharkiv. But even if that happens, the Russian Federation will be left weaker and poorer than it was before the invasion. Conquest doesn’t pay. The Romans surely profited from the conquest of the Hellenistic world, as did Spain from the conquest of the Aztecs and the Incas. But the modern world is different – where by “modern”, I mean at least the past century and a half. So conquest is a losing proposition. This has been true for at least a century and a half."
-The New York Times- 2022.3.1.
In the past, the empires benefited from aggression. However, in modern society, benefits cannot be derived from war. For example, Germany dominated Europe. So, in addition to the economic power of the home country, did Germany's economic power grow 2~3 times due to the economic power of the conquered countries? No, the world's economic structure is made up of a business system preventing the victorious countries from taking advantage of everything. This is because of strong national identities which prevent monopolies. Krugman argues that everyone knows that war cannot make a country rich and strong, but that some people are not aware of this and are greatly mistaken.
UNICEF reported that there is about one child refugee per second. It is the first time since World War II that the number of refugees has increased so rapidly. Ukraine's neighboring countries are facing intake limitations in accepting due to the exponential number of refugees. Poland, which has accommodated 60 percent of all refugees from Ukraine, offers temporary accommodation and public transportation free of charge to refugees and sends volunteers. However, they are feeling burdened by the overflowing number of people. As a Ukrainian maternity unit was bombed by Russian troops, many young mothers and infants died. Therefore, civilian protection and support are needed at the human level.
"The Olympics, a symbol of peace, had ended as soon as the war broke out and people around the world are feeling heavy-hearted. The world is in chaos as the international economic order wavers, and there are many unfortunate incidents of numerous refugees and civilian casualties. In the midst of chaos, the international society is increasing humanitarian aid efforts for innocent citizens, hoping that the war will end as soon as possible and peace will come. In addition, Pharos participated in the joint statement of Korean youth in 2022, hosted by the Youth Sustainable Develop Alliance of Korea. The statement will be delivered to the Ukrainian and Russian embassies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, and the UN Human Rights Council and the Security Council."
75th Reporter • CHOI HYUN JEONG • firstname.lastname@example.org
76th Reporter • CHOI BO YOUN • email@example.com