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Two years of Russian war on Ukraine

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Two years of Russian war on Ukraine

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine from the north, east and south in order to control the entire country through direct military occupation and/or puppet government. Moscow expected a rapid collapse or surrender of the Ukrainian state and had planned a relatively quick war of maneuver to take control of the main cities, primarily Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa. Ukraine, which had prepared to some extent since 2014 for a Russian invasion, resisted and pushed Russian forces back from major population centers, including the regional capital Kherson, despite its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation. During 2023, Kyiv launched a counteroffensive aimed at liberating territories south of Zaporizhia, but unfortunately Russian forces retain most of the previously captured ground.

The evolution of the Russian-Ukrainian war

The conflict has turned into an exhausting war of attrition, with over half a million soldiers employed in total by the two warring sides, and has been in a stalemate for several months now. We are witnessing continuous and indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns by Russia – with the use of bombs, missiles and drones –, targeted raids by Ukraine on the occupied territories and in the waters of the Black Sea, and above all ferocious, bloody battles ground forces along a highly fortified front line, with ample firepower and heavy use of drones. Two years after the start of the invasion, the Russian armed forces control the land corridor connecting the Crimean peninsula to the Donbas – two areas already directly or indirectly under Moscow’s control since the 2014 war – and the entire Sea of Azov, corresponding to just under 20% of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine continues to have access to the Black Sea and export its food goods. This occupation has so far resulted in tens of thousands of military casualties for both warring countries, the killing of tens of thousands more Ukrainian civilians, as well as a huge number of injured and displaced people, in addition to the material destruction caused by the conflict.

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An outcome still uncertain

The beginning of the war surprised many experts and professionals in Western Europe, the evolution of the conflict was difficult to predict and its future remains uncertain. A large-scale, high-intensity, prolonged conventional war between Russia and Europe’s second largest country is an extremely complex phenomenon not experienced on the Old Continent since World War II. As such it presents several significant elements, although in many cases peculiar, in the five operational domains – terrestrial, air, naval, space and cyber -, as well as multiple implications at a strategic level, also involving NATO and European defence.

The special discusses the most important military elements of the war between Russia and Ukraine and the implications for the armed forces of European countries. Therefore, it considers neither the reasons for Moscow’s war of aggression nor the possible outcomes beyond 2024. The first part of the publication examines the operational level of the conflict in the air, land, naval and space domains. The second part of the special deals with a series of implications for NATO and the EU, with a further focus on defense industrial policy. The articles anticipate some chapters of the IAI study drawn up by an ad hoc research team which will be presented at a public conference in Rome on February 20th.

Read all the articles in the special:
The strategic framework of the conflict by Alessandro Marrone
The lessons of the war in Ukraine on land by Salvatore Farina
The aerial lessons of the Ukrainian conflict by Alessandro Marrone and Vincenzo Camporini
Naval dominance in the Ukrainian conflict by Elio Calcagno
The impact of the war in Ukraine on the spatial domain by Karolina Muti and Maria Vittoria Massarin
NATO and the recovery of collective defense by Alessandro Marrone and Elio Calcagno
The pieces of EU strategic autonomy in light of the war in Ukraine by Stefano Silvestri and Karolina Muti
The implications for the European defense industry by Michele Nones

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