Russia and Ukraine: A war without an end?

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its third year, the conflict remains mired in a bloody stalemate with an uncertain future. Ukraine’s recent appointment of a new top general indicates Kyiv’s recognition that the war’s dynamics have shifted as hopes for decisive victory fade. With both sides now dug into attritional combat, parallels arise to bloody historical quagmires that ended inconclusively. The eventual outcome remains contingent on each side’s will to sacrifice and the sustainability of Western support for Ukraine.

After its initial offensive failed to achieve a quick victory, Russia moved to a defensive posture aimed at slowly grinding Ukraine down. Consolidating gains in the southeast could represent a minimal definition of victory for Moscow. However, the outright conquest of Ukraine appears beyond Russia’s diminished capabilities. Meanwhile, hopes in Kyiv for reclaiming all occupied territory are receding. Ukraine’s Western backers show growing ambivalence about enduring large-scale involvement. 

This impasse raises the possibility of a messy, prolonged struggle resembling the Iran-Iraq war or World War I’s Western Front. Alternatively, the conflict could settle into a frozen conflict akin to Korea’s unresolved standoff. Similar to the annexation of Crimean land in 2014 (“Putin signs treaty to add Crimea to map of Russia”,, this freeze would leave Russia in control of seized Ukrainian land, representing a victory of sorts despite exorbitant costs.

Russia has displayed a higher tolerance for casualties, backed by its advantage in population and weapons stockpiles. Its economy has absorbed severe damage under sanctions, but military spending continues apace. Trade with China and others reduces isolation. However, Russia’s need to release convicted criminals for frontline service indicates resource strains. Cracks in domestic morale led to the conviction of even prominent ultra-nationalist supporters of the war, like Igor Girkin. Harsh prison sentences for ordinary citizens expressing anti-war views aim to deter wider discontent.

Beyond the military and political pressures, the war also exacts a heavy economic toll that neither side can sustain indefinitely. High prices of grain around the world and natural gas disruptions in Europe demonstrate how the costs of modern warfare transcend just the belligerent nations when supply chains are globalised. With economies deeply interdependent, the conflict threatens to inflict broader regional and global economic instability that could further erode domestic resilience in Russia and Ukraine. Avoiding the type of economic disaster that compounds a military stalemate is another crucial motivation for finding a negotiated political settlement.

Western aid has been vital for Ukraine’s unexpectedly stiff resistance. While Kyiv exhibits tactical ingenuity, Russia retains the strategic initiative. Despite arms from the West and the novel use of drones, Ukraine’s smaller population hampers its ability to endure prolonged high-casualty warfare. Thus, Kyiv’s fortunes remain tied to sustained Western backing, both material and political (“‘Thank You America!’: Ukraine’s Zelensky and Israel’s Netanyahu hail House passage of $95 billion foreign aid package”,

With neither side able to impose its will militarily, the conflict’s trajectory depends on subjective factors of willpower and sacrifice. Russia appears willing to pay a higher price in blood and treasure to avoid geopolitical defeat. However, its capacity to sustain this commitment has limits if dissent and sanctions accumulate. Conversely, Ukraine’s resilience depends on Western aid offsetting its disadvantages in size and arms. Two years on, the war’s eventual conclusion remains uncertain as both sides ready themselves for a long grind.

A crucial insight from Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih’saa address at the UK Peace Symposium 2024 emphasises the systemic flaw within the UN Security Council. The veto power held by a few nations often hinders the path to justice and peace, as decisions can be blocked based on self-interest, regardless of the greater good. With the USA and Russia on each side of the conflict, the fundamental veto-power structure of the Security Council is an obstacle to peace. (“Perils of veto power on global peace: Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V delivers keynote address at UK Peace Symposium 2024”,

The permanent members of the Security Council are sometimes reasons for conflicts to continue and remove the chance of equitable and just resolutions.  

Another view of the conflict highlights a pattern of military engagements and withdrawals by powerful nations, such as the USA’s exit from Vietnam, Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, followed by the USA’s later departure from Afghanistan, and the current situation where, through proxy, the West seeks a similar outcome for Russia in Ukraine. This analogy highlights the complex dynamics of international relations and the recurring themes of conflict and resolution, emphasising the need for a re-evaluation of global governance mechanisms to ensure peace and justice.

Thus, attaining peace should be the priority for all nations. Ultimately, peace lies in adopting the principle of absolute justice. As Huzooraa guided over a decade ago in the City of Glasgow, “peace depends on justice, and economic progress depends on peace.”

Attaining peace requires upholding the principle of absolute justice, as guided by Huzooraa over a decade ago — “peace depends on justice, and economic progress depends on peace.” (“Peace Depends on Justice and Economic Progress Depends on Peace”, Sustainable peace cannot be achieved through military might but by impartially addressing the root causes of injustice. The economic toll of the Ukraine war highlights how true development is linked to durable peace.

Institutionalising justice demands an overhaul of global governance to remove systemic injustices that fuel conflict. The UN Security Council’s veto powers enable self-interest to override moral norms. Emerging from this gridlock necessitates new frameworks centred on equity and human rights.

Ultimately, the path to peace lies in all nations prioritising justice over narrow interests. Upholding the absolute standard restrains the powerful and protects the vulnerable. It is the only way to cultivate lasting peace that enables genuine progress. As the world witnesses this tragic war’s toll, Huzoor’saa message guides us towards a more just and peaceful global order.

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