Russia’s Weakness and Ukraine’s Strength Were Hiding in Plain Sight

Russia’s Weakness and Ukraine’s Strength Were Hiding in Plain Sight
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with the government and private sector representatives in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022 (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office photo via AP).

In the weeks before the Russian army began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, media speculation and strategic planning in the European Union and U.S. often contrasted the strength of Ukrainian society with the supposed weakness of Ukraine’s state institutions. High-level officials of EU member states and the U.S. considered it more likely that the Ukrainian state would collapse, and even that Kyiv might fall in 72 hours, than that the Ukrainian military and civil service might organize effective resistance.

Yet, within the first days of the war, as Ukrainians weathered the initial shock and Kyiv held on, it began to dawn on Western governments that they had overestimated the power of the Russian state and underestimated the resilience of Ukraine’s.

Rather than glossing over these analytical failures and moving on, governments in the EU and U.S. must examine why these flawed paradigms proved so persistent in order to avoid similar miscalculations in the future. If decision-makers in Brussels and Washington can better identify the weaknesses of their strategic adversaries and develop more effective assistance to local partners, they might find themselves better-positioned to deter the kind of military aggression that Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review