A Year of War in Ukraine: Looking at the Future

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Feb. 22, 2023

February 24th marks one year since the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched the most disruptive war to date in Europe since 1945. In that time, the Ukrainian military has fought its way to considerable battlefield success and liberated significant territory near Kyiv and in the country’s east and south. Now these regions face a long road to recovery, even as Putin continues to bomb critical infrastructure, apartment complexes, and other civilian targets, and threats of a new Russian offensive loom.

But the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine will extend far beyond just this moment in time, and the lessons we take away from this conflict will be vital for the future of war. New America’s experts talk about what’s on their radar as the conflict continues and what they see on the horizon for Ukraine.

Candace Rondeaux, Director, Future Frontlines:

As Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine enters into its second year, much of the attention will rightly focus on measuring the impact of American and European military aid to Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. But it will be equally important to keep a close eye on Russia's aggressive cultivation of nations in Africa where Vladimir Putin has deployed the Wagner Group paramilitaries to advance the Kremlin's geopolitical ambitions. The upcoming Russia-Africa summit in July is just one of many signs that Putin plans to continue doubling down on Africa to maintain Russia's influence over important UN votes on the status of conflicts where Russia has a vested interest, including Ukraine. While the Biden Administration appears to have registered the challenge Russia's growing influence in Africa and elsewhere presents for diplomacy on Ukraine, Washington is still way behind the curve and is unlikely to catch up soon.

Tim Robustelli, Policy Analyst, Future of Land and Housing:

Recent victories in Ukraine have meant that some regions can start rebuilding. Yet this road to recovery is “akin to rebuilding a home as it burns,” as Putin continues to bomb cities and infrastructure, and the threat of another Russian offensive looms. Nearly 14 million people remain displaced internally or in neighboring countries. Getting these Ukrainians back into their homes, or compensating them for damaged property, is both a critical need and a monumental task. An incomplete registry of who owns what house, damage to approximately 150,000 residential buildings, along with an estimated $500 billion in total recovery costs, all means that the Ukrainian government must continue to rely on innovative approaches for rebuilding. Widespread use of the digital service platform Diia is indicative: Nearly 320,000 Ukrainians have submitted property claims on the app, with the hope that restitution or compensation can then occur more efficiently and transparently. And then there’s funding. Ukraine and its allies should move forward with leveraging seized Russian assets to help pay for homes, hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure. Ultimately, and despite the immense obstacles, Ukraine has the tools and techniques at its disposal to get this right.

Allison Price, Senior Advisor, Digital Impact and Governance Initiative:

After a year of Russian bombings and terror, the world has watched the remarkable grit and strength displayed by Ukrainians. Similarly remarkable, though not as visible, is the advancement of Ukraine’s digital government initiatives. The urgency and ambition that sparked Ukraine’s implementation of digital public infrastructure (DPI) and the modern provision of public services may resonate well beyond the region and this moment in time. Ukraine’s e-government pursuit is widely regarded as a model of resilience and adaptability in the public sector. Both complicated and expedited by war, this work is powered by large collaborative networks of technologists and civic innovators — in and out of the country — as well as extraordinary cross sector partnerships.

David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, International Security:

In the next year it will be important to keep an eye on how the war in Ukraine may reshape the forms and conditions of international cooperation on issues from climate change to counterterrorism. One area to monitor is the war’s influence on calls for the expansion of terrorism designation architecture. This includes a greater push to designate the Wagner Group and various Iranian entities supporting Russia’s war as terrorist organizations or even labeling Russia itself as a state-sponsor of terror. While there may be merit to some of these proposals, care is required given the complexity and already apparent tensions within the global community over terrorism designations.

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