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Ukraine, Russia remain far from ceasefire

Russia Ukraine tensions
Posted at 9:49 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 13:26:58-04

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which launched in mid-February, shows no signs of an imminent conclusion.

The vast majority of Ukrainian people said in a recent survey that they support the war effort and want to defend their land.

Russian leaders have indicated they will press forward regardless of public sentiment.

"The Russian government has proved itself extraordinarily resistant in ignoring and suppressing dissent," said Dina Spechler, an expert in foreign policy at Indiana University's political science department. "I don't think that's going to be a major force exerting pressure [for a ceasefire]."

The war's human toll is difficult to measure.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians died during the fighting. Millions more left their lives behind as their home became a battleground.

To date, the casualties have not impacted the country's will to fight.

"They are in it as a matter of life and death," said Mark Schrad, a political science professor at Villanova University. "They are not going to stop fighting until they exhaust themselves or exhaust the Russians."

The Russian side is dealing with mounting casualties of its own.

Officially, state media will only confirm the death of about 1,500 Russian soldiers.

Outside experts say the real death toll could be much higher, impacting the military's ability to press forward with the invasion.

"It's getting harder and harder for Putin to recruit soldiers for his war," Spechler said. "He doesn't want to declare it a war. He doesn't want to call a national emergency that would authorize him to expand the draft. Instead, he's trying to offer higher and higher premiums to poor Russians who really need the money desperately."

A global conflict

The ongoing invasion is having ripple effects across the global economy.

The U.S. and other Western nations banned most imports of Russian oil and natural gas in the early weeks of the invasion.

The reduction in supply forced prices up, making it more expensive to heat homes and fill gas tanks in the U.S. and Europe.

"This is a cost of the war," said Mark Weisbrot, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Weisbrot said the immediate expulsion of Russia from many supply chains caused prices to rise dramatically in a short period of time.

"I think the inflation will subside enormously when the war ends, if not before that," he said. "In the last few weeks, gasoline prices are already going down, and a lot of supply chains woke up. But the biggest chunk of inflation is caused by war."

The inflation quickly overshadowed the Ukraine conflict as a top concern in American households.

Experts believe many people develop "war fatigue," particularly with conflicts that don't appear to have an impact on everyday life.

"You've got the January 6 investigations, you've got the Dobbs decisions, you've got Supreme Court issues, you've got gun violence," Schrad said. "There are a million things going on right now that, in many cases, are more pressing to an American audience than the situation in Ukraine."

No immediate end in sight

Geopolitical experts said any end to the conflict is likely to take months, if not years.

"It's not going to be days," Spechler said. "It probably isn't weeks."

She pointed to the massive cost of rebuilding Ukraine in the wake of war.

Several estimates indicate it will take close to a trillion dollars to restart the Ukrainian economy.

"That bill is only going to rise with greater destruction," Spechler said. "There are economic constraints on Ukraine. What terrible conditions can Ukrainians endure, and the Ukrainian government endure, and for how long?"

Schrad agreed that a settlement is probably months away.

"I'm kind of surprised it's gone on this long," Schrad said. "If you were to tell me that it takes another two or three years of protracted war and fighting, I'd be surprised by that too."

Both experts believe it will be exhaustion, not a change of heart, that ultimately leads to a cease fire.

"The Germans, the French, and even some voices within Italy have hinted at, well, maybe a compromise would be a good thing," Spechler said. "That's exactly the way a cease fire was produced in 2014."

That's when Russia forcefully annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

"The majority of wars end when both sides are exhausted," Spechler said. "Not because they love each other, or because they discovered, 'Oh my gosh, we did the wrong thing; you were right all along.' It ends because both sides are just saying, 'Enough.'"