For more than a year, Ukraine has been defending itself from the invading Russian army, and the world has been watching to see what happens next.
The outcome of the war is in doubt, but Bob Kravchuk, a professor at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a world-renowned expert in Ukrainian-Russian relations, says that Russia needs to be “humiliated” in order to bring the conflict to an end, which could have dire consequences for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.
“Russia has to be humiliated. That’s the only way this is going to end,” Kravchuk said during an appearance on the O’Neill Speaks podcast, the official podcast of the O’Neill School. “And that frightens me. If the Russians get to the point where they believe that their existence is threatened, there’s no telling what they might resort to. If Putin loses in Ukraine, he not only loses his position and probably his life, but (Russia) may very well lose some of the eastern provinces in Siberia, and they won’t have the army they would need to defend it from the Chinese. China is not their friend. Right now, they have a momentary entente. It’s a marriage of convenience, but all bets are off if things go south for the Russians.”
Kravchuck added that selling the survival of Russia via a win in Ukraine is one of the few visions of the future Putin can sell to the Russian people for multiple reasons, and it’s why he initially ordered the invasion.
“Demographically, the Russian population is collapsing,” Kravchuk said. “The average Russian family has 1.4 children, and replacement would be 2.1. So, they’re well below replacement. The adult population of military service age is not as healthy as it could be. Life expectancy among men is still in the low 50s. … Vladimir Putin knew he would never be able to field another army of his size again.”
But beyond the demographic issues in the military and beyond, Russia’s economy is another issue at play. Russia doesn’t have well-diversified industrial base, and the country’s dependance on extractive energy sources in a world that is moving to renewable fuels means Putin can’t promise his people further economic growth.