Will Russia Be the Loser of the War in Ukraine?

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Russia, which appeared in the international system as its successor of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), started to make political moves on the legacy of its predecessor after Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia in the early 2000s. With his moves towards the near abroad of Russia and the Post-Soviet geography, Putin aimed to create a foreign policy that does not want Western powers to be active in those regions. As a matter of fact, it has shown its stable stance on this issue until recently.

It is known that Ukraine is the most current example of the stance in question. The fact that the Kyiv administration turned to the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), caused Russia to resort to hard power. In this context, the Kremlin carried out a military intervention against Ukraine, which it called a “special military operation.”

While the seventh month of the war in Ukraine is about to be completed; the slowdown in Russia’s advance and the counter-attack of the Ukrainian Army give momentum to the views that the war will be reversed and Russia will suffer the same fate as its predecessor, the USSR. Moreover, it has come to light that Russia has started to have serious losses in the ongoing war in Ukraine and has difficulties in terms of military power. It is therefore used by Western experts as evidence to show that Russia’s influence is waning. In order to support this view, the losses in the front lines of Ukraine and Moscow’s withdrawal of its military units in the post-Soviet geography and send them to the Ukrainian front are shown as examples.[1]

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Leaders’ Summit held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, can be cited as an example regarding the changing balances for Russia. At this summit, it is noteworthy that India and China expressed their concerns about Russia’s war in Ukraine. At the same time, the fact that Putin, who is famous for keeping the leaders waiting, is waiting for the leaders for bilateral talks can be interpreted as an indicator of the changing dynamics. This means that things are not going well for Russia.

On the other hand, holding Russia responsible for the conflicts on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border comes to the fore. Because, in order to provide military support to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia’s transfer of many of its soldiers from the Karabakh Region to Ukraine has created a power vacuum in order to maintain peace in the region and an environment of conflict has arisen.[2]

Georgia, another former Soviet country, does not support Russia on Ukraine. Similarly, while Moldova is following the developments in Ukraine closely; it is preparing for conflicts that may occur in the Transnistria Region and is getting closer to the EU in order to secure itself. As it is seen in this environment, Belarus is the only staunch post-Soviet country standing on Russia’s side.

Although it is not possible to predict that Russia will lose the war militarily, it can be said that it will be difficult for Russia to recover what was lost after the war. Considering the increasing economic and military costs of the war, as well as its psychological factors, it is likely that the losses will remind Russia the end of the USSR. Instability in the post-Soviet area, which Russia sees as its close environment, can be interpreted as an indicator of new polarizations in the international system.

Russia staying away from the expected policy causes the post-Soviet countries to develop bilateral and multilateral relations with countries such as the EU. Moreover, there are developments such as Ukraine and Moldova entering the EU’s sphere of influence, Azerbaijan acting independently on energy and making an agreement with the EU. Likewise, the increasing influence of China in the Central Asia reveals that Beijing wants to fill the power vacuum formed by Russia. Based on all these developments, it can be predicted that Moscow will face a deep crisis.

It can be argued that Russia will make some moves to get out of this vortex. In this context, while Moscow continues its energy policy, which it primarily uses against the EU; it will provide energy supply to other countries by resorting to alternative ways and thus will try to survive in the economic context. In addition, Russia will try to make its presence felt in the Caucasus by taking an active role in ending of the conflicts on the Azerbaijan-Armenia line so that the feeling of losing its influence does not arise. It can be stated that Moscow will emphasize mutual cooperation and alliance initiatives by conducting its economic, military and political relations with Central Asian countries through international organizations. The latest mobilization statement of the Moscow administration and the statements of the leaders of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Serbia point that this war is not only for Russia and Ukraine; this war also points to a serious crisis for the survival of the entire world.

As a result, while it is predicted that the winner of the ongoing war in Ukraine will be Russia, it can be said that Russia will be the loser in the post-war period. The invasion attempt carried out by Moscow caused Western states and countries in the post-Soviet geography to question their relations with the Kremlin. This situation will lead to a decrease in the influence of Russia. In fact, the current conjuncture will make it difficult for Russia to be the leading actor in the new international system, which is in the pain of formation. At this point, Moscow’s statements aimed at turning the process into a war of survival clearly indicate that Russia will not be the only loser in this war. Therefore, the Russia-Ukraine War is evolving into a war that the whole world will lose.

[1] Taras Kuzio, “Putin’s Russian Empire İs Collapsing Like Its Soviet Predecessor”, Atlantic Council,, (Date of Accession: 18.09.2022).

[2] Gabriel Gavin, “Putin’s Push for a New USSR Reawakens the Bloody Chaos of Soviet Collapse”, Politico,, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

Hüseyin YELTİN
Hüseyin Yeltin, Sakarya Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü mezunudur. Yüksek lisans eğitimini de Sakarya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı'nda tamamlayan Yeltin, halihazırda Anadolu Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Bilim Dalı'nda doktora eğitimini sürdürmekte ve ANKASAM'ın çalışmalarına da katkıda bulunmaktadır.