Sword of Damocles: The Donbas War

It would seem that the world is slowly destabilizing. Or maybe it has always been like that, but we haven’t taken the time to notice it. Perhaps it’s because the media does not really cover anything beyond our borders, which becomes pretty blatant when this author utters the words, “wait there’s a war there?”

What am I speaking of specifically? Well, over the past year or two (maybe the last decade who knows anymore) the world seems to be teetering ever closer to some major altercation between states with highly capable and, thus, freakishly deadly militaries. One of these places where the possibility of great powers engaging in armed conflict is in a little place called Donbas.

Seven years ago, without much aplomb, the Crimean Peninsula was seized by the Russian military without much of a shot being fired by either Ukraine or the Russian separatists/military. From there came the long war in Donbas. The excuse for Russia for these invasions is the presence of a large ethnic Russian minority, being around 35-40% of the population. The war is a fascinating one, with many Cold War-esque themes.

At the beginning of the conflict, the Ukrainian military had only a measly 6,000 troops ready for deployment and suffered extensively from both supplies, while being one of the largest arms dealers in the world, and manpower shortages. Herein, they relied on the rapid formation of Ukrainian militias to stop the Russian advance. After initial successes by the Pro-Russian Separatists in the region the Separatists were eventually stopped when the Ukrainians finally got their footing and actually began to push back. This prompted the intervention of Russian “volunteers” who helped stabilize the situation for Russia.

Throughout this, the Obama Administration was highly hesitant to send material aid at all to the Ukrainians. When it was sent, it was only in the form of non-lethal equipment like body armor. Aid was stepped up a bit when the Trump Administration entered the White House with the introduction of lethal aid such as sniper rifles, anti-tank missiles, etc… Under the Biden Administration, this lethal aid has been continued for the most part, with the last big piece of aid being that of armed patrol boats. The Ukrainians are currently attempting to set up a mosquito fleet after the loss of most of their naval forces with the annexation of Crimea. Recently there have even been attempts by the Ukrainians to purchase Patriot Missiles in order to counter the Bear to the East.

The conflict has been characterized by the use of everybody from pro-Russian separatists, Russian regulars, mercenaries, Chechens, Ossetians, Abkhazians, and neo-Cossacks. The fighting has been conducted in a relatively conventional fashion with the use of tanks, artillery, mortars, and trenches. To date, there have been over 13,000 killed in the conflict. This conflict represents a relatively good representation of what a modern conflict would look like between nations. One of the results of the conflict is the creation of two new states in the Donbas (only recognized by Russia of course). These are the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

So what’s the point? Why does this matter to the United States? Well, the threat of today is that the Russians are building up their forces along the Ukrainian border. There is the real possibility that Russia might decide to invade. But what about the United States and her allies who have pledged their support of Ukrainian sovereignty? Well, I wouldn’t bet on it. We didn’t do anything when the Russians annexed Crimea, nor have we done much during the entirety of the Donbas War. The fundamental question is; are we going to send a bunch of Marines to go fight and die in Donbas? Are we going to risk the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, wherein we might move past conventional warfare and go to a conflict involving cruise missiles? One should never discount the possibility of nuclear war in situations like this. As far as this author can tell, Russia is seeing whether or not the West will blink… and I can’t say I’m confident we won’t.

*Some good articles that I have found on this conflict. Also, read Coffee or Die Magazine.






Recent Posts

See All