How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, July 2

Sasha Sverdlova

Phillips Payson OʼBrien, an American historian, and professor of strategic studies, wrote an essay on how Ukraine has exposed Russia as a not-so-powerful state on The Atlantic. O’Brien notes that while analysts and experts can speak about how some countries are great powers and others are not, such statements can’t be verified until a war breaks out. The Russo-Ukrainian war is influencing the approach toward global power politics, changing how we think about national power and leadership. When the full-scale war just started, there was a notion that Russia was a great power led by a savvy leader and Ukraine was a smaller state weakened by national division and led by a former comedian. A whole group of experts and analysts, who call themselves “realists,” convened this idea of the “great power against small power” dynamic dominating the war, writes O’Brien, providing former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as an example of such “realist.” In reality, this notion proved to be wrong. First, Russia was exposed to not being such great power. Russian strength has been overrated because the military is only as strong as the society, economy, and political structure behind it. O’Brien also writes about the Russian leadership, and specifically, Putin, who is another proof of that dictatorial regimes tend to decompose the longer they stay in power. When thinking about power, the concepts of morale and commitment should be accounted for too. According to the essay, the “realists” are surprised mainly by extraordinary Ukrainian resistance. Therefore, writes O’Brien, we need to reconsider how we judge what makes a country a great power and account for the weaknesses of authoritarian regimes.

The New York Times writes about the Ukrainian comedy scene during the full-scale war. NYT correspondent traveled to Lviv to observe Ukrainian comedy and talk to comedians. Only two weeks following February 24, a group of Lviv comedians started the Cultural Defense evenings every few nights in one of Lviv’s comedy clubs in the basement. While the atrocities of the Russian invasion are grim and scary, humor is what helps many people to deal with fear and stress. Some of the jokes are self-deprecating, like the one about Ukrainians mastering to re-use a “single-use” antitank missile NLAW, comparing it to hotel slippers. Plenty of humor is about Putin and Russians. It aims to belittle the enemy making life bearable for Ukrainians at war. These evenings are also streamed online to collect donations for Ukrainian defense forces. During more than 50 shows, the comedians raised close to $70,000.

As Russia’s fierce military campaign in Ukraine continues, Al Jazeera writes about the arguments behind some prognoses of when the war in Ukraine will end. After shifting focus to Ukraine’s east, Russia will probably continue the advance until it “liberates” the entire area of Donbas. Al Jazeera talked to a former NATO lieutenant-general, Konstantinos Loukopoulos, who believes the immediate end is not approachable as of now as a war could come to an end when one side manages to impose its will on the other on the field or when both sides want a compromise. According to Loukopoulos, Russia has a political-strategic initiative, which makes Ukraine not benefit if entering the peace talks now. A professor of strategy and security, Jamie Shea, told Al Jazeera that Russia probably believes it has the advantage now and will slowly continue advancing the Donbas. At the same time, Ukraine will continue to push back, backed by its allies in the West. According to Shea, there might be two scenarios going forward: either Ukraine forces Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine entirely, or, more probable, both sides reach a stalemate accompanied by protracted fruitless negotiations like we’ve witnessed in the past. Loukopoulos believes that the war will not likely last longer than a year as neither Ukraine nor Russia could stand that long. He envisions a kind of “Korean scenario” with a line, and a demilitarized zone might be plausible in Ukraine.