This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Who Is Winning the War After Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already demonstrated itself as different from any previous war we have experienced. The beginning of the invasion took place in real-time on social media and television. We have seen various social media videos and accounts demonstrating the scale of the fighting, from Russian jets being shot down to the defiance on Snake Island. We have also seen that these early accounts were either false or mistaken. The video of the Russian jets shot down by a Ukrainian fighter pilot was fake. The defiant Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island are not dead but alive and well. These lessons of early inaccurate information learned less than a week into the fighting should serve to moderate our interpretation of so-called facts on the ground as we receive them through news and social media outlets.

This past Saturday, news outlets from the New York Times to Al Jazeera noted how Russian forces were meeting far more resistance than anticipated, and Ukrainian fighters were slowing their advance. Reports of cut Russian logistical supply lines leaving soldiers stranded and easy prey for Ukrainian troops suggested the invasion was not going as planned. Military experts have expressed surprise at the level of mistakes and military blunders taken by the Russians compared to the ferocity of Ukrainian volunteers determined to defend their homeland. All of this could prove true, but it is also worth noting that Russia has sent in barely a third of its troops stationed along Ukraine’s borders so far.

If setbacks to the Russian invasion prove true, there is a higher risk that the brutality of Russian aggression will increase, including missiles and bombings of civilian areas.

Yesterday Russian forces hit Ukrainian oil and gas facilities in major cities throughout the country, initiating what many believe to be the next phase of the invasion.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Putin to win the war quickly is increasing. Each day that passes without Russian success in Ukraine increases the potential and scale of loss to Russia’s leader. The economic sanctions represent only one facet of that risk.

In the first week of the war, Russians have demonstrated their displeasure at Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. More than 5,000 anti-war protesters were arrested in Russian cities over the weekend. Far from rallying Russia to his side, a growing tide of resentment appears to be building against Vladimir Putin. Such a situation could pressure the Russian leader to back down, but it is just as likely to push him towards more desperate and violent ends.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at