The Russian invasion of Ukraine has become the deadliest conflict in Europe in decades. With the largest invasion force seen on the continent since World War II, both militaries have taken heavy casualties thus far with a significant increase in dead during the offensives in the Donbas region the past several months.
The Ukraine War has become an artillery duel, forcing allied nations to mass produce and expand current stockpiles in a race of logistical longevity. Moscow has persisted in attempting to complete its military objectives such as making Ukraine a landlocked nation, while Kyiv’s central demands before negotiations is the withdrawal of all Russian Forces from occupied territories, including Crimea.
If Ukraine cannot break through the current defensive lines in 2023, there are fears the war will become frozen and Zelensky could potentially be forced to negotiate some territorial concessions. A frozen conflict would only benefit Putin’s regime – Ukraine and the West cannot allow this to happen.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Baathist Regime of Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein sent one of the world’s largest modern invasion force across the borders into Iran. After initial gains, particularly in Khorramshahr, the Iranian army pushed back with counter offensives, taking some areas of Iraq as well.
Both nations continued the back-and-forth war until it ended in a stalemate and United Nations Security Council Resolution that ended the war in a permanent ceasefire. Neither Baghdad or Tehran recovered from the economic damage or declining demographics as hundreds of thousands of young men were killed in the war.
Comparisons of the Iran-Iraq War to Ukraine
Like the Iran-Iraq War, the war in Ukraine has seen some of the most brutal conventional warfare in modern history. Saddam Hussein wanted to cleanse Iranian provinces with significant Arab populations for Baathification while Khomeini wanted to export the Iranian Revolution into Iraq. The Kremlin’s central goal is to enact ‘Novorossiya’ to restore Imperial Russia, something Putin has constantly stated where he has repeatedly compared himself to Russian Tsar Peter the Great.
Both Saddam and Khomeini were infamous for their torture chambers and extrajudicial executions of dissidents and political rivals, something Putin‘s regime mirrors. Torture chambers have been found in Kherson and Kharkiv, along with mass graves from executions by RF in Bucha, Irpin, Izium, and Mariupol. Neither Iran nor Iraq followed the Geneva Convention with numerous instances of POW executions.
In desperation for counteroffensive operations, the IRGC forcibly recruited Iranian children for mine clearing and suicidal human wave assaults to overwhelm Iraqi positions. By promising them “keys to heaven,” the human wave tactics worked at stabilizing the fronts. Nonetheless, this came at great expense of the demographics of Iran and the tactic of child soldiers for frontal assaults was one of the worst war crimes of the conflict.
Over this past winter, the Russian PMC Wagner cleaned out prisons to use convicts in frontal assaults in the battles of Soledar and Bakhmut. This has resulted in limited advances in the Donetsk region but have had detrimental effects elsewhere. Frontal assaults have diminished the combat power of regular Russian Forces in Avdiivka and Vuhledar, resulting in catastrophic losses amongst elite paratroopers and only heightening Russia’s demographic collapse.
The end of the Iran-Iraq War saw two brutal autocrats continue to consolidate power and rearm for future conflicts. The Baathists became a plague to Kuwait, Saudis Arabia, Shiites, and Kurds, and the Mullahs would continue to export their theocratic influence on Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.
The UNSC backed ceasefire did little to mitigate aggression and allowed both regimes breathing room to continue their reign of terror, despite both nations becoming economically crippled from the war.
Freezing the Ukraine War is a win for Russia
In Ukraine, a ceasefire, especially one that does not adhere to the 1991 borders, will benefit Russia the most. Despite having a pretext of “genocide of Russian speakers,” Moscow’s military objectives were a full occupation of most of Ukraine and ultimately re-integration and annexation of Black Sea coastline oblasts into Novorossiya.
The Kremlin’s objectives have not changed, despite that Russian Forces have suffered more casualties in the past year of warfare more than any other conflict they had since WWII. Until Kyiv’s government is overthrown for a pro-Russian one and military occupations take place up to Odessa and potentially Moldova, Moscow has made it clear it won’t stop until their mission is completed.
The war in Ukraine is an existential war in which if Russia gives up its invasion for peace, it’ll get to keep its state, whereas if Kyiv capitulated, it opens the door for further annexation and oppression by Moscow. Ukrainians have understood the consequences of surrender or capitulation, suffering generational trauma from hundreds of years under imperial Russian rule.
According to a Ukrainian Pravda poll taken in February, 93% of Ukrainians would only accept the complete withdrawal of Russian Forces to the 1991 internationally recognized borders for a ceasefire and peace talks. Eighty-nine percent would continue fighting even if Moscow does the unthinkable and uses nuclear weapons.
Reminiscent of ceasefires that took place in Georgia and Chechnya in the 90s and Ukraine and Syria in the 2000s, the Kremlin would learn lessons from initial military engagements in those nations and then use the guise of “peace talks” to reassess their capabilities for renewed conflicts in those nations.
Igor Girkin, the convicted and internationally wanted war criminal who helped shoot down MH17 has continuously written about Moscow’s ambitions and how he helped the Kremlin start the war in the Donbas region as a head field FSB officer. Dmitry Medvedev, the former President of Russia and currently Kremlin cabinet member, recently stated Russia will not stop until it reaches the Polish border, where he suggested they would potentially create a buffer zone in Poland – something that would initiate a Third World War.
As the war in Ukraine continues, Moscow will not concede to fair negotiations unless the international community recognizes their illegal annexations and will continue to push until they feel they have completed all their imperial objectives. This is why a strategy of full military victory for Kyiv is necessary, as the Kremlin will not withdraw until they are compelled to — and to do that, Russia’s military must be crippled to where Putin realizes they no longer hold a substantial threat to Ukraine.
[Photo by Ukrainian Navy, via Wikimedia Commons]
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Julian McBride is a forensic anthropologist and independent journalist born in New York. He is the founder and director of the Reflections of War Initiative (ROW), an anthropological NGO which aims to tell the stories of the victims of war through art therapy. As a former Marine, he uses this technique not only to help heal PTSD but also to share people’s stories through art, which conveys “the message of the brutality of war better than most news organizations.”