The View from Kyiv

KYIV – For international observers, Russian President Vladimir Putin either will start a new war in Ukraine or he will not. But for Ukrainians, the war started when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, and it has continued ever since. Thousands of Ukrainians already have experienced armed struggle against Russian forces. That is why politicians in Kyiv are not preoccupied with guessing what Putin will do next; they are focused on what they must do today.

The Ukrainian mindset reflects a sober assessment of the country’s capabilities, resources, and influence. Ukrainian leaders understand that they must prepare the army, reduce the economic impact of the crisis, and find as many allies as possible. They are not picky about receiving assistance from the West. They will accept any assistance gratefully, knowing that even small contributions could prove decisive.

Although Ukrainians must prepare for war, they have peace on their minds, because that is what they have been fighting for these past eight years. They don’t quibble much about whether the war will be big or small, fought from the air or on land, or waged around cities or in the countryside. One gets the impression that they are more optimistic than the situation warrants. As one top defense expert told me, “Sławomir, I have three daughters, the youngest is a year old. How can I not be optimistic?”

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