When Vladimir Putin sent his war machine into Ukraine last February, one of the reasons he gave for the invasion was to ensure Ukraine’s neutral status and prevent its government from moving the country further towards the west. Though there is more behind this war, the Russian leader has long expressed concerns about the possibility of Ukraine seeking closer military cooperation with Nato, with an eye to eventually joining the alliance. The “special military operation” aimed to stop this in its tracks.
But ten months of bloody warfare has had the reverse effect. There is now a larger Nato military footprint in Ukraine than ever before. Military support – from medical equipment to training and advanced weaponry – has exceeded US$20 billion (£16.8 billion) from Washington alone.
This – and Russia’s inability to topple the Ukrainian government in the early days of the war – are widely accepted to be major strategic blunders by Russia. Putin overestimated the extent of Russia’s support among the Ukrainian people and underestimated the strength of Ukrainian national identity. But how has the war affected attitudes toward neutrality and Nato among ordinary Ukrainians?