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The war in Ukraine seems not to have progressed a lot since I first wrote about it. It is very hard to obtain reliable information about an ongoing war, but it seems clear that Russias forces are making minimal progress, especially around the big cities. There is something especially unsettling about the start of a war, when one has no idea what will happen; a war that has settled down into a stalemate, such as the Iran-Iraq War did in the 1980’s, is much less threatening, or seems so, anyway. I’m not ready to resign this war to stalemate yet, though. It is possible that Russian progress on subsidiary fronts will eventually lead to the isolation of large pockets of the Ukraine, which would probably mean an eventual Russian victory. It is also possible, for all I know, that Russia will face a mutiny among its troops that will throw the war entirely in Ukraine’s favour. It doesn’t seem likely, but most reports indicate that Russian troops were not expecting to be fighting Ukrainians outside of the Donbas region. Izvestiya ran an ongoing article, “Day [X] of the special operation in the Dobas,” as though the whole war was being fought in that region. (That article seems to have disappeared after three weeks; I was just reading it this morning.) Other articles called out alleged Ukrainian atrocities, but there were none giving a general account of military affairs on other fronts.

The conflict is distant from the Peace of Westphalia, but not as unrelated as you might think. It was in 1648 that a Cossack rebellion under the leadership of Bogdan Khmelnitsky broke out. Poland, which ruled the Ukraine at the time, was caught unprepared, especially after King Wladislaw IV died in May. This rebellion led briefly to the independence of Ukraine before it accepted Russian protection in 1654. Ukraine became increasingly incorporated into the Russian state, finally became independent again only in 1991, giving Russia a long-standing claim to the region. It would be interesting to read the reflections of the diplomats in Münster and Osnabrück during 1648 and 1649 to see what their impressions of events in Eastern Europe were.

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