The Oxford English Dictionary defines "war" as: (1) A state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country; (2) a state of competition or hostility between different people or groups, or (3) a sustained campaign against an undesirable situation or activity. There are many possible reasons for war to begin between—or more often, within—nations. Among these are economic gain, territorial gain, religion, nationalism, civil war, and political revolution. Often, countries' leaders become primary motivators of conflict by instigating a territorial dispute, trying to control another country's natural resources, or exercising authoritarian power over people. Countries subject to prolonged conflict can become war-torn countries that require many decades to rebuild their infrastructure, economy, and other functions.
Not all wars are formalized with official declarations of war between combatants. Conversely, not every ongoing armed conflict is classified as a war. This article will use the Uppsala Conflict Data Program definition, which described war as "a state-based conflict or dyad which reaches at least 1000 battle-related deaths in a specific calendar year." Fatality figures include any combatants killed in action as well as any civilians who were deliberately killed (for example, by bombings or other attacks).
On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation began a military invasion of Ukraine, escalating a conflict that had been simmering since Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. After officially recognizing the separatist Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on what he termed a "peacekeeping" mission, which escalated to a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Military action in the Russo-Ukranian conflict
The initial attacks were composed of missile volleys, soon followed by ground troops and armored units which entered Ukraine from both Russia and Belarus and appeared to be targeting Ukraine's capital city of Kiev. By Feb. 24, 2022,, Russian forces had taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear power facility. As of the evening of Feb. 25, 2022,, Russian forces had also overtaken an airfield near Kyiv and were expected to take control of the city within days, if not hours.
However, those expectations proved inaccurate. The Ukrainian people, urged to resist by President Volodymyr Zelensky, fought with great conviction and effectiveness. The frozen ground began to thaw, creating muddy, boggy soil that limited the ability of tanks and other heavy armored vehicles. Russia also had great difficulty keeping supply lines running smoothly—a concern amplified by the fact that, according to some reports, Russia's ground forces entered Ukraine carrying only a three-day supply of fuel. Many Russian tanks ran out of fuel and were abandoned. Moreover, reports came of Russian soldiers who chose to surrender rather than fire upon Ukrainians, whom they regarded as countrymen (because Ukraine is a former Soviet Republic). Together, these factors delayed what Russia reportedly planned to be a swift takeover.
As of May 2, 2022, Kyiv still had not fallen. Russia had, however, escalated its efforts. It had reportedly broken cease-fire agreements, admitted to launching thermobaric rockets, hypersonic missiles, and banned anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, the uses of which may be considered war crimes. Russia had also begun attacking civilian targets including a known evacuation route and a maternity hospital and other health care facilities (which are also war crimes). Despite these escalated tactics, as well as looming shortages of food and water in Ukrainian towns such as Kherson, Kharkiv, and Sumy, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive that seemed by March 22, 2022 to have reclaimed some of the territory Russia had occupied, most notably the city of Makariv, west of Kyiv. As of May 2, 2022, Ukrainian forces were continuing to regain territory.
As of May 5, 2022, more than 5.5 million Ukranians had fled the country, seeking refuge predominantly in Poland (more than 3 million refugees) but also in Hungary, Slovakia, and other European countries—including, somewhat paradoxically, Russia, where many Ukranians have family. More than 7 million more are believed to be displaced inside the country. On March 25, 2022, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that one out of every two Ukrainian children had been displaced by the ongoing war, and the UN has gone on record stating the Ukraine refugee crisis is "the fastest and largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II."
By March 15, 2022, the Ukranian city of Mariupol was deeply engaged with Russian forces. Mariupol's mayor told news organizations that the Russians were intent upon destroying the city and had dropped more than 100 bombs on Mariupol in a single day. Multiple Ukrainian officials have further claimed the Russians were holding hostage the doctors and patients of one of the city's hospitals. It is estimated that 350,000 to 400,000 Ukrainians remain in Mariupol, where shortages of food and water are becoming an increasing problem, as humanitarian aid has been slow to reach the city, reportedly blocked by Russian forces. The Russians have also been accused of agreeing to "evacuation routes" meant to offer civilians free passage out of besieged cities, but then shelling those routes with artillery. Russian forces have supplemented the land-based artillery shelling the city with additional bombardment from warships in the Sea of Azov. Satellite photos released on March 30, 2022, show entire city blocks flattened by artillery and missile bombardment.
Russia has also been accused of forcibly relocating captured Ukrainians to Russia, which would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Russian forces have reportedly stolen, detained, and even redirected evacuation buses. Estimates in late March suggested the number of Ukrainians abducted and taken to Russia may have been as many as 40,000, including thousands of children. Many were reportedly forced to choose between going to Russia or being killed. By May 2, 2022, it was believed that 40,000 residents from Mariupol alone had been deported, and the Russian government openly stated it had "evacuated" more than a million people, including 200,000 children.
On March 16, 2022, U.S. defense officials reported increased Russian naval activity in the waters near the city of Odessa, located on Ukraine's southern coastline, which would seem to indicate the possibility of an amphibious attack from Russia. Odessa is the last Ukrainian port city still controlled by Ukraine. The U.S. also announced $800M USD in defense assistance for Ukraine, including more than 600 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which could help fend off the Russian bombing raids. Thus far, the U.S. and NATO have not implemented a no-fly zone over the Ukraine, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's request.
In Mariupol, evidence emerged that Russian forces had bombed a theater where hundreds of Ukrainian civilians had taken shelter—and had written the word "children" in large letters in the parking lot outside. The fate of the theater's inhabitants was unknown, as the entrance had become blocked by rubble. However, on March 17, 2022, it was announced that at least some of the up to 1,200 people sheltering inside had survived and begun to emerge from the rubble. A day later on March 18, 2022, 130 people had been pulled from the rubble, but hundreds more remained buried (it was revealed on March 25, 2022 that an estimated 300 people had died, but some 600 had survived).
A similar event seems to have occurred on March 20, 2022, when Russian forces bombed an art school that was being used as a shelter by up to 400 Ukrainians. Despite these demoralizing attacks, Ukraine rejected Russia's demand to surrender Mariupol by the morning on Monday, March 21, 2022. Increasing evidence exists of mass graves in Mariupol and other locations, and that Russian troops may be executing POWs.
Throughout the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin has maintained that Russia is the victim and Ukraine is a stealth aggressor, claiming that Ukraine has secret nuclear and biological weapons programs and that it harbors neo-Nazis (a clear reference to Ukraine's admittedly ultranationalist Azov battalion) who must be eradicated. While Putin offered no proof of any nuclear or biological weapons in Ukraine, U.S. officials warned of the possibility of "false flag" operations in which Russian forces would launch chemical weapons themselves in an attempt to frame Ukraine. Around March 20, 2022, NATO and U.S. officials also warned that Belarus, which lies to Ukraine's north, may soon join the war on behalf of Russia.
On March 18, 2022, Russian missiles struck the city of Lviv, which lies just 40 miles from Ukraine's border with Poland. In response, the Polish prime minister announced he would submit a proposal to NATO to launch a peacekeeping mission in the Ukraine.
By March 25, 2022, it was estimated that Russia had launched 1,250 missiles into Ukraine, including toward population centers such as the cities of Mariupol and Kyiv, as well as high-value targets such as airstrips and fuel depots. Ukraine also announced that the Ukrainian Air Force command center had been struck by cruise missiles, causing considerable damage. However, it was further estimated that Russia's supplies of certain types of missile were running low. On March 27, 2022, Russia confirmed it has struck two fuel depots with missiles, one near the city of Lviv and the other near Kyiv.
On March 29, 2022, Russia announced it would "drastically reduce" its attacks on the cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv as part of ongoing peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. U.S. intelligence confirmed that a small number of Russian forces had indeed moved away from Kyiv, though many officials from both the U.S. and notably Russia were quick to clarify that this was a simple repositioning of Russian forces rather than the first step toward a larger cease-fire.
This warning would prove accurate, as Russian forces regrouped and soon intensified effots to take over Ukraine's southern and eastern regions. Moreover, the mayor of Chernihiv maintained that Russian attacks increased after the announcement rather than decreasing. Meanwhile, reports began to surface that Russian troops were refusing orders and that advisors to Russian leader Vladimir Putin were misleading him about the war's progress.
Over the following days, Russian forces did retreat from Kyiv and Chernihiv. However, the retreat revealed substantial evidence that Russian troops had conducted significant war crimes during their occupation of Ukrainian territories. The existence of mass graves and clear signs that civilians had been targeted, abused, and executed in areas such as the city of Bucha incited a new round of condemnation of Russia's actions from the international community. By April 15, 2022, more than 900 civilian bodies had been discovered in areas of Kyiv that had been occupied by Russian forces. As a result of these discoveries, multiple countries have accused Russia of genocide.. Russian soldiers have also been accused of using rape to break Ukrainians' morale.
On April 14, 2022, the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva sank in the Black Sea. Ukraine claimed it had struck the ship with a missile, while Russia claimed the sinking was due to an onboard fire that set off stored ammunition. Whatever the true cause, the loss of the Moskva, a flagship of the Russian fleet, is said to have triggered "increasingly hostile" conflict in Ukraine's southern regions. President Zelensky and other governmental officials also reiterated public warnings that Russian President Vladimir Putin could quite possibly deploy chemical or tactical nuclear weapons if the conflict continues to favor Ukraine.
Political fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
The majority of the world's countries, as well as organizations including NATO, the European Union, and the Council of Europe, have strongly condemned Russia's actions. Many countries have sent military supplies and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but have not yet sent troops to assist in the country's defense. On March 16, 2022, the International Court of Justice ruled 13-2 that Russia must immediately cease its military operations in Ukraine.
The sentiments of the Russian people as a whole are difficult to ascertain, as the Russian government heavily censors information and blocks social media and news websites. Russia has also made it illegal for the press to offer any opinion or information that does not directly support the highly partisan and factually inaccurate official government stance on the invasion. As a result, many press outlets are fleeing the country or shutting down altogether.
The United States, Germany, and several other nations also imposed massive economic sanctions against Russia, such as boycotting the purchase of Russian oil and wheat and locking Russian banks out of the financial network SWIFT, thereby limiting their ability to conduct international transactions. Supply chain shortages caused by these sanctions, as well as the conflict itself, have sent the prices of gasoline, natural gas, wheat, and certain other products (partcularly those produced by Russia or Ukraine), to record highs in many places around the globe.
However, the greatest financial impact is happening in Russia itself, where the ruble is plummeting in value and the already struggling economy is undergoing tremendous strain. Many countries have also levied sanctions against Putin himself, as well as various other high-level Russian politicians and oligarchs. China, notably, has been reticent to criticize Russia's actions and has not imposed any sanctions. On March 25, 2022, Putin instructed Russia's gas importers to accept payments only in Russian rubles, a move intended to increase the flailing value of Russia's currency. The move was widely rejected by countries including France and Germany.
On March 15, 2022, Russia announced that it was withdrawing from the Council of Europe, a humanitarian organization that had suspended Russia's membership upon its initial invasion of Ukraine. The 47-nation council instead moved to expel Russia on March 15, 2022. Russia also announced that it had chosen to sanction U.S. President Joe Biden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and several other high-ranking U.S. officials. The sanctions appeared to be largely symbolic, however, as Psaki noted half-jokingly that the U.S. officials had no Russian vacations planned and no Russian bank accounts they would no longer be able to access. On April 15, 2022, Russia officially protested the United States' supplying of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.
Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine continued as of March 17, 2022, with one of the key points being Russia's insistence that Ukraine not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). On March 27, 2022, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukraine would be willing to agree to remain neutral and reverse plans to join NATO. However, Zelensky added, demilitarization and "denazification"—a term many experts feel Putin is using as a baseless excuse to invade—would not be on the table. However, peace talks continued and arguably contributed to Russia's March 29, 2022 announcement that it would de-escalate its attacks on the northern cities of Kyiv (Ukraine's capital) and Chernihiv.
On April 04, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly voted to remove Russia from the United Nations' Human Rights Council. Russia remained a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, however, a situation that many, including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, have claimed undermines the organization's credibility and effectiveness.
On April 22, 2022, Russian officials revealed that Russia's goal was to take control of the southeastern portion of Ukraine. Annexing this region would establish a land bridge between Russia an the Crimean peninsula, which it had previously annexed in 2014.
Countries currently at war (as of September 2021):
Category: 10,000+ casualties in 2020/2021
Type: Civil War/Terrorist Insurgency
The war in Afghanistan has been on and off since 1978. The most recent phase began in 2001 and has primarily revolved around U.S. and U.N. forces and allied Afghan troops fighting Taliban insurgents. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), there were 30,936 confirmed fatalities in 2020 alone. The U.S./U.N. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 should signal the end of this particular conflict, but war between the Taliban and other factions, including ISIL-K, which bombed the airport in Kabul during U.S. evacuations, is expected to continue.
Type: Civil War
Tension between clashing political parties in Ethiopia escalated into a violent civil war in November 2020. Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia to the north, has also sent troops into the conflict. The violence has spilled over into neighboring countries, with isolated skirmishes taking place in Sudan and Somalia. Named the "Tigray War", after the region in which it began, the war had resulted in more than 9,000 documented casualties (though some sources estimate more than 50,000) by September 2021. Reports indicate war crimes are common.
Type: Drug War
The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing conflict between the Mexican government and multiple powerful and violent drug trafficking cartels. It is estimated that the war on drugs has led to at least 350,000 deaths—with more than 72,000 people still missing—from January 2006 to May 2021.
Yemen [also involved: Saudi Arabia]
Type: Civil War
The Yemeni Civil War began in September 2014 when the the Houthi armed movement took control of Sanaa, the capital city and seat of the existing government, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Both factions claim to be the official Yemeni government. Saudi Arabia intervened in support of Hadi in early 2015, leading a coalition of Asian and African countries, with intelligence and logistical support from the United States. ACLED has counted more than 140,000 fatalities since the start of the war, including nearly 20,000 in 2020 alone.
Category: 1,000 to 10,000 casualties in 2020/2021
|Country||Type of conflict|
|Burkina Faso||Terrorist insurgency|
|Colombia||Drug war & civil war|
|DR Congo||Terrorist insurgency|
|Iraq||Terrorist insurgency & political unrest|
|Libya||Civil war & terrorist insurgency|
|Mali||Civil war & terrorist insurgency|
|South Sudan||Ethnic violence|