Ukraine invasion: Russia's surprisingly poor military showing could inspire Taiwan against China - Alexander Gillespie

An international law expert is surprised with how poorly the Russian army has done during the war with Ukraine - and says it could serve as an inspiration to Taiwan.

Tuesday marked three months since Russia invaded their neighbouring country, which has seen thousands of people killed and millions displaced because of the fighting. 

The Kremlin calls the invasion a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists, but Ukraine and its allies have dismissed that as a baseless pretext for the war.

Professor of international law at the University of Waikato, Alexander Gillespie, told Newshub the achievements of the Ukraine army are "remarkable".

"I think everyone's surprised [with how Russia has gone]. The scale of the conflict was huge and the fact that the Ukrainians fought with such courage and then with the supplementary technology and stopped them [Russia] in their tracks is quite a remarkable achievement," Gillespie told Newshub. 

"I think a lot of people who are interested in military theory will be seeing the way that these types of wars change.

"The country that will be watching it closely right now will be Taiwan because it shows you that in a conventional war, if a superpower comes in, and you have the right technology and war power, they can be stopped." 

China has claimed Taiwan is part of China, but Taiwan insists it is an independent country and vowed to defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for escalating tensions.

Gillespie said a big reason why Ukraine is having so much success is the extra weapons and technology they're receiving from western countries. 

Just last week, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine just two months after sending an initial emergency infusion of aid to Kyiv. The two aid packages totalled around $54b, which is the largest package of foreign aid passed by Congress in at least two decades.

New Zealand has also been helping Ukraine, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing on Monday 30 more Kiwi soldiers were being sent to the UK to train hundreds of Ukrainians to use the L119 light artillery gun.

This sort of help from foreign countries is key to helping Ukraine stave off the Russians, Gillespie said.

"The reason they [Russia] are losing isn't just because of the tenacity and the courage of the Ukrainian fighters, it's because of the technology that's been provided, which has changed the battlefield," he told Newshub. 

When Russia first invaded, not many picked Ukraine to win, but after three months of war, experts are starting to believe they're on track for what some might say is a shock victory. 

One expert who agrees is the University of Otago's international relations professor Robert Patman. 

"We're in a new phase now and some commentators believe we're entering what's called the long war, where Russia's entrenched in the eastern part of the country and there'll be a stalemate," Patman told Newshub. 

"I don't believe that, I don't share that analysis, the Russian army is too weak militarily and economically to sustain a long war, and I think Ukraine is on course for a successful counteroffensive and the ejection of Russian troops by the end of the year."

Alexander Gillespie said the achievements of the Ukraine army are "remarkable".
Alexander Gillespie said the achievements of the Ukraine army are "remarkable". Photo credit: Newshub

Gillespie said Russia could turn to targeting the weapons the West are providing to Ukraine in transit.   

"I think at the moment, it's unlikely, but it's possible and the problem you've got is that although it's lawful for a third party to provide weapons to a country at war, the opposition country at war is at liberty to try to stop those weapons," Gillespie explained. 

"If they can stop those weapons inside the war zone, that's not a problem, but if they decide to strike at those weapons in transit, let's say over a NATO country or over the high seas, then the whole nature of the conflict could turn and then you could find it not a war against Ukraine, but a war against NATO."

Gillespie said even though it's "unlikely" the war will spill over the Ukraine border, it could happen. 

'So far, they have avoided that and I imagine the weapons deliveries have been done very carefully over the border to Poland or other places where it's unlikely they're going to be struck," Gillespie told Newshub.

"But if Russia decides to strike on-route outside of Ukraine, then yes the war could spill." 

The United Nations said on Monday 3930 civilians had been killed in the three months of war that have been fought so far, with 4532 injured.