It’s Time to End Magical Thinking About Russia’s Defeat
Putin has withstood the West’s best efforts to reverse his invasion of Ukraine, and his hold on power is firm. The U.S. and its allies need a new strategy: containment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a National Unity Day ceremony in Moscow, Nov. 4. Almost two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has reason to believe time is on his side. PHOTO: MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
As Russian President Vladimir Putin looks toward the second anniversary of his all-out assault on Ukraine, his self-confidence is hard to miss. A much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive has not achieved the breakthrough that would give Kyiv a strong hand to negotiate. Tumult in the Middle East dominates the headlines, and bipartisan support for Ukraine in the U.S. has been upended by polarization and dysfunction in Congress, not to mention the pro-Putin leanings of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Putin has reason to believe that time is on his side. At the front line, there are no indications that Russia is losing what has become a war of attrition. The Russian economy has been buffeted, but it is not in tatters. Putin’s hold on power was, paradoxically, strengthened following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed rebellion in June. Popular support for the war remains solid, and elite backing for Putin has not fractured.
Western officials’ promises of reinvigorating their own defense industries have collided with bureaucratic and supply-chain bottlenecks. Meanwhile, sanctions and export controls have impeded Putin’s war effort far less than expected. Russian defense factories are ramping up their output, and Soviet legacy factories are outperforming Western factories when it comes to much-needed items like artillery shells…
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