We hear that Putin is losing the war. Really?
Virtually every news report these days explains how Russian President Vladimir Putin is losing the war in Ukraine.
He was dramatically unsuccessful in his initial plan to take Kyiv. He is currently losing some of the ground he gained in the early phases of the invasion– but he still controls more than he did prior to the invasion.
As evidence of Putin’s losing, we hear how he has had to conscript 300,000 more soldiers – and how they are unprepared. We hear about the terrible death toll among Russian forces – including a number of generals and commanders. They have lost a lot of military weapons and equipment. Supposedly, Putin is running out of major offensive missiles even as he is hitting Ukrainian cities on a daily basis.
Then there are the problems back home. Rather than be conscripted, young Russians are fleeing the country. Organic anti-war protests are erupting all over Mother Russia. The government news agencies are expressing criticism over the conduct of the war – although most say Putin needs to get tougher. It is rumored that even Putin insiders are expressing criticism.
And of course, most of the world’s nations have increased their criticism of Putin and demanded that he end the war in Ukraine – although they are not very specific about what that should look like.
We can all agree that the war has not gone as Putin would have liked. His hoped-for quick victory and possession of all of Ukraine has been dashed. But losing the war? If Putin was losing, Kyiv would be winning. Despite impressive victories – and a few symbolic actions, such as the sinking of the Moscow and the bombing of the Russia-Crimea bridge – Ukraine is not winning. And if Ukraine is not winning, then Putin is not losing.
He is not losing because of the west’s – and especially the United States – “too-little/too-late” policy. We allowed Putin’s build-up on the border without a countermove on the strategic chessboard. We dribbled out ineffective sanctions only after new egregious actions by Putin. We doled out critical weapons only after advances by Putin – and just enough to keep Ukraine from losing.
Amazingly, we still have unapplied sanctions – even after President Biden assured Kyiv and the world that we had hit Russia with all the sanctions on the shelf. He lied.
And now we are CONSIDERING sending sophisticated air defense weapons – but only after Putin shot-gunned hundreds of missiles and drones all over Ukraine – committing more war crimes in the process.
Along with all the weapons we have sent, there remains an admonition not to use them to attack military installations inside Russia. Putin can indiscriminately bomb every major city in Ukraine … can destroy the civilian infrastructure (and civilians) … steal the grain … and maintain troops on Ukraine soil … but Ukraine cannot attack Russian military staging sites and ammunition depots in Russia. That is a HUGE win for Putin. (Imagine the outcome of World War II if the Allies were not allowed to attack inside Germany and Japan.)
As long as the west’s policy is maintaining a war of attrition and “measured responses,” the war will go on needlessly – and Putin will eventually win.
Even though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, we do have a defense agreement that was the result of Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal. That was a preliminary win for Putin – and the fact that we will not uphold the agreement is another.
If this war is waged with Putin attacking and occupying Ukraine as he is protected from counterattacks by the United States and NATO policy … Putin wins.
At this point, the most likely acceptable outcome for Biden & Co. is a negotiated settlement with Russia possessing a chunk of eastern Ukraine – and Ukraine with a destroyed infrastructure. If that is the outcome … Putin wins.
And by the way … to all those concerned about the cost of the war. A quick victory is a lot less costly than a looooong defeat – a lesson we should have learned in Afghanistan.
So, there ‘tis.