Putin is Losing
The concept that Vladimir Putin is losing his Ukrainian war because he is not winning may seem contrived. But it’s reality.
As an article in Foreign Affairs pointed out, it was Putin who set out his grand strategic goals when he ordered his troops into his neighboring country. He said he wanted to “denazify” Ukraine, which was absurd on its face because its leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.
He also said he wanted to demilitarize Ukraine. Because of Western support, it is now one of the most heavily militarized countries in the world.
He resented Ukraine’s ever-closer relationship with NATO, which he sees as an existential threat. It doesn’t have to be that, but that’s what he conjures up in his distorted mind and what he sells to the Russian people. His “special military operation,” his lie about an all-out conventional war, has backfired. NATO is more united then ever in its history, and it has grown to 31 countries because of the clear and present danger posed by Putin’s Russia. Sweden and Finland on Russia’s border led the historic enlargement of the defensive alliance.
Putin is losing in other ways. He is now in a stalemate on the battlefield, at best, and a stalemate is not winning. Measured against his goals, which encompassed seizing all of Ukraine, a stalemate is a form of losing.
As the months of the war drag on, Putin is running out of options. He has been bombing the civilian population of Ukraine with missiles and drones to break the morale of the Ukrainian people. Brutal as it has been, it hasn’t worked. The Ukrainians now detest Putin’s Russia. Some of the Russian speakers have shifted to speak primarily the Ukrainian language.
Further, the Russian military has been severely degraded. It has become incapable of offensive attacks, having been forced into elaborate defensive positions.
Russian military power has been sapped. The morale and cohesiveness of the Russian military has been debilitated by the loss of several hundred thousand men through death and injury. Its military leadership has been fractured. That was evident for the whole world to see when Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary group marched on Moscow and got within 120 miles of the capitol.
In another dimension, the Russian losses include damage to its economy and the sharp devaluation of the ruble. Foreign trade has been crippled by sanctions, even though alternative trade methods have been cobbled together.
The power of countries in today’s world revolve around the horsepower of its best and brightest citizens. Several hundred thousand Russians have exiled themselves from their motherland. It takes the education of several generations of people to build the intellectual property of a nation. The damage of an exodus is long-lasting.
As always with Putin, Prigozhin, once a friend and an ally who became a critic, was just murdered last week when his plane exploded over Russian soil. The world will not miss Prigozhin, a barbaric leader, but his death will not calm the waters in the Russian military. Underlying disagreement with Putin’s conduct of the war will intensify, even if under the surface.
For some inexplicable reason, the isolationist wing of the Republican Party is working to defund the allied defense of Ukraine — to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. What are they thinking?
We are spending about $40 billion a year in support of weapons for the Ukrainian defenders. That’s a big number, but it’s less than 5% of our annual defense budget. And the Ukrainians keep coming up with innovative and effective new ways to fight. As an example, they have started using unmanned speed boats loaded with explosives to take out Russian naval ships in the Black Sea. It’s been an inexpensive, but lethal use of a new kind of drone.
In summary, Putin has won virtually nothing except for some seized acreage that is of little use to the Russian economy in its destroyed state.
Nikki Haley was right on in the GOP debate Wednesday when she said that isolationist doves in the GOP wanted, in effect, “to hand Ukraine to Russia.” She understands that U.S. foreign policy must rely on military prowess and strength when necessary.
Keep in mind always in this nasty confrontation of great powers that American and Allied troops are not in harm’s way, but its bases in Europe could be if the isolationists in both parties in Congress have their way. Fortunately, for the good of the world, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans in Congress is overriding the voices and votes of the doves.