Putin, safe in energy, units stage for lengthy and draining battle By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video handle asserting the beginning of the navy operation in jap Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia, in a nonetheless picture taken from video footage launched February 24, 2022. Russian Pool/Reuters TV through R

By Man Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Vladimir Putin casts the battle in Ukraine as a watershed when Russia lastly stood as much as the West – however some throughout the elite concern he has dedicated his nation to an extended and fruitless drain on lives and assets.

When the Russian president ordered troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, he anticipated to win shortly, earn a spot in historical past alongside the tsars, and educate the US a lesson about Russia’s revival because the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He was mistaken. The battle has killed or wounded a whole bunch of 1000’s; Russia and Russians are vilified within the West as aggressors; and his military now faces a resilient Ukraine backed by an increasing U.S.-led NATO navy alliance.

One senior Russian supply with information of decision-making stated Putin’s hopes of burnishing his fame had been dashed.

“Forward, it is going to be much more tough and extra expensive for each Ukraine and Russia,” stated the supply, who spoke on situation of anonymity. “Financial losses on this scale will not be price just a few conquered territories.”

The supply stated he believed most of the elite shared his view, though to say so publicly would invite swift retribution.

Putin says Moscow is locked in an existential battle with an smug West that desires to carve up Russia and its huge assets – a story that Ukraine and the West reject.

For all of the geopolitical shock waves Putin has induced, he nonetheless has no severe rival for energy, based on 5 senior Russian sources near decision-making. And with all public dissent suppressed, the 70-year-old needn’t concern the presidential election that looms in March 2024.

The complete strategic and financial penalties of the battle could reverberate for a while, nonetheless.

“I do not imagine in a serious offensive, or in the opportunity of a Russian victory in opposition to the entire civilised world,” stated a second senior supply near the Kremlin, who additionally declined to be named.

The supply stated Russia was at a drawback in each navy expertise and motivation, however that the battle would nonetheless proceed “for a really very long time”.


Even one of many few sceptics whose criticism has been tolerated thus far, a pro-war ex-commander of pro-Russian troops in east Ukraine, sees no clear final result.

“We’re in a completely paradoxical scenario,” stated Igor Girkin, who has been convicted by a world court docket of serving to to shoot down a Malaysian airliner over east Ukraine.

“Now we have a very incapable management fashioned immediately by a president who’s unchangeable and to whom there isn’t a various. However a change of president would result in a swift disaster.”

To Girkin, that may imply navy defeat, civil battle, and the subjugation of Russia.

His frustrations centre on the secrecy, poor communication and ineffective command construction which have led to a sequence of humiliating navy defeats by the hands of Russia’s far smaller neighbour.

However past the battlefield, Russia should pay for an unexpectedly broad and protracted battle whereas struggling probably the most extreme Western sanctions.

Compelled into the unpopular step of mobilising 300,000 younger, economically lively males final autumn, Putin within the course of prompted a whole bunch of 1000’s extra to flee Russia.

Moscow has misplaced a serious chunk of the European fuel market that the Soviet Union and Putin spent many years profitable. Russian oil manufacturing rose in 2022 however Moscow has introduced an output reduce for March, most certainly in response to a Western cap on the worth of its refined merchandise.

Western companies and buyers have run for the exit, making Russia court docket one-time rival China as an investor and purchaser of its oil.

Its $2.1 trillion economic system – about one-Twelfth the scale of the U.S.’s – is forecast by the Worldwide Financial Fund to develop 0.3% this yr, far beneath China and India’s progress charges.

The present account surplus has shrivelled and the funds deficit is widening, regardless of hefty drawdowns from a rainy-day fund.

“This battle is probably the most consequential exercise Putin has ever undertaken and positively for Russia it’s the most consequential gamble because the fall of the Soviet Union,” stated Samuel Charap, a Russia specialist on the RAND Company who has served within the State Division.

But when Russia’s enterprise leaders – who embody lots of Putin’s erstwhile KGB colleagues – object to the course of occasions, they’re doing so in personal.


A lot will rely on the battlefield, the place the entrance line extends 850 km (530 miles). Neither facet has air superiority. Each have suffered large losses.

The West is supplying extra superior – and longer-range – weapons after offering tens of billions of {dollars}’ price of weapons, shells, missiles and intelligence. However its tolerance of that expense might not be infinite.

Putin could also be finally betting on time, stated U.S. Central Intelligence Company (CIA) director William Burns, a former ambassador to Moscow who has taken messages from President Joe Biden to Russia.

“The subsequent six months, it appears to me, and it is our evaluation at CIA, are going to be essential,” Burns instructed the Georgetown College of International Service on Feb. 2.

He stated the truth of the battleground would puncture “Putin’s hubris”, by displaying him that his military can’t advance, however solely lose territory already seized.

Some throughout the Russian elite beg to vary – and say the West, not Russia, will lose.

“The president believes he can win in Ukraine,” stated one senior Russian supply. “He, in fact, can’t lose the battle. Victory might be ours.”

Neither the Kremlin nor the West have specified what victory or defeat in Ukraine would entail, though Moscow stays far wanting even controlling the 4 Ukrainian provinces that it has unilaterally proclaimed a part of Russia. Ukraine says it’ll reclaim each inch of its territory.

And that provides little motive to imagine the battle will finish quickly.

“Putin will stay in energy till the tip, until he dies or there’s a coup – and neither seems to be possible proper now,” stated a senior Western diplomat.

“Putin can’t win the battle, however he is aware of he can’t lose.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.