… How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine …

The Case Against Incrementalism

Nearly a year after he invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has failed to achieve any of his major objectives.

He has not unified the alleged single Slavic nation, he has not “denazified” or “demilitarized” Ukraine, and he has not stopped NATO expansion.

Instead, the Ukrainian military kept Russian troops out of Kyiv, defended Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and launched successful counteroffensives in the fall so that by the end of 2022, it had liberated over 50 percent of the territory previously captured by Russian soldiers that year.

In January, Putin removed the general in charge of the war in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, whom he had appointed just a few months earlier. Wartime leaders change their top generals only when they know they are losing.

Ukraine is doing so well in part thanks to the unified Western response.

Unlike reactions to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 or Ukraine in 2014, the Western pushback against Putin’s latest war has been strong along multiple fronts.

NATO enhanced its eastern defenses and invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. Europe has provided shelter to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

Led by the Biden administration, the West has provided massive amounts of military and economic support at amazing speed, levied punishing sanctions, and begun a difficult shift away from Russian energy.

Even Chinese leader Xi Jinping has offered Putin only faint rhetorical support for his war. He has not provided Russia with weapons and has cautiously avoided violating the global sanctions regime.

These are the reasons for optimism.

The bad news, however, is that the war continues, and Putin has shown no signs of wanting to end it. Instead, he is planning a major counteroffensive this year.

“The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops,” General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, warned in December.

“I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.”

Even though Putin must understand by now that Ukrainians are willing to fight for as long as it takes to liberate their country, he still believes that time is on his side.

That is because Putin expects Western governments and societies to lose their will and interest to keep helping Ukraine.

If Putin or his aides watch the television personality Tucker Carlson on Fox News or saw the protests last fall in Prague, their hunch about waning Western support would be confirmed.




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