How Does Russia Lose in Ukraine? Putin May Tell Us Monday

Only one bet by Vladimir Putin is working: His oil and gas revenues are still intact and even benefiting from higher prices.

His most characteristic miscalculation, after seeing Ukrainians mobilize hundreds of thousands of people in 2004 and again in 2013-14 to defend their country against the political domination of Russia, is to believe that they will not defend the country militarily. He told himself the earlier protests were not real, they were organized and funded abroad, just as he told himself about the protests in Russia.

It takes a pause to notice that nothing has gone the way he had so thoroughly planned. Tens of thousands of people died, entire cities were reduced to ruins, terrible war crimes, the Russian economy in ruins, now a series of frontal attacks by the Ukrainian air force on Russian soil. Thousands of Russians of military age are believed to be fleeing the country to avoid becoming food for their families during the army’s defeat.

Listen to statements or tweets by his most Western-facing servants, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and versatile shepherd Dmitri Medvedev. They don’t mind that the war isn’t a disaster for Russia, it’s just that it could turn out to be a disaster for the West.

Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds, authors of an analysis published by Britain’s Royal Service Institute, share this column’s intuition: In mid-March, Putin passed up an opportunity to cut his losses. “Instead, the decision was made to not only continue with the story of the struggle against Nazism in Ukraine, but to broaden the scope of ambition to one of the systemic confrontations” —between Russia and NATO, which Mr. Putin, in a fact that is perhaps underappreciated, his people have always acknowledged that Russia is far superior in terms of conventional military power.

Whatever Putin may think, his annual Victory Day speech on Monday, which marked the fall of Hitler’s regime in 1945, is expected by military analysts to shape what happens next. Meanwhile, commentators in the US seem to accept President Biden’s impregnable pledge that the US military will not directly engage in combat. Are we still pretty sure about this?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes no secret of this: He is eager for NATO intervention. Furthermore, he is currently faced with military and political choices – of whether to trade the ground or risk his troops in attack – cannot help but be swayed by the suspicion that The Biden administration is no longer willing to let Ukraine fail.

Likewise, the Russian side, which has lost its ability to win easily and acknowledge NATO’s level of commitment, feels the ground is shifting. Returning to one theme, it is increasingly conceivable that Putin would rather be deterred by the Western alliance, given its acknowledged superiority in conventional air power, than by Ukraine, which would only dramatizes the emptiness, corruption and lack of motivation of the air force. Russian military and draw an unacceptable contrast between the two regimes.

Hold on to your hat. If Mr. Putin wants to draw NATO into the war, he knows how. Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, one of the three authors of the war along with Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, made an unusual visit to the front lines last week. Perhaps he had personally come to see the situation of his army. What conclusions have you drawn, especially regarding its ability to hold its territory against a Ukrainian counterattack in the coming months reinforced by a large amount of Western equipment?

That brings us to Joe Biden. He carried out his presidency, at least paraphrased, as if he meant what he said early on: a transitional figure.

He chose to serve on the left. It did not make him famous but also did not make him jealous by inciting a civil war within his own party. He wants to leave Afghanistan and doesn’t care what the exit looks like.

In a podcast with the Journal’s Gerard Baker, former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allowed the possibility that Ukraine could fail and “we’re going to live in that world.” This is not the worst possible outcome (nuclear war would be). But over the past few weeks, arguably based on the best military advice, with his shrewd wits, and his communications with elements of the Putin regime, Mr. Biden has forced the US to devouring something more akin to failure than the simple stalemate that Putin might end up in. Anything that looks like Ukraine’s failure will look like America’s failure

Wonder Land: If President Biden is willing to say that the Russians are committing genocide in Ukraine, why doesn’t he say his goal there is to defeat Russia or Vladimir Putin? Image: AFP / Getty Images / Sputnik / Reuters / Roscosmos Space Agency Synthesis: Mark Kelly

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