With the costs of war mounting and his army in disarray Putin is running out of options
I remember a lecture by LF on Strategy where he stressed the need to give a defeated yet still dangerous enemy a ‘way out’. Not to do so with Putin would be a folly as great as his in launching the invasion in the first place.
I can't help but be struck by the crashing historical irony of Russian forces becoming bogged down by over-extended supply lines crippled by asymmetric warfare. This is precisely how the Russians helped kill Napoleon's failed campaign Back in the Day. Like many autocrats, Putin seems to have decided that he could re-shape reality. But that only works on the Internet.
Mistakes of the Iraq war, included a complete lack of post war planning - 'if you take it, you own it' - including preventing and/or dealing with the resultant insurgency. Appears, Russia is making the same mistakes. Look at how the Ukrainian People fought back in 2013/14 around Maiden. Even if Russia 'takes' the country, that is what it faces, but, not, this time, by unarmed civilians, but trained/armed professionals, supplemented by those same, now, civilian/soldiers, armed and equipped from the West, and possibly operating out of neighbouring countries. Putin might just have created a long-term quagmire in Ukraine, along with a crashing economy at home.
Vladimir Putin’s pointless war has already led to thousands of people losing their lives, suffering from life-changing injuries or left traumatised by their experiences, lost internet connections, unable to buy take home food,..... What a useless, pointless number.
Thank you for your consistently lucid analysis. Yes, it's critically important to have frequent assessments of Putin's state of mind, a strong reason for world leaders to have very long conversations with him. Macron's hour and a half chat was valuable for this reason and I hope the experts were monitoring carefully to track his likely changing psychological state. I seriously wonder if Putin has an accurate picture of what's going on right now in Ukraine especially among his forces.
To avoid a disasterous defeat, Putin advisor must now drives to Campaign for an acceptable End State for Russia and Ukraine. Allowing Putin to achieve it meant the West is sincere to end the suffering of Ukranian. Denying it just meant that the West is keen on removing Putin from Russia.
To me it sounds very unlikely that Putin will be "removed" within weeks.
And as long as Putin has the opportunity to prevent a defeat he will do so by any means.
For example there are indications that Putin is recruiting Syrian fighters (https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-recruiting-syrians-for-urban-combat-in-ukraine-u-s-officials-say-11646606234), also he still can involve forces like the Wagner group or Kadyrovsky troups from Chechenya.
And when Putin finds himself standing with his back to the wall he might use tactical nukes rather than admit defeat.
So I can't really see an scenario how the next weeks could bring an end of the military escalation.
This is a good analysis. I fear though that the closing paragraph misses a critically relevant and important question - Even if Putin can accept his minimum success will the West accept that?
It's hard to see how the West could accept Putin remaining in power now. The war crimes committed in his war have been on every TV, every phone, every screen. Public opinion in the West isn't likely to be satisfied with Putin avoiding the Hague. Surely Putin sees this too? Thus, the corner he has painted himself into is even smaller, and fraught with risk if he decides his only option is indeed the nuclear one.
I think we're looking at the wrong map. There is mounting evidence that the supplies arriving to the front, if they get there, are in extremely poor condition. The intel I've seen talks about how poorly the advanced weapons have been maintained. What if Russia is a paper tiger? What if all they have left are what's already arrived at the front and nothing else. The real map to decipher is the internal economic map. What happened to the industries that were built to maintain this army? Do they even exist? Is this really the last ditch effort of a collapsing, dying economy to demonstrate strength and hold on the fallacy of superiority and strength. If my hedge fund managing brother comes over drunk claiming I stole his house, I understand there's something deeply wrong with the picture. Now he's got a gun. If we get out of this ok, life is going to be very different for both of us.
I saw a video of a Ukrainian Howitzer in action, next to it was a stack of at least 80 spent shell casings and the loader was working a the sustained fire rate. When I was trained in artillery tactics during the cold war we trained to "shot and scoot" because we expected enemy air attack to follow quickly. The battery in that video expected no air attack at all.
Could the alleged push back from Chinese due to the Olympics somehow caused this (well, been one of the many causes)? Soldiers had supplies for X days, now they had to be stretched for 17+ days...
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine I was shocked as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq. In cases like this, even if you win, you lose. And Russia seems unlikely to win, as this excellent essay points out.
So what do we do? That will be the test. Victors tend to punish rather than rehabilitate. If we can avoid the urge to punish, we may avoid too much damage. Let's hope we're wise.
Who will lose patience first? Putin, or the West? Betting that Putin will give in first seems like...a long shot.
The UA is about to be supplied with modern, over-the-horizon anti-armor missiles and anti-personnel systems that loiter and dispense sub-munitions, as well as shaped charges. Nato designation: switchblade and B-BAM's. Complete game changers, in the way that stinger manpads were. Covertly, of course.
These articles are fantastic, thank you for writing them. I’ve personally been wondering what defeat of the Russian forces actually looks like. Is it they simply stop fighting or lose the ability to fight? What sort of percentage of their fighting force needs to be destroyed / put out of action for that to be a possibility? If Ukraine forces can stay in the fight it seems to me they have a chance of inflicting an actual military defeat on Russia (stopping their ability to fight, forcing a retreat). The modern anti-tank / air defence missiles that we’ve supplied to Ukraine seem to be working brilliantly so far.
What are the possibilities of Putin being overthrown by : Russian political elites , oligarchs , the people, the Chinese ?