Putin can’t win.
He may take Kyiv. He may occupy Ukraine. But his credibility is shot, his economy is in tatters, and he may want to take as many down with him as possible.
“This war is destroying is the future of Russia, and its people know it,” says Dr Jean-Baptiste Vilmer, director of the Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM).
What possessed the former Communist Russia KGB operative to launch his invasion is unknown.
What is known is he needed a fast – and total – victory.
Only then could the world be shocked into inaction. Any sanctions would be half-hearted. And the myth of the “chessmaster” would be entrenched forever.
He didn’t get it.
“Putin now finds himself in a no-win position,” Professors Stephan Cimbala and Lawrence Korb argue for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (who set the Doomsday Clock). “To achieve his original policy objectives, he must up the ante on the battlefield, which means higher levels of troop attrition, civilian casualties, and property destruction.”
He’s losing troops, tanks and aircraft.
He’s losing the clash of ideologies.
He’s losing the propaganda war.
He’s losing friends.
“Of course, this may create new dangers,” the Bulletin professors say. “Putin knows history well enough to understand that autocrats who lose wars or get bogged down in costly military stalemates are expendable.”
No easy way out
“He was willing to pay a calculated price for a gain, but he may end up having paid a much higher price than he imagined for no gain,” says Dr Vilmer. “A defeat in Ukraine could mean his downfall in Moscow, but so could continuing. He is caught in a trap of his own making.”
Putin could change his mind.
After all, he is an autocrat. His word is law.