Opinion: Ukraine suffers, but Putin and Russia will lose

Russia cannot win the war with Ukraine for a simple reason. This is not just a war with Ukraine. He fights against most of the world. The European Union granted Ukraine candidate status on Thursday, and more than 50 countries are now part of the so-called Ramstein Group, which is committed to supporting Ukraine, including all 30 NATO members.

Russia’s only declared ally is Belarus, but the extent and credibility of its support, and the extent to which it is willing to engage in actual hostilities, is unclear at best.

The population of Belarus, which actively opposed the country’s dictator Alexander Lukashenko in 2020 and 2021, is overwhelmingly against to participate in the war. The morale of the Belarusian army and its ability to fight effectively are also questionable. Indeed, the collapse of the Lukashenka regime is not out of the question if Belarus invades its neighbor only to be rebuffed.

China, with which Russia signed a friendship treaty in February 2022, verbally supported Russia, preferring not to go to war and pursuing economic goals. connections with the West.

Kazakhstan, whose support Russian President Vladimir Putin could expect after Moscow’s intervention in the January 2022 riots that rocked the country, has also proven unreliable.

Kazakh elites are determined promote growth its military potential, and the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, recently declared that his country does not and will not recognize the pro-Russian republics of Lugansk and Donetsk that broke away from Ukraine. To add fuel to the fire, Tokayev made this statement publicly, sitting on stage across from Putin.

Moldova, which fears a Russian invasion of its self-proclaimed part of Transnistria, has also turned against Moscow. June 19 President of Moldova prohibition law came into force transmission of Russian television propaganda. Its parliament also participated in an unprecedented event – joint meeting with the Romanian Parliament, where both bodies expressed support for Ukraine and condemned Russian aggression.

In a word, Russia is alone in front of an armada of politically, militarily and economically powerful states. If Russia were a modern superpower, it could resist for a very long time. But Putin’s Russia is a third world country with a bomb. Russia’s pre-sanction GDP was less than in Texas. As soon as the sanctions, along with emigration Russian millionaires and professionals will do everything in their power, Russia’s GDP will be even smaller, and its economic problems and difficulties in financing the war will be even greater.

The Russian army, once hailed as the second largest in the world, performed mediocrely. The billions that went into its supposed upgrade appear to have been stolen; his approach to war remains in the mid-20s.th century; his tanks are old and his missiles are running out.

Russians suffered huge losses in the Donbass, as they closed about Ukrainian resistance in the symbolically significant Lugansk and Donetsk regions. At the same time, the armed forces of Ukraine preparation of a counteroffensive in the strategically important Kherson provincewhere could recapture the channel that supplies water to Crimea and nullify Russia’s hopes for a land corridor there.

To make matters worse (for Moscow), once Western and especially US heavy arms shipments ramp up this summer, the Ukrainian military believes they can turn the tide and push the Russians out of the territories they have occupied since the start of the war.

Russia certainly has a vast arsenal of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. There is little reason to believe that Putin, in his desperation, will not use them at some point, but there is also no reason to believe that this will bring him an automatic victory. Ukrainians have been faced with the choice of fight or die since the war began, and they are unlikely to choose to surrender if Putin resorts to a bomb. The Ukrainian people will suffer greatly from a nuclear strike, but the response of the anti-Russian coalition to it will only hasten the final defeat of Russia.

Putin probably never expected that his war against Ukraine would turn the world against Russia. Many Western countries may have been just as surprised by their own international unity. Meanwhile, sober-minded Russians realized that their military advance not only failed to defeat the Ukrainians, but also led to the creation of a powerful anti-Russian coalition, which Russia has little chance of resisting.

Hence the constant interest of the Kremlin in negotiation: There is no end game for Russia that does not leave it weakened, and an intensified Ukrainian counter-offensive will only undermine Moscow’s negotiating position.

The choice facing Ukraine’s allies is simple: minimize carnage by doing everything possible to force Russia to withdraw quickly, or slowly defeat the Russians and maximize bloodshed. Either way, Putin and Russia will lose out.

Alexander J. Motyl, specialist in Ukraine, Russia and the USSR, professor of political science at Rutgers University.