Too Premature to Say Putin is Losing

Too Premature to Say Putin is Losing

Featured image: Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP).

Kyiv Post | By Robert McConnell | 14 August 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to intimidate the West and keeps Washington from fully committing to Ukraine. And time is not on Ukraine’s side.

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, the U.S., NATO, and the West has not gone as the tyrant had planned. Ukraine has not crumbled, the NATO alliance remains united and is so far holding together, while the Russian army’s reputation has been badly bruised.

Added to that, Western companies are pulling out of Russia, sanctions imposed so far are having an impact on the Russian people, and Sweden and Finland are being welcomed as new members of NATO.

Putin’s personal commitment to a distorted view of history and a fantasy rationale for his war in Ukraine, weakens his standing outside Russia, at least in the West. But he still maintains to garner substantial support at home. Putin is evidently in this war for the long term (he has little choice) and he continues to dictate the terms and manage operations at a micro level.

Sanctions, no matter how extensive, will not win the war with Russia. Put simply, Putin’s army will not stop until it is defeated in battle.

Since 2008’s invasion of Georgia, Putin has continued his aggression against Russia’s neighbors, along with the the security structures created after World War II. He has poked those structures and the West over and over again, with minimal consequences.

In 2014, he seized, occupied, and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Under the cover of his own propaganda, he then invaded eastern Ukraine to “protect Russian-speakers” and, despite some setbacks, continues slaughtering Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. He is targeting innocent civilians and destroying villages, towns and cities.

The extent of the slaughter is far worse than what is publicly reported. Western reporting standards limit the visuals we see, but what the people of Ukraine see day-after-day are almost unimaginable atrocities.

Many volunteers stepping forward to help the courageous women of Dattalion – an independent open-source database – on documenting Russian war crimes, leave shortly after joining the information effort. They simply cannot deal with the up-close reality that is Putin’s war of brutal and indiscriminate murder and destruction.

Help is there, but not enough to win

Despite Washington increasing its aid to Ukraine in the face of Putin’s remorseless savagery, it has not come close to providing the necessary weapons in the right place and at the right time. It seems determined to help Ukraine continue to fight but has not committed to enabling Ukraine to win.

Keep in mind who is fighting on each side in this war. Putin is fighting with the Russian army. Their opponents are virtually all the people of Ukraine who are fighting for freedom and independence one way or another. They are fighting for themselves, their country and all of us. They are fighting for our critical national security interests and the agency of western democracy.

Nevertheless, it seems the thinking in Washington is to avoid escalating the war in Ukraine to a situation that might require direct U.S. involvement. Washington is intent on not risking Putin’s use of a nuclear weapon when, in effect, he is already using it.

Nuclear blackmail

Think first of the Russian Army’s take-over and at best cavalier handling of the Chornobyl nuclear power station earlier in the war, and the on-going unconscionable shelling of the huge Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. That is what I mean by saying Putin is dictating the terms of this war and Washington is allowing him to do so.

Threats, bluster, and inserting the word “nuclear” in Putin’s and his minion’s statements serves as a checkmate to Washington’s doing what it should and must do – to make sure the people of Ukraine can win this war for themselves and the democratic world.

For how many decades have we been hearing about “nuclear deterrence” and the fact that one nuclear power could not possibly use its arsenal because of the response that would inevitably come? The U.S., a superpower, at one time behaved like a superpower. Now, Washington cowers before Putin’s threats and is providing too little, too late. And it is not providing enough for Ukraine to win while it still has time on its side.

If we do not step up to see that the people of Ukraine have what they need, the Russian army will eventually be able to regroup and use its numerous advantages to make genuine progress in overcoming Ukraine piece by piece. The people of Ukraine will not have the resources they need to defend themselves. Likewise, as Putin’s scorched earth campaign continues through the changing seasons, our coalition in support of Ukraine is going to face greater and greater stress. Will it hold?

And, if Russia wins in Ukraine, Washington’s miscalculations will become evident as Putin presses on NATO’s borders. Then, the financial cost of supporting Ukraine will pale in comparison to the cost of fighting Russia in NATO countries. If that were to happen, forget the administration’s “no boots on the ground” stance – there will be U.S. boots firmly on the ground and U.S. lives on the line.

The cost of letting Putin dictate our moves today will lead to far greater U.S. costs in the future.

The weapons Ukraine needs and the critical logistics to support those weapons need to be delivered to the front lines right now.


Robert A. McConnell is a co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network. He is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates. Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc, and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration. rmcconnell@usukraine.org

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

Furthermore Mr McConnell’s op-ed does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.


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