After 100 days of war, Putin doesn’t care about the world (ANALYSIS)

(CNN) – Counting back the clock to February 23, the day before Russia launched its massive invasion of Ukraine, one might be tempted to guess that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s days are numbered.

After all, the Russian army outperformed Ukraine by almost ten to one. Moscow enjoyed a double advantage over Kyiv in the ground forces. The nuclear-armed force possesses ten times the aircraft and five times the armored fighting vehicles of its neighbour.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 16.

The visibly enraged Russian president, Vladimir Putin, appeared on television just days ago, delivering an incoherent historic speech that made clear he expected nothing less than regime change in Kyiv.

The Kremlin leader appears to be betting on Zelensky leaving his capital, just as the US-backed Afghan president left Kabul just months ago, and that Western anger will subside, albeit with the temporary pain of new sanctions.

After 100 days, no matter what Putin plans to Victory Parade In Kyiv it is suspended indefinitely. Ukrainian morale has not collapsed. Ukrainian forces, equipped with modern anti-tank weapons supplied by the United States and its allies, destroyed Russian armored columns; Ukrainian missiles sank the guided-missile cruiser “Moskva”, the pride of the Russian Black Sea Fleet; Ukrainian planes remained in the air against all odds.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Kharkiv region on May 29.

In late March, the Russian Army began withdrawing its devastating forces from around the Ukrainian capital, claiming that they had shifted their focus to the capture of the eastern Donbass region. Three months after its invasion, it appears that Russia no longer aims for a short, victorious war in Ukraine, nor does it seem capable of achieving it.

Expectations problem

Does this mean that Russia is losing? It is tempting to take a snapshot of the situation on any given day and draw general conclusions.

The Ukrainians were able to kill Russian generals at an astonishing rate. Moscow was forced to reorganize its military command after the initial chaos. And Russian losses, despite elusive official figures, are surprisingly high.

But Russia now controls the crescent of Ukrainian territory stretching from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, through the separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and west to Kherson, forming a bridge linking Crimea (forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014). Donbass region.

The main focus of Russian efforts is now in the Donbass region, where things have settled into a war of attrition. The last fighting focused on Severodonetsk, an industrial city in which Ukrainian forces controlled the latter part of the eastern Luhansk region.

Ukrainian forces ceded most of Severodonetsk to the Russians. The fall of the city would be a symbolic loss, but one that military analysts say will prevent Ukrainian forces from facing a prolonged and possibly lost siege.

“Kyiv could have allocated more reserves and resources to the defense of Severodonetsk, and its failure has drawn criticism,” the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in a recent analysis.

Smoke and dirt photographed over Severodonetsk on June 2, 2022.

“The decision to avoid allocating more resources to saving Severodonetsk and the decision to withdraw was strategically sound, albeit painful. Ukraine should manage its limited resources and focus on reclaiming critical territory rather than defending territory whose control will not determine the outcome.” war or conditions for resumption of war.”

In the midst of the offensive in Severodonetsk, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motozyanek said that Russian forces are now “trying to encircle our forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” and regroup for an offensive in the direction of Sloviansk, a strategic city. It could shape up to be the focus of the next pivotal battle.

The battles in eastern Ukraine take place in terrain much more open than the densely populated urban environment around Kyiv. This explains the urgency with which the Ukrainians demanded heavy weapons, in particular artillery systems that could hit targets at longer distances, from the United States and its allies.

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States will send in more advanced missile systems, including High Mobility Artillery Missile Systems and munitions that can fire missiles up to 72 kilometers away, a range much greater than anything Ukraine has seen so far.

A destroyed Russian tank in the Kyiv region on April 16.

This is good news for Kiev, but Russia’s offensive in the east is unfolding as international media interest in Ukraine somewhat shifts from the headlines. That may be what Putin is counting on, perhaps realizing that rising energy costs and rising consumer prices, both exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, are likely to focus public opinion (and boost election results) in the United States and elsewhere.

Zelensky’s role in the war

Putin may also rely on short periods of diplomatic interest. This is the same Russian leader who doubled down on his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2015 after Damascus suffered a series of defeats. That war, now entering its twelfth year, continued even as the world’s attention turned to Ukraine.

In this sense, Zelensky was one of Ukraine’s greatest assets in the information war. He made a series of hypothetical appearances in front of parliaments around the world, while reminding other world leaders that they might be inclined to appease Putin by pressuring Ukraine to cede territory that the Ukrainian people, not him, should decide the outcome.

In Zelensky appearances with soldiers and wounded civilians, the Ukrainian leader takes selfies and displays a warm, humane and humble leadership style. This contrasts with the Russian leader’s only public visit to a military hospital: Putin, dressed in an oversized white lab coat, met wounded soldiers and officers who stood solidly before their commander in chief.

Ukrainian exhibitions destroyed Russian tanks and vehicles 2:12

But Putin, who has crushed all domestic political opposition and effectively controls his country’s broadcasting waves, does not face the same domestic pressure as Zelensky. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Putin’s Security Council, said in recent comments that Russian forces are “not chasing deadlines” in Ukraine, noting that Putin has a more open timetable for his war in Ukraine. In contrast, Ukrainians fear international stress that will lead the international community to pressure their government to make concessions to Putin.

“You have the hours, but we have the time.” This saying, sometimes attributed to a captured Taliban fighter, summed up America’s dilemma in fighting the war in Afghanistan, a grudging acknowledgment that insurgencies operate across different political horizons and timetables, and that the insurgents only need to survive, not defeat, technologically superior Iraq. The military power of the United States.

To reuse the phrase, the deciding factor in Ukraine may be who has time: a Russian dictator likely to hold power until his death, or a Ukrainian people fighting for their national survival.

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