The war in Ukraine: Convince Putin that he is on the losing hand

After 10 months of intense fighting and a huge consumption of ammunition, the war in Ukraine is headed for a cold and dark New Year. For Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy it is a struggle for survival; For Russia and Vladimir Putin, it is a military debacle.

“He understands that this was a mess,” military scholar Fred Kagan said. “I don’t think he accepted being defeated because the essence of being Putin is never accepting that you’ve been defeated.”

Kagan’s Institute for the Study of War produces daily maps showing how much ground Russia has given up since its invasion stalled.


War Research Institute

Putin is trying to offset this by unleashing drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities.

Kagan said: “Putin is looking for ways to break Ukraine’s will to continue the fight and I think most importantly he is focused on breaking Western support for Ukraine.”

Martin asked, “Which one is better to break?”

“The will of Western democracies. I think it has little chance of breaking the will of the Ukrainians in a short time.”

Zelenskyy with a Ukrainian flag speaks in Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses Congress while Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a flag signed by Ukrainian forces at the U.S. Capitol December 21, 2022.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

On December 21, the Biden administration held a Christmas parade in support of Zelenskyy during a hurricane visit to the nation’s capital. Embodying his country’s fighting spirit, Zelenskyy thanked the US for the $22 billion in arms already pledged and made it clear that he would demand more. “We have artillery, yes. Thank you,” he told the US Congress. “Is it enough? Honestly, not really.”

Ukraine is heading into the depths of winter under a continued barrage of Russian drone and missile strikes.

President Biden said, “By destroying the system to provide the Ukrainian people with warmth and light during the coldest and darkest time of the year, Russia is weaponizing winter.”

Kagan believes Ukraine can turn the weapon of winter against the Russians. “At the moment the Ukrainians have an opportunity,” he said. “If we give them the systems they need this winter, the Russian army will still be disorganized and faltering, especially when the ground freezes, and the Ukrainians have an opportunity to reclaim a lot of territory.”

“How long do you think this war will last?” asked Martin.

“It can go on like this for years, it’s unlikely, but possible,” Kagan replied.

How long will depend on how much more territory Zelenskyy reconquers – and Putin loses.

“The art here helps Putin understand that he lost this hand and it’s time to fold this hand,” Kagan said. “We have to convince him that this approach, this military approach, is done and he can’t help but keep losing here. He’s not there yet and we have to help the Ukrainians get him there as soon as possible.”

For more information:

Story produced by Mary Walsh. Editor: Karen Brenner. The war in Ukraine: Convince Putin that he is on the losing hand

Rick Schindler

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