|Since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he has caused immense death and destruction for few military gains and at huge economic cost. Yet he shows no sign of cracking even as Russia’s war aims have proved illusory.
Putin appealed to Ukraine’s army to “immediately lay down arms and go home” on the first day of the war, apparently convinced Russia’s neighbor would welcome his troops as liberators from a neo-Nazi “junta.”
Instead, fierce Ukrainian resistance broke Russian attempts to seize the capital, Kyiv, and has forced a retreat to focus on the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has emerged as a global symbol of democratic resistance to tyranny.
Putin declared the invasion was a response to NATO’s “unacceptable” expansion. Yet Sweden and Finland are now poised to join, greatly increasing Russia’s border with the military alliance.
After vowing to “demilitarize” Ukraine, Putin has prompted the US and Europe to deliver massive quantities of modern weapons to help Ukrainians defend themselves — all this while incurring unprecedented sanctions that may push Russia toward its deepest recession in decades as foreign investors flee.
The challenge facing the US and its allies now is how to ratchet up the pain for Putin while avoiding divisions that may let him claim a Pyrrhic victory if his army succeeds in taking the Donbas and absorbing it into Russia. Zelenskiy said June 2 Russia now occupies 20% of Ukraine.
Rising energy prices are already causing political difficulties for US President Joe Biden and in the European Union, where a partial ban on Russian oil was agreed yesterday after weeks of division. Russian blockades of Ukrainian grain exports threaten a global food crisis that may add to calls for concessions to end the war.
Ukraine confounded Russian expectations of a quick and easy victory. The question now is whether the West or Putin will have greater staying power.
A man inspects a destroyed Russian tank in Dmytrivka village near Kyiv. Source: SOPA Images/LightRocket
Putin Bets on Ukraine Win Before His Economy Grinds to Halt
As Russia’s invasion settles into a grinding war of attrition, one question more than any other will likely decide the outcome: On whose side is time? Much of what unfolds will be determined by unpredictable battlefield dynamics. But, as Marc Champion explains, at least some of it will also come down to widgets in machinery, and Russia’s reliance on imports of foreign components.
- US officials are divided over how much further they can push sanctions against Russia without sparking global economic instability and fracturing transatlantic unity.
- The war has prompted a major rewrite of the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy, sources say.
Lada automobiles at a Lada car dealership in Tolyatti, Russia. Photographer: Yuri Kadobnovia/AFP/Getty Images
Rethinking defense | Before President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, top US military and intelligence officials were almost unanimous in judging that Russian forces would overrun Kyiv in weeks, if not days. Now, more than three months in, countries from Taiwan in the Pacific to Moldova in Eastern Europe are seeing ways to humble a superpower. The key lesson? Make yourself too prickly to swallow.
- Turkey and Russia reached a tentative deal to restart shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products from a key Black Sea port, but Kyiv remains skeptical of the proposed pact, sources say.
- Follow our rolling Ukraine coverage here.
Estonia: Seeking allies | Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, known for her fierce criticism of Putin, is battling to stay in power after she dismantled her ruling coalition, saying it lacked unity to face the dangers from Russia. Her best chance lies with clinching a deal with the smallest opposition party, the conservative Pro Patria, that’s expected to decide as soon as today whether to join a new alliance.
|What’s the point of talking to Vladimir Putin? It’s a question that divides European leaders amid the terrible human and economic costs of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Advocates of diplomacy stress the need to halt the fighting to save lives and ease a potential global food crisis triggered by Russian blockades of Ukraine’s grain ports. Soaring energy prices as the European Union seeks to break dependence on Russia’s oil and gas add to political pressures at home.
Opponents say engagement amounts to talking to a war criminal whose denial of any invasion plans showed his word is worthless. Why negotiate with a blackmailer?
The tensions are palpable and geographic. French President Emmanuel Macron’s call not to “humiliate” Russia earned rebukes from Ukraine and rueful head-shaking from the EU’s eastern states that remember Moscow’s rule in the former Communist bloc.
Macron has spoken repeatedly with Putin, to little obvious effect. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who warned yesterday that isolating Russia isn’t possible, was also phoning the Russian president to urge a ceasefire until Putin stopped taking her calls, as Arne Delfs reports.
Putin has tied a resumption of grain exports to a lifting of crippling sanctions on his economy. His foreign minister is in Turkey today for talks on restarting shipments. Ukraine wasn’t invited, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Russia shows no sign of abandoning attempts to annex parts of eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian leader says he seeks victory on the battlefield while remaining open to peace talks with Putin.
For the Kremlin, the lesson of Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea is that diplomacy eventually lets him keep what he can take.
Merkel and Putin at a Libyan peace conference in Berlin on Jan. 19, 2020. Photographer: Adam Berry/Getty Images