Researchers and historians explain why Putin's war against Ukraine is a battle he cannot ultimately win

Researchers and historians explain why Putin's war against Ukraine is a battle he cannot ultimately win
Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2017, Wikimedia Commons

Historians and researchers are weighing in with their assessment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Ukraine is undoubtedly the smaller country of the two, researchers are explaining why it's still a war Russian President Vladamir Putin cannot win.

The Bulwark's Jonathan V. Last began his breakdown by offering highlights from Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer's take on the war in Ukraine. According to Vilmer's analysis of the war, Putin is the loser regardless of the outcome in Ukraine.

"No matter how the war in Ukraine plays out, Putin loses. Even if Russian forces prevail on the ground and in the air, he loses. Even if he takes Kyiv tomorrow, he loses. Russia lacks the forces (and perhaps the will) to occupy Ukraine in the face of a restive civil society and guerrilla movement. And that would be on top of having already reinforced NATO, awakened Europe, isolated his country, ruined its economy, and alienated many Russians, including his 'friends.' What happens next depends less on the military outcome of the conflict than on other factors he has already put in motion and that will further affect him.

"It might seem presumptuous in the first week of a war to predict its outcome and second-order effects for Ukraine, Russia, and the West, but it seems Putin’s defeat is the likely product of five factors: the heavy price of a prospective military victory, the quagmire of an occupation, the strengthening of NATO and European defense, the international isolation of Russia, and the internal contestation which may lead to Putin’s fall. So Putin lost, but it does not mean we win.

Vilmer also tweeted about his assessment as he noted that in addition to forcing Ukraine westward, Russia's attempted invasion "will strengthen and even enlarge NATO, isolate and weaken Russia, which will become a pariah, and threaten his own power in Moscow. The beginning of the end."

Last agrees. In his piece, he noted that while the physical war plays a major part in the outcome, there are other factors on which the future hinges on. "What happens next depends less on the military outcome of the conflict than on other factors he has already put in motion and that will further affect him," he wrote.

He also pointed to Yale University professor Timothy Snyder’s latest newsletter assessment of Putin's thought process. "Vladimir Putin gave a speech meant to provide a rationale for an invasion that he had already ordered," Snyder wrote. "Among much other nonsense, he claimed that Ukraine was about to acquire nuclear weapons. . . .

"It is not just that there is no basis for this claim. It is contradictory and perverse."

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