Historian Stephen Kotkin recently discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic decisions. Putin’s focus appears to be on destroying rather than conquering, with no real long-term benefit for Russia, Kotkin says. Despite being hailed as a tactical genius, Kotkin argues that Putin’s actions have not contributed positively to Russia’s power or prosperity.
Europe has successfully decreased its dependence on Russian energy and rallied in support of Ukraine, but Western sanctions on Russia’s economy have not had as significant an impact as expected. While the idea of building a “golden bridge” for Russia to retreat from the conflict in Ukraine would be ideal, there is currently no clear path to achieving it, says Kotkin.
The question of victory in Ukraine is complex, with different definitions from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Biden administration, and numerous analysts. However, some believe that E.U. accession for Ukraine would be a better definition of victory than regaining all of its territory.
Ukraine needs to ramp up its industrial production to fight a war of attrition, firing about 90,000 artillery shells a month, while the US and allies can only produce up to 30,000. The key is to bomb the other side’s production facilities and deny them the ability to resupply on the battlefield, according to Kotkin.
Victory for Ukraine should be defined as gaining European Union accession and some form of security guarantee, rather than regaining every inch of territory, reparations, and war-crimes tribunals, he says.
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine could impact Russia’s power and status as an energy superpower, Kotkin surmises, leading to domestic turbulence and a loss of human capital.
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