Putin’s Long Game In Ukraine


Putin visits the National Space Center construction site in Moscow on February 27, 2022. (Sergei Guneyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty)

The brazenness and brutality of Russia’s assault on Ukraine earlier this year had a direct and potent effect on the West. NATO, far from crumbling, rallied together, pledged higher military spending, and even added new members, Finland and Sweden. The Zelensky government proved itself extremely gifted at the politics of resistance and mounted a heroic, spirited defense.

Vast amounts of modern military aid flowed to Ukraine from the West, most recently HIMARS rockets, helping stymie Russia’s incursion, prevent a sudden victory, and bog the invaders down. Unprecedented sanctions against Russia were crafted by Biden and European countries to devastate the Russian economy. It looked briefly as if Putin had massively miscalculated — and needed a way out.

It doesn’t look quite like that now, to put it mildly.

Months later, some underlying realities are emerging with a grimly relentless logic. The core reality is that Ukraine is captive to its geography, with the Russian Goliath permanently breathing down the neck of the Ukrainian David. Constructing and sustaining a truly independent state in defiance of Moscow was always going to be a struggle, but is now hard to even imagine.

Russia has now conquered more than a fifth of the country, including its critical industrial and agricultural regions. It has blocked Ukraine’s capacity to sell its goods and grain by sea. It controls Crimea and the Black Sea and is connecting them to Mother Russia with a land bridge. It is obliterating infrastructure and committing atrocities in its occupied regions and beyond. It has forcibly relocated about a million Ukrainians into Russia proper. It’s beginning to Russify its conquered territory. If this division of Ukraine endures, it will be very hard to reverse.


Categories: Geopolitics

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