The rapid reassessments of the length, character and costs of the war are being driven by Russia’s strategic shift from a bogged down attempt to seize kyiv and topple the government to a refocusing of military force in the southern and eastern areas. .
In the early days of the war, six weeks ago, it seemed possible that a Russian blitzkrieg could quickly storm the country and seize the capital. But fierce Ukrainian resistance, backed by Western weapons, and heavy Russian casualties have led Moscow to change its plan.
“The fact that the civilian inhabitants of Ukraine are being killed shows better what is the goal of [the] The Russian invasion is,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash through a translator. “The goal of that invasion is simply to extinguish the Ukrainian nation.”
The consequences of Russia’s ruthless mission will not be contained in Europe.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, for example, warned on Wednesday of the “enormous repercussions” of the invasion on world food reserves and energy supplies. That, in turn, will create a chain of political fallout in the US and Western capitals.
More immediately in the US, the war’s jolt in gas and grocery prices, which had already surged in a wave of high inflation, could have political implications, even for President Joe Biden’s Democrats in the US. mid-term elections coming up.
A prolonged war will also have dire humanitarian consequences, given Putin’s strategy of razing cities and the apparent atrocities committed by his troops.
While the world has revolted at images of dead civilians, some apparently executed in areas vacated by Russian troops, the horror unfolding in the besieged cities of the south and east may be even crueler in scale, but it will be more difficult to expose for Ukrainians and foreign journalists. . This raises the prospect of impunity for some of the worst war crimes committed on the European continent since at least the Bosnian war, and possibly since the Second World War.
Putin would test NATO with a long war in Ukraine
A long war will also provide a grueling test of NATO’s unity, following a surprisingly strong resolve shown by the Western alliance.
It would also enshrine a second protracted geopolitical joust between Moscow and the West. Putin will look for opportunities to open up new divisions among NATO partners as he seeks to conquer land in the east to boost a claim of victory at home.
“The first part of the war is over and Putin lost the first part of the war, much to his chagrin,” Steve Hall, the CIA’s former head of Russia operations, said on CNN on Wednesday.
“I think we’ll be in this for the long haul and I think it’s going to be a war of attrition. It’s going to be very tough on Ukraine.”
“This war could go on for a long time, but the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in the fight for freedom,” Biden told construction unions in Washington.
His warning underscores that his entire presidency, born of a crisis, a once-in-a-century pandemic, will now likely be defined by the West’s second major showdown with the Kremlin. The political fallout from the standoff is likely to reverberate beyond the November midterm elections and into the 2024 White House race. The fact that 63 Republican members of the House of Representatives, many of them top Donald Trump voted against a resolution supporting NATO this week fueling fears that the former president’s return to the White House could break the alliance’s unity.
Putin still wants ‘all of Ukraine’
Warnings that the Ukraine war is now likely to be a semi-permanent crisis looming over the West were first amplified Wednesday by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The former Norwegian prime minister said Putin’s redeployment did not mean he had given up on his long-term goal of capturing kyiv.
“We have not seen signs that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order, so we must be prepared for the long term,” Stoltenberg said. “We have to be realistic and realize that this could go on for a long time, many months or even years.”
But now the question is whether to send weapons that Ukraine could use to drive Russia out of the country, a decision that could drag the West further into war. Biden has already blocked a plan by Poland to send Soviet-era planes to the Ukrainian air force.
“I think what NATO is doing is certainly not enough,” retired Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard told CNN’s John King on “Inside Politics” on Wednesday.
“The goal should be for the Ukrainian forces to actually win. To do that, they’ll need more than just tanks here, drones there, Javelin missiles. They need systems, they need training, they need assistance,” Pittard said.
Then there are the broader questions that allied leaders may face about the need to further deter Putin in Eastern Europe, amid ongoing fears that the war could turn into a direct confrontation between the West and Russia.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called on Wednesday night for a rethink of the Western security posture.
“The era of engagement with Russia is over. We need a new approach to security in Europe based on resilience, defense and deterrence,” Truss said in Brussels.
Yellen Warns of Global Economic Repercussions
The world economy was already facing severe challenges before Putin invaded Ukraine.
The pandemic severely disrupted global supply chains, helping to spark higher inflation. Now, the harsh sanctions on Russia’s economy are not only punishing Putin, they are having a backlash in the countries that imposed them.
First, gasoline prices skyrocketed with Russia shut out of much of the world oil market. Biden lashed out at “Putin’s price gouging” in an effort to evoke some political cover with voters already in a bad mood as the midterm elections approach.
On Wednesday, Yellen raised the possibility of a longer global disruption due to a long war in Ukraine.
“Russia’s actions represent an unacceptable affront to the rules-based global order, and will have enormous economic repercussions in Ukraine and beyond,” Yellen told a House committee.
He also warned that developing nations already facing heavy debt burdens and struggling to recover from Covid-19 could be especially vulnerable.
Ultimately, however, the prospect of many more months of war, in a country cut short by Putin’s brutal invasion, will test the courage, unity and staying power of the Ukrainians themselves. The barbarism that has come to light in recent days could be just the beginning.
Take, for example, Mariupol, where thousands of civilians remain trapped in a city that has been reduced to rubble by weeks of Russian bombardment.
“The world has not seen the scale of a tragedy like the one in Mariupol since the Nazi concentration camps,” the city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko, said in a statement. “The Ruscists (Russian fascists) turned our entire city into an extermination camp.”
A war that drags on for months or years could send much of the country to the same inhumane fate.