Staunton, August 29 – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights a reality many do not want to talk about: Vladimir Putin failed to be able to deal with Ukraine “via softer measures” because of the steadfastness and resistance of the Ukrainians. Putin was consequently forced to send in regular Russian army units, according to Andrei Zubov.
Zubov, an MGIMO professor who has attracted attention for his open, even withering criticism of Putin’s policies, says that the Russian invasion is thus “an enormous success” by Ukraine because it has forced Putin to act in a way that he had hoped and expected to avoid.
Putin thought he could achieve his goals in a way that would avoid new sanctions by the West by drawing on the support of separatists. But because of Ukrainian resistance, the situation did not develop in the way that the Kremlin leader had hoped, thus forcing him to act differently.
This is the second time Putin has had to change course, Zubov says. Earlier in August, he changed the leaderships in Donetsk and Lugansk when it became obvious that the regimes there could not block the Ukrainian advance. Now, even that has proved not to be enough, and he has had to send in regular army units.
This shows, the Moscow foreign policy specialist says that the Kremlin leader’s “possibilities have been exhausted.” And Putin needs a new and quick victory for domestic reasons as well: at present, “dissatisfaction inside Russia is growing,” given the losses Russian forces have suffered. “All this puts the situation at the edge,” he says.
Zubov does not say in this interview, although he has mentioned it elsewhere, that Putin’s real failure in Ukraine reflects his unwillingness or inability to understand that Ukrainians are a separate and distinct nation and that Ukraine is a separate and independent country. The impressive Ukrainian resistance should have taught him and many others those basic truths.