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Is Putin winning the war?


Highlights: Two years have passed since the large-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian armed forces. From the battlefield - with the withdrawal of Avdiivka - and from the international political arena - with American aid blocked - disturbing news is accumulating. Is Vladimir Putin winning the war? The balance of a conflict of such magnitude, with the indirect participation of dozens of countries, is very complex. But this does not exclude that the Russian balance sheet accumulates terrible failures and does not mean that the conflict is headed peremptorily towards a Russian victory.

Russia achieves a favorable change of trend in the fighting, but in the strategic balance it accumulates serious liabilities for Moscow, such as the expansion of NATO, the rearmament of Europe or Russian dependence on China.

Sergei Shoigu and Vladimir Putin, on Defender of the Fatherland Day.Contributor (Getty Images)

Two years have passed since the large-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian armed forces.

From the battlefield - with the withdrawal of Avdiivka - and from the international political arena - with American aid blocked - disturbing news is accumulating for kyiv and the democratic countries that offer it support.

Is Vladimir Putin winning the war?

The balance of a conflict of such magnitude, with the indirect participation of dozens of countries, is very complex.

The analysis must take into account the tactical and strategic level, the military, political and economic dimensions.

Overall, it is indisputable that Russia, after the failure of its lightning invasion plan and the consistent losses of territories in the first phase of the war, has first managed to stabilize the scenario and, now, is reaping achievements of a different order - as symbolized by Avdiivka and the state of US politics.

There is, therefore, a change in trend.

But this does not exclude that the Russian balance sheet accumulates terrible failures and does not mean that the conflict is headed peremptorily towards a Russian victory.

Below, an assessment of the state of the war, divided into two sections: battlefield and international arena.


There is a broad consensus among experts and politicians that the situation on the front has become unfavorable for Ukraine in recent months.

The fall of Avdiivka today is added to that of Bakhmut in May.

Mira Milosevich-Juaristi, senior researcher for Russia, Eurasia and the Balkans at the Elcano Royal Institute, summarizes her point of view: “Right now I think that at a tactical level Russia is winning the war.

She is conquering territory.

Russia has learned lessons, improved coordination between its different armies, and its single command works much better than at the beginning.

It has also known how to adapt its military industry to the weapons that the West provides to Ukraine.

“He is not achieving his political objectives, that is another question, but at a tactical level he is winning.”

“The military scenario for Ukraine now is negative, because in addition to the obvious ammunition problem, it also has a mobilization problem.

In this phase the window of opportunity is on the Russian side,” agrees Borja Lasheras, special advisor for Ukraine at the European External Action Service and senior expert at the CEPA

think tank


“The ammunition shortage responds to several factors,” Lasheras continues.

“On the one hand, the slowness in increasing Western production capacity and in the assumption of commitments by kyiv's partners.

The flow of American aid has been drying up in recent months.

On the other, Russia's allies are supporting it very well with supplies.

We are experiencing a brutal awakening of the dividends of peace [the reduction in defense investment in Europe after the end of the Cold War], and we suffer the irony that countries like North Korea or Iran, less developed and prosperous than democracies Westerners, better support their ally in terms of military supplies.”

The question of support for kyiv is decisive.

The high representative of Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell, emphasized this this Friday at an event organized by EL PAÍS to present the documentary

The Soldiers of Tank 27. “

Russia has not won this war, but it has not yet won it.” has lost.

Whether he loses or not depends a lot not only on what the Ukrainians do on their part, but also on whether all of us who promised them support keep our word.

Russia has lost a lot on the ground.

But now she has about 400,000 soldiers there, more than at the beginning of the invasion.

We have to compensate for the difference in potential.”

The panorama is disturbing.

“Avdiivka does not have to be the norm, it was a front with very particular characteristics.

But if we continue with the delays in shipping ammunition and military equipment, it is likely that we will see more Russian tactical advances in the coming months for quantitative reasons, starting with Robotine,” says Lasheras.

But, although disturbing elements are accumulating on the table, for now the Ukrainian setbacks are painful due to their symbolism, but of limited significance in terms of territory.

Furthermore, the balance is not unidirectional.

The constant Russian setbacks in the Black Sea are an example and some successful hits on the Russian rearguards illustrate this.

Declassified information from the US Administration estimated in December that Russia has suffered some 315,000 combat casualties - including dead and wounded - almost 90% of the troops it had at the beginning of the invasion.

Thanks to the mobilization ordered by Putin, it now has 470,000, according to estimates published by Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds of the Royal United Services Institute.

On the other hand, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that Russia has lost about 3,000 main tanks in two years, almost all of those it had when attacking, but its industry is supplying the military with around 1,500 a year.

To a large extent these are renovated old vehicles.

The relative Russian advances on the ground in Ukraine come, therefore, at the cost of tremendous hemorrhage.

President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Munich Security Conference that the casualty ratio in the Avdiivka battle was 7 to 1, unfavorable for the Russians.

Verifying the real figure is an almost impossible task, but without a doubt Russia is losing a lot, which includes not only casualties, but also the need to reconvert Russia's economy - which was already a fragile hydrocarbon monoculture before - into a of war, and the loss of a huge number of citizens, many of them with high qualifications, who left the country due to the current circumstances.

The international arena

The conflict in Ukraine is not a world war, but it is a global war.

If, on the one hand, Ukraine receives the support of the Ramstein group, Russia, on the other, has weapons supplies from Iran and North Korea, and a China that grants it political and economic oxygen.

Any assessment of the two years of war must take into account the international scenario.

And this brings enormous setbacks for the Kremlin, gestated in the recent past and that will bear bitter fruit in the future.

To begin with, the expansion of NATO, to which Finland has already joined, and which in the coming days will incorporate Sweden, after the last pending country, Hungary, ratifies its accession.

Two major reinforcements of the Alliance, which add 1,300 kilometers of border between it and Russia and which turn the Baltic Sea into a kind of NATO lake.

On the other hand, the invasion of Ukraine is spurring a significant increase in military spending by European countries.

NATO members on the old continent spent $300 billion on Defense in 2021, the equivalent of 1.7% of GDP.

In 2024, an expenditure of 380,000 is expected, equivalent to 2%, according to data from the Alliance.

The coming years will see another leap forward.

Germany, in particular, is undertaking a true revolution in its military mentality.

This change will take time to bear concrete fruit in terms of improved operational capabilities, but it is clearly a strategic setback for Russia.

In parallel, although Western sanctions have not managed to break the Russian economy, it is increasingly dependent on China.

Some experts speak of a situation almost of vassalage.

“At the international level, Russia is going to have more and more difficulties.

Of course, with respect to Western countries, but it is also true that their dependence on China and India, which are their largest buyers of hydrocarbons, is increasing, and also on third countries in the post-Soviet space that serve to circumvent sanctions, especially in regards to civilian technology that may have military use,” says Milosevich-Juaristi, who will publish

The Zombie Empire in the coming days.

Russia and the world order

(Gutenberg Galaxy).

In the case of China, the risk of Russian dependence is very high.

From there comes a good part of the technology that the West denies to Moscow and that Russia is not in a position to produce.

Furthermore, Beijing is paying dearly for its position as an essential oxygen cylinder, as demonstrated by its toughness when it comes to launching a new gas pipeline between the two countries, waiting for Russia to offer even better conditions.

“The failure of the initial Russian attack plan has produced that war of attrition that forces Russia to depend heavily on China, being a junior partner in an association that declares itself without limits, but that clearly has limits.

This is a setback.

But it is too early to say if it is a strategic failure,” says Lasheras, author of

Ukraine Station: The Country That Was

(KO Books).

Milosevich-Juaristi points to another essential aspect.

“Russia's main political objective is to turn Ukraine into a state subjugated and distant from the West.

And at the moment he is not achieving that.”

Ukrainian society is more determined than ever to integrate into the great Western institutions, NATO and the EU.

And, in turn, European determination to integrate Ukraine is today higher than ever.

The EU has granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate country status.

However, there is no doubt that shifts very favorable to Putin's interests are also detected in the international arena.

First, the paralysis of American politics, in which the obstructionism of a Republican Party dominated by Trumpism blocks the delivery of new aid.

Furthermore, the prospect of a new electoral victory for former President Donald Trump represents a momentous change.

“It is important to understand that the vital plan of this Russian leadership is to rebuild great Russia and destroy NATO.

They don't have another one.

The worst thing is that in their heads they see themselves close to achieving it, because they see that a part of the United States, in some way, is happy with it,” says Lasheras.

In the short term, the impact for Ukraine could be very serious.

“Unfortunately, increased military spending by European countries will not be able to replace US aid to Ukraine,” says Milosevich-Juaristi.

In the medium-long term, the impact can be global.

“Security guarantees depend on two things: capacity and credibility.

And when you don't have credibility, the risk is that hostile actors may miscalculate, thinking there will be no response if they act.

If the main provider of this guarantee, of that credibility, which continues to be the United States, has a potential president who tells Putin to go ahead, to do what he wants, it is really disturbing,” says Lasheras.

A breakup of NATO would be a huge victory for Putin.

Meanwhile, the battle of public opinions is also being fought.

Russia has long cultivated and refined practices of disinformation and disruption of the societies of adversary countries.

In parallel, there runs the problem of mere inattention or lack of full awareness of what is at stake in certain Western public opinions.

Margarita Robles, Minister of Defense of Spain, referred to this last Wednesday at an event organized by the magazine

El Grand Continent

at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.

“I have a concern;

I see that among public opinion in Spain the issue of Ukraine is being forgotten, people are not aware of what we are at stake.

The thing is that the war in Ukraine is not only the legitimate defense of a country that is being attacked in its territorial integrity.

It is the defense of a series of values, of course, peace, security and freedom and democratic values ​​in the face of the actions of an autocrat.

If Ukraine doesn't win this war, everyone else will go downhill.

And it is something that we have to take into account.

The support we are giving to Ukraine is support for our community of values, our democratic principles, freedom and security.”

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2024-02-24

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