Former US President George W. Bush once famously claimed to have a ‘sense of [Vladimir Putin‘s] soul,’ while British ex-premier Tony Blair advocated for Russia‘s place at the ‘top table.’ French President Emmanuel Macron even hosted Putin for extensive talks at his official holiday residence. However, the narrative drastically shifted on February 24, 2022, when Putin ordered the invasion of [Ukraine], plunging the once perceived partnership between the West and Russia into chaos.
Putin’s initial blitzkrieg into Ukraine did not culminate in the swift capture of key cities as intended. Nonetheless, with the thwarting of Ukraine’s anticipated summer 2023 counter-offensive, Putin now holds significant territories in the southern and eastern regions of the country, altering the geopolitical landscape.
Western leaders are now faced with the daunting task of countering Putin’s assertive stance. While Putin exudes confidence in outlasting the West, Western officials emphasize the imperative of demonstrating unwavering resolve to counter his strategic maneuvers.
In response to Putin’s belligerent declarations and relentless pursuit in Ukraine, Western leaders – including Macron – underscore the necessity of preventing a Russian victory in the conflict. The current stalemate necessitates a substantial increase in support for [Ukraine] to potentially alter the trajectory of the conflict.
Analysts caution that unless there is a significant bolstering of assistance to Ukraine, the momentum could further shift in Russia’s favor. The escalating arms race and the hesitance in Western circles regarding aid packages create a sense of urgency in the face of Putin’s calculated moves.
Tatiana Stanovaya notes Putin’s perception of 2024 as a pivotal window of opportunity to sway the conflict’s course, attributing this to the perceived vulnerabilities in the West’s response. However, Russia’s domestic challenges, including economic strain, public weariness, and substantial casualties, underscore the multifaceted complexity of Putin’s strategic calculus.
Despite the uncertainties looming over the geopolitical landscape, the enduring domestic challenges in [Russia] could potentially impede Putin’s grand ambitions. The delicate balance between military pursuits and domestic stability poses a conundrum for the Russian leadership, raising questions about the sustainability of Putin’s confrontational approach.
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