The Economist: Putin will be in a stronger fighting position next year (Reuters)

For the first time since Russia's attack on Ukraine in February 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears capable of victory, and his biggest asset to this victory is Europe's lack of strategic vision.

Putin has put his country ready for war and consolidated his grip on power. He bought military supplies from abroad, continues to help the Global South turn against America, and, more importantly, undermines the conviction in the West that Ukraine can and must emerge from the war as a thriving European democracy.

It will last for years

The reason Putin's victory is possible is that it has to do with endurance rather than taking territory. It is now clear that neither military can drive the other out of the territory it currently controls. The counteroffensive against Ukraine has stopped. The war turned into a war of defenders, so it could last for many years.

The Economist notes that the battlefield shapes politics, and its momentum affects morale. If Ukraine backs, the opposition in Kiev will grow vocal. Voices in the West will say sending money and weapons to Ukraine is a waste.

The magazine goes on to cite the factors that boost Russia's victory, saying that at least in 2024, Putin will be in a stronger position to fight, because he will have more drones from Iran and artillery shells from North Korea, because his military has developed successful cyber warfare tactics against some Ukrainian weapons, and because he will tolerate horrific losses among his men.

Persuading the South

Putin has worked to convince many southern countries that he has little interest in what happens to Ukraine, Turkey and Kazakhstan have become conduits for goods that feed the Russian war machine, and the Western scheme to limit Russian oil revenues by capping the price of its crude at $60 per barrel has failed due to the emergence of a parallel trade structure beyond the reach of the West.

Putin is also winning, the report said, because he has strengthened his position at home, with Putin now telling Russians that they are engaged in a struggle for survival against the West. Ordinary Russians may not like war, but they are used to it, and the Russian leadership has tightened its grip on the economy, making a lot of money, so Putin can pay wages for life to the families of those who fight and die.

Faced with all this, says The Economist, it's no wonder that the mood in Kiev is even bleaker, as politics has returned and people are scrambling for influence. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Valery Zaluzhny, its most senior general, have fallen. Internal opinion polls suggest that corruption scandals and concerns about the country's future have affected Zelenskiy's standing with voters.

Doubts about the West's commitment

Western governments insist they are as committed to supporting Ukraine as ever, but polls around the world suggest many are skeptical. In America, President Joe Biden's administration is struggling to convince Congress to approve more than $60 billion in funding, and next year's presidential campaign will begin soon. If former President Donald Trump is elected president, having promised peace in a short time, America could abruptly stop supplying weapons altogether.

The best way to deter Putin is for Europe and America to show the resolve to fully commit to supporting Ukraine and helping it prosper and develop a Western-looking democracy by stepping up the necessary military aid with the promise of money and joining the European Union.

Source: The Economist