Russia has already lost the war in Ukraine

Written 1 March 2022

I know this might seem as a premature declaration, given we are only five days into this war, but I do not say it baselessly, and I am furthermore not basing it on the current military facts on the ground. I am simply basing it on what the objectives of this campaign are. The stated objectives are the “denazification” and the demilitarization of Ukraine. In both of these aspects, Russia has already failed. It seems likely at this point that Russia will militarily defeat Ukraine, but the objectives of the campaign will not be achieved, as I will detail.

Let us start by first addressing why Moscow will fail to achieve its stated objectives, and then address the implicit objectives. The supposed “denazification” of Ukraine is not really an attempt at actual denazification as Ukraine’s government is in no way a Nazi government (an absurd claim to make when the current president is of Jewish origin). The goal is simply regime change, coated in anti-fascist rhetoric to justify the campaign to an internal audience. Will Russia achieve regime change in Ukraine? It depends on what you consider regime change. They certainly can (and already have) install puppet governments in Ukraine to federalize and weaken the country, but the internationally recognized government will remain. Putin will not attempt to conquer all of Ukraine as he knows how costly that would be, but weakening Ukraine by setting up puppet states is possible. How long they will last is an open question, but given the stiff resistance faced by even Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the inevitable economic depression Russia will be facing, they more than likely will not last long.

The second objective, the demilitarization of Ukraine, will be even more difficult to achieve. Russia can inflict severe losses on the Ukrainian military to the point of near-destruction, but Ukraine’s allies have already committed to replenishing Ukraine’s arms with advanced weaponry, including additional fighter jets from former communist countries. Ukraine’s allies will be pouring in billions of dollars of military aid into the country, so any losses can be quickly regenerated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The only way Putin can prevent this is by completely demoralizing Ukraine’s fighters, killing so many of them as to prevent a tangible fighting force from developing, or by conquering and occupying the entire country long-term. The second two are extremely unlikely, but the first one is more feasible. This can only be done by cutting off Ukraine completely from the Western world, which will prove to be very difficult with Europe in its current state of high alert. Putin had hoped that European dependence on his energy resources would make European nations docile and tepid to an invasion of Ukraine, but he was sorely mistaken and this will likely prove to be a fatal mistake.

This leads us to discussing the implicit objectives of Putin’s campaign in Ukraine. The first clear and most important implicit objective is the weakening of NATO and the EU. Putin had done much to achieve this up until now, and he had hoped that he could continue it using Germany primarily. Up until the war, Germany had shown weak resolve to helping Ukraine, and it appeared as if it would take Russia’s side or a neutral stance at the least and continue its energy dependence on Russia. However, what has happened instead is actually quite stunning. Germany not only decided to arm Ukraine, but it also decided to double its military spending for 2022 to approximately $113 billion, making it the third largest military spender in the world, overtaking Russia but not China or the United States. This is a huge development, and bodes very well for NATO and the EU. Germany has traditionally been the economic and military powerhouse of Europe, and while it’s continued to be the former, it has been deficient in the latter until now. Other European countries will also increase defense spending, but none has the financial might of Germany, which will likely make it the unquestionable leader in Europe in a few years time. And what’s more important is why it’s doing so: it is a direct challenge to Putin, so instead of building a Moscow-Berlin axis, Putin has turned Berlin into what will likely be his fiercest adversary after the US.

The other implicit objective is the geopolitical isolation of Ukraine. The reason why Putin invaded is mainly because of the support Ukraine had been receiving from the EU and NATO, both military and political. The purchase of Bayraktar TB2s and their use in the Donbas proved to be a turning point for Putin, who soon after ordered the displacement of almost 200k troops and lots of heavy equipment in areas surrounding Ukraine. This wasn’t because Putin had any particular fear of TB2s, but because of what its purchase symbolized. Ukraine had been purchasing a large amount of high-tech, very capable equipment from NATO, and was additionally in the process of developing and improving its medium-range ballistic missiles. The “demilitarization” aspect of Russia’s objectives in this campaign had primarily to do with this. Russia wanted to ensure that not only did Ukraine have a weak military, but it also did not receive support from the West. As stated above, this has proven to be a massive failure and achieved the exact opposite result of what he intended with the large shipment of weapons that Ukraine received and will be receiving in the days to come.

Again, I am not basing my conclusion on the current military situation on the ground. As of this writing, Russia has failed to take any key city in Ukraine and is facing stiff resistance on all fronts while incurring what appear to be quite heavy losses. There is certainly a possibility that this view is skewed by the fact that we are not seeing the full extent of Ukrainian losses, but Russia is almost certainly taking far more losses than it expected, and has not achieved any of its main tactical objectives. Nevertheless, I think it’s likely that Russia will militarily defeat Ukraine in the coming days, at a great material and manpower cost. However, the campaign as a whole will prove to be a failure as it will not achieve its stated or implied objectives. Putin is a great tactician, but a poor strategist. This campaign has proven to be among his weakest tactical moves, although he will likely come out with a tactical victory. Strategically, however, he will face a massive failure which may prove to be the end of his regime.