New theory: He doesn't want to win the war

Written by Henrik Rothen

Oct.07 - 2023 12:29 PM CET

Photo: Presidents Office
Photo: Presidents Office
'He doesn't want to win the war'

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It has been exactly 590 days since the illegal invasion of Ukraine began. However, it was not a walkover when Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his troops across the border. What was supposed to take just a few days has now turned into a Russian failure that has lasted for a year and a half.

Ukraine's defense surprised both in terms of military capability and morale.

Several factors also indicate that the war will continue for a very long time. According to the UK's Ministry of Defense, a full 30% of Russia's public expenditure will be spent on defense by 2024 - something interpreted as Putin preparing for several years of warfare.

Putin's goal: A never-ending war

Even NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the war could continue for several more years. It's almost talked about as an "eternal war."

For Ukraine and the Western world, this sounds devastating.

"But for Russia's President Vladimir Putin, it is probably a goal," emphasizes analyst Mark Galeotti, a British historian and honorary professor at University College London, to CNN.

At first glance, the theory may seem strange. The war has been a monumental failure and a complete disaster for Russia. According to U.S. government sources, as many as 120,000 Russians may have died and 180,000 have been injured as a result of the war, and it will take several generations for the country to recover economically from the world's sanctions.

Mark Galeotti, who wrote the book "Putin's War: From Chechnya to Ukraine," explains what he means when he insinuates that Putin is not really out to win the war.

"It's a possibility. The eternal war becomes the organizing principle for 'post-Putinism,' which both legitimizes and requires a tightened grip on the oppression that Putin needs to maintain his control over the nation."

"A Last Virtue"

The author and Putin expert believes that it is more about not losing than it is about winning.

"We cannot know if Putin really believes that Russia can find some form of victory from his Ukrainian fiasco or simply feels that he has no other option than to hope that he can outlast his enemies."

"But from his perspective, the concept of 'eternal war' represents a last virtue for him—it crushes the morale of his enemies."

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