More than six weeks into his war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is feeling the sting of failure.
Thousands of Russian battlefield deaths. Three front-line retreats by the Russian military. Millions of Ukrainians who will never forgive Moscow. More isolation than ever — and perilously few goals achieved.
Putin is now regrouping to focus his military campaign on Ukraine’s east in what is widely seen as “Plan B,” after his forces failed to topple Ukraine’s government or wrest control of its biggest cities. All the while, questions are mounting about how a Russian leader steeped in security policy and known for railing against the folly of regime-change wars could have sleepwalked into a such a strategic morass.
Putin’s confidence in his personal expertise on Ukraine came through in a lengthy treatise he published last summer. The article portrayed Ukrainians as a people who are naturally the same as Russians but have been taken hostage by Western governments bent on radicalizing them against Moscow.
“That leads to this belief by Putin and others that if you can just decapitate the Zelensky government, knock out the political leadership, then there will be an outpouring of pro-Russian sentiment by the rest of Ukrainian society,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
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