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War Against Ukraine: Putin's War Of Attrition

Did Vladimir Putin mark his end by invading Ukraine? There's a lot to be said for that. But he will do everything to drag as many as possible into the abyss.

There's been a lot of talk lately about "winning" the war. Spurred on by the Russian withdrawal from Kiev and Kharkiv, many Western politicians spoke of the fact that Ukraine had to win the war. Most recently Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the Bundestag. That is very desirable, but after 100 days of war the question may be asked whether it is not much, much too early to speak of victory or defeat.

The fortunes of war swing abruptly back and forth. Two weeks ago, Russian forces bit into Ukraine's defense lines in Donbass. Two days ago, Putin's troops pushed into the center of Sieverodonetsk, taking control of the main Ukrainian city in the Luhansk region. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, warns of increasing losses in his army. The Russians are currently concentrating all available forces on one scene. For days before they invade, Russian artillery fires mercilessly at a target. And then the troops take the ruins. This is how they advance step by step.

Russian Advance In East

That won't be enough to capture big cities like Kyiv or Kharkiv. But the Russians are likely to advance in the east until the Ukrainians are adequately equipped with artillery pieces and heavy anti-aircraft weapons from the west. Then the battle movement could turn again. The great confrontation between Russia and the West looks just as shaky. Reports about Russian production outages in industry are interspersed with reports about delivery problems in the West. That too will continue for a long time. There are three reasons why winning is a long way off.

The first is the vulnerability of the European Union. With a bang, the EU countries have agreed on a partial oil embargo against Russia. Oil ships are no longer allowed to unload in EU ports, but oil can continue to flow into the EU via the old Druzhba pipeline. That's what Putin's best European friend, nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, pushed through. 

Russia's Best Sniper, Dies

The longer the war lasts, the more visible the cracks in the EU become. How are the losses distributed? Who suffers most from Russia sanctions? Who makes up for the high prices? Are the Germans paying more and more into the EU pots while the Spaniards and Italians are subsidizing their population? There is already a lot of arguing about prejudices and actual distortions.

Putin creates reserves for the coming winter

Things could get really serious in winter, when Putin shuts off the gas in other European countries. The Berlin Chancellery apparently believes that he will continue to deliver like the Soviet Union, because he needs the foreign currency. Not correct. He will simply choose the most inconvenient time for the shutdown for Germany.

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At the moment, however, Vladimir Putin is filling up his war chest so that he has enough reserves for the coming winter. Russian oil supplies to Asia are skyrocketing. There are alternatives to the West. Russian metals are in demand all over the world. And with the gas deliveries to Europe and China, he continues to earn handsomely. Russian exporters are forced to convert at least 80 percent of their foreign exchange earnings into rubles. At the manipulated course of the central bank. Putin can access these treasures.

So far he's managed to stage the big show at home that Russia can wage war without a price. In Moscow, but also in provincial towns like Pskov or Tyumen, life goes on as if nothing had happened. The supermarkets are well stocked, petrol costs 70 euro cents a liter, the Russians enjoy themselves at summer festivals and in recreation parks. For many people, the deaths of Sieverodonetsk and Mariupol seem no closer than the battle for Aleppo six years ago. The war as a television event.

What helps Putin is that the families in Moscow and the Russian cities with over a million inhabitants do not have to send relatives to the war. The excavation of "kontraktniki", the professional and temporary soldiers, takes place far away in the provinces. The often poorly trained infantry comes from the Caucasus republics, the Far East or the regions in European Russia that have really been left behind. That's one of the reasons why many Russians still don't feel the war.

Ukraine has long been prepared for a very long war. EU countries should do the same. Putin sees the confrontation with the West as a war of attrition, in which he believes he is stronger because he alone decides, but many in the EU and the US are talking at once. Some say that Putin's attack on Ukraine heralded his end. There is a lot to be said for that, but he will use the last few years (hopefully not decades) of his tenure to tear as many as possible into the abyss.

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