The world is waiting for Ukraine’s much anticipated military counterpunch against Russia’s invading armies. But for the war to end this year, there are only two viable options.
The first would see Vladimir Putin withdrawing his troops from Ukrainian territory. The second involves Putin’s removal as Russian leader.
While the idea of Putin being toppled feels remote, a successful Ukrainian military offensive will push the Russian dictator closer to the political abyss.
Discussions between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky created hope that a negotiated peace involving the return of Ukrainian land might be possible.
Putin’s Victory Day oration should give pause. On a day celebrating the Soviet Union’s World War II heroics, Putin accused the West of waging war on the Russian motherland, creating a cult of Nazism, theft, violence, and destroying traditional values. Hardly the stuff of compromise.
But Putin’s hollow words can’t hide his weakening position. Having suffered a staggering 100,000 casualties since Christmas for next to zero territorial gain, it’s clear Russia can’t conquer Ukraine.
But no matter how bad or ugly it gets, Putin can’t stop. Stopping would reveal the entire invasion for what it is: a catastrophic failure.
And though he enjoys inventing his own historic narratives, Putin knows every Russian leader who lost a major conflict before him has been thrown out of power. Or worse.