However, Ukraine has no option but to keep fighting, both for national survival and because suing for peace now – given what we know about the barbarism inflicted on Ukrainians by Russian invaders – would mean a swift end for Zelenskyy’s government.
Having initially failed to capture Kyiv in a poorly conceived and executed dash for the capital, Russian forces have adopted their typical approach to offensive operations – massive unguided fires in both urban and rural environments. That curtain of bombardment allows its military to advance, albeit painfully slowly.
This suits Putin just fine, at least for the moment. He has no incentive to go to the negotiating table, since the limited territory he has seized from Ukraine so far cannot be spun as a great victory either at home or abroad.
His military calculus is simple: To continue capturing territory and destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as possible.
It also dovetails with his strategic calculus, which is to simply wait the West out. Previously – in Chechnya, Georgia and Crimea – he has correctly anticipated that Western tolerance for protracted confrontation is low, and it can be counted on to de-escalate.
THE WEST IS LOSING INTEREST IN THE WAR
Yet although Western elites are gloomily coming to the understanding Putin cannot somehow be managed, there remains a significant danger that the conflict falls off the international radar or that Western leaders waver as the conflict drags on.
We can already see some of this happening: In the tendency of the Western media to grasp at straws over Putin’s reputed ill-health, and in Germany’s egregious vacillation over allowing heavy weapons destined for Ukraine to transit its territory.
For his part, Zelenskyy is acutely aware of this. It’s why he has maintained the pressure on European nations to match words with deeds.
It’s also why he now expects something in return for the popularity sugar hit European leaders get from photo opportunities after taking the increasingly well-worn path to Kyiv to meet him.