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Putin Has Admitted He Can’t Conquer Ukraine

Putin Russia
Russian President Putin testing a new sniper rifle. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

Russia’s General Offensive in Ukraine Has Culminated, and Putin is Desperate – With this week’s announcement that Russia will shift its offensive operations to eastern Ukraine – to ‘liberate Donbas’ – Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that he can no longer win the war on the terms he set out at its opening.

Putin’s war has ground to a halt. The Russian army originally attacked along three ‘axes’ – from Belarus in the north toward the Ukrainian capital, from the east to take Donbas, and from the south to capture Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, particularly Odesa. The former and the latter are now beyond Russia’s ability with the forces planned for the war. To bring new units into the theater would reduce commitments elsewhere along Russia’s long frontier, or require the extensive use of conscripts, with the attendant problems of morale, desertion, and family resistance back home. (That latter issue grew into a major problem for the Soviet army’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980s).

So Putin’s options were to either escalate dramatically in an effort to break the stalemate or to scale back his war aims. There were recent hints he might escalate with a weapon of mass destruction, but NATO signaled strongly in the last week that it might directly intervene in the war if Putin did that. The war might have then slid toward a nuclear stand-off and jeopardized Putin’s authority at home. Putin wisely chooses to partially de-escalate.

This is not because Putin has changed his opinion of Ukraine as a ‘fake nation,’ but rather because he is militarily over-extended. De-escalation has been forced on him by events and might change if Russia’s fortunes improve in Donbas. But for the moment this is a major step forward for Ukraine as Putin has effectively given up on regime change and demilitarization.

‘Denazification’ (Regime Change)

The ‘denazification’ of Ukraine – by which Putin presumably meant regime change, specifically the deposition of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – is now impossible. The Ukrainian government as a reasonably liberal democracy independent of Russia and tilting toward the West will survive.

This was always an absurd argument. Zelensky is Jewish, so accusing him of nazi sympathies was a bizarre rationale. Ukraine is shaky democracy with a major corruption problem, but it is significantly freer than Russia and has moved in the right direction in the last decade. It does have a far-right, as most Western countries do, but Russia has provided no evidence of its outlandish claims that Ukraine engages in ‘genocide’ against Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

Indeed, it is Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine that has suffered the most under the Russian onslaught, and Putin himself basically now a fascist.

Demilitarization

This too is now impossible. Post-war Ukraine will likely not join NATO. That seems to be emerging as a core Ukrainian concession for a peace deal. Ukraine may get a path into the European Union. That will provide a hint of external security. It would be awkward for other EU members to watch as one of their own was invaded. And Finland and Sweden are not in NATO but are in the EU, so this might be a workable compromise.

But Putin’s original goal was to disarm Ukraine by annihilating its military. That is now impractical. Ukraine’s army has fought the Russians to a standstill. Indeed, it has even prosecuted limited offensives. Ukraine is also awash in high-end Western military hardware. It now has one of the best militaries in Europe, an deliciously ironic outcome for Putin.

Zelensky will obviously not give this up. Indeed, the Ukrainian military and population would reject such a move if Zelensky even tried it.

Territorial Acquisition

Putin is long practiced in land-grabs – in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine itself. The big question of any peace deal is whether Putin can hang onto his conquests and snatchings. Specifically, will Ukraine accept: Putin’s 2014 Anschluss of the Crimea; the secessionism Putin stirred up on Donetsk and Luhansk and the ‘people’s republics’ he created there; and Russia’s military conquests north of Crimea and in the rest of Donbas in this war.

Zelensky may give on the Crimea. Ukraine is unlikely to ever get it back, and if it helps end the war, it might be worth formally accepting its loss. The tougher question is if Russia can conquer Donbas beyond Donetsk and Luhansk, will the Ukrainians accept that in a peace deal? If Ukraine fights as well as it has in the last month, the Russians might not even accomplish that more limited goal and Zelensky can negotiate harder.

War resolution is ultimately a bargain. Unconditional surrender is rare, and Ukraine cannot defeat Russia like that. But it can tilt the negotiations in its direction by winning on the ground, and Putin has, this week admitted Ukraine’s success at doing so.

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kellywebsite) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 

Written By

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Donald Carr

    March 30, 2022 at 3:20 pm

    Quite decent content but a terrible translation, if it is a translation. If it isn’t the author is barely English literate. I would be more than happy to assist with making your posts grammatically correct. Other than that, keep up the good work.

  2. Eric-ji

    March 30, 2022 at 3:20 pm

    What funny construction: “Zelensky personally is Jewish”.

    Why not just write: “Zelensky is Jewish.”?

  3. Alex

    March 30, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    And Russia spoke about the “CONQUERATION” of Ukraine? No. Russia spoke about a special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine. So far, the operation is going well. Of course, you could do like the USA in Desert Storm and just raze the cities to the ground. But this is what distinguishes Russia and the United States. Russia cannot, like the United States, kill hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions of civilians just like that. Strength is not in destruction, strength is in mercy. This makes Washington very angry.

    • Richard

      May 1, 2022 at 8:02 am

      “Russia cannot, like the United States, kill hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions of civilians just like that.”

      Good point. Russia needs to rape and torture them, then kill them.

  4. Eric

    March 30, 2022 at 3:38 pm

    To the author, thank you for the article. The previous comments are over-harsh. I had no difficulty understanding.

  5. Eric

    March 30, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    Alex, multiple cities in Ukraine have been razed by Russian artillery, including Kharkiv and Mariupol. Russia would kill millions of Ukrainians; they did so in 1932-1933 under Stalin; they killed an estimated 3-4 million people using starvation. You might not believe me, so lookup the history of Holodomor. The people of Ukraine haven’t forgotten; their grandmothers told them the stories. Every family has a story. So many Ukrainians died that Russians had to be imported to the east and south of Ukraine to farm the land; this is why there are many Russian speaking people in these parts of Ukraine today. https://www.britannica.com/event/Holodomor
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor
    https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%93%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%80_%D0%BD%D0%B0_%D0%A3%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B5
    https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%93%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%80_%D0%B2_%D0%A3%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%97%D0%BD%D1%96_(1932%E2%80%941933)
    https://www.vox.com/videos/2022/3/25/22996165/ukraine-holodomor-famine-russia-cover-up

  6. Alex

    March 30, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    You’re lying. You don’t know history. Holodomor was then on the entire territory of the USSR. In all republics. Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the entire Middle East, Far East. All people suffered. Tell me, who is to blame for the great depression in the USA, when people died in all states from poverty and without food? About 8,000,000 people died of starvation! Who is guilty? Who is to blame for the Great Famine in China from 1959 to 1961, when more than 15,000,000 people died? Who is guilty? Should I list all the countries where there was a famine at different times? You will be shocked! Ukraine is not special. Moreover, after the collapse of the USSR, it was Ukraine that was the richest country, which was ahead of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and other European countries in terms of indicators. But left with such riches, in just 15-20 years it became the poorest country in all of Eurasia! Say thanks to those who plundered Ukraine. Look at the names of the Ukrainian oligarchs, all these billionaires have Jewish surnames. And it’s just a paradox: these Jews run a bunch of Bandera Nazis. The ancestors of Ukrainians are now turning over in coffins. Shame on Ukraine!

  7. Bolivar Q Manual

    March 30, 2022 at 8:18 pm

    Alex is clearly insane. We should pray he finds a good doctor that can treat his mental condition. Good luck, Alex.

  8. Alex

    March 30, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    The data I have provided is easy to verify. Because of them, your ass caught fire and so the hysterical woman began to call me a psycho. Well, this is also an indicator that the truth can cause an attack of dementia.

  9. Terminator

    March 30, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    Alex and Commentar are russian “trolls”.
    They are paid to spread the Kremlin’s rethoric and to sow discord in western audience.
    You can find their comments in every article related to Russia since before the invasion started.

  10. Commentar

    March 30, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    Putin did right thing in ukraine; he kicked the nazist zelenskiyy’s ass and now he’s screaming about NOT wanting to be in NATO but to be neutral.

    Well, nobody’s interested in a nazist’s proclaimations.

    Putin must ensure FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE for eastern ukraine. After that, zelenskiyy can go join NATO and devils and kiss their sweet asses. Especially biden’s putrid ass.

  11. Eric

    March 30, 2022 at 11:51 pm

    Everyone outside of Russia can see what a military and moral catastrophe this is for Russia. With today’s news, it seems someone following the world media closely may know more than Putin himself about the military situation in Ukraine. We overestimated Russia’s military, and we underestimated Ukraine’s military. Russia, and especially the Russian military, will be known as the bad guys for a long time, primarily for their targeting civilians. Many Russian people are good, but your leaders are monsters. First the Tzar. Then Stalin. Now Putin. Unfortunately the poor conscripts and regular people of Russia will pay the most, but many Ukrainian civilians have lost their lives. Alex and Commentar have some “alternative facts” version of history and current events. Everybody knows Holodomor was an artificial famine, created by the leaders in power; the only debate is whether it counts as genocide. Alex believes Stalin’s explanation of Holodomor.

    It’s like they’re stuck in 1984.

    “He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” (George Orwell, 1984)

  12. Alex

    March 31, 2022 at 1:10 am

    “Everyone knows” – this is how the brainwashed Bandera Nazis like to say. I’m not interested in you with your parallel universe. Smart people themselves will find sources from real history, the direction I gave above.

    Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine is just beginning to enter its second phase. As planned, there will be three in total. The clownish statements of the Nazis are not interesting, because they have already destroyed 100,500 of everything Russian and on the outskirts of Moscow.

    I would also recommend watching the latest video
    Owe Schattauer, that’s what his channel is called. For people with brains, his explanations will be clear.

  13. Alex had a bad day.

    March 31, 2022 at 1:12 am

    All you need to know about the idiot russian bots on here is russia called a Jewish president Zelensky a NAZI. Think about that for a moment. How stupid a russian has to be to believe that.
    If that tool “alex” could put 3 brain cells together to make a coherent thought, she’d know her country lost the tactical advantage. She’s done. Ukraine is blowing up anything that moves. Princess Alex cannot access her money, and even if she did, she cant afford the price of food, if there was any to buy. Literally the world sent her country into the stone age.
    Alex, and her mother russia is just beginning to learn how to live in 1860 again. Hope she has an ox to plow her field. This time next year, russia is off the maps and history, and nobody will ever remember it existed.

  14. Alex

    March 31, 2022 at 9:24 am

    I don’t quite understand why Bandera’s Nazis try to have a dialogue where they leave comments on an article with people? Hello, no comrade! You have the wrong site. Take a Xanox pill, stay in your dreams, you can’t be real. You are deeply and hopelessly ill.

  15. Eric

    March 31, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    Alex is a quintessential example of a Russian internet troll of the sealioning type.

    Alex, I believe you will have little luck convincing the readers of the comments section of 19fourtyfive.com that your viewpoint is correct. Western educated industrialized rich democratic (WIERD) people of the world understand the meaning and value of freedom.

    Since the general advice about internet trolls is “don’t feed the trolls”, I give you the last word Alex. Dasvidaniya.

  16. dan mullock

    March 31, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    The author correctly identifies Putin with Anschluss or scorched earth policies, sometimes both. Labels are important and so it is right to say that Putin is the worst fascist leader in Europe since Hitler and so should rightly be called “President Anschlussky”. A word of advice about Russian bots, better to simply acknowledge that one is part of the comments and then focus on the article, not their comments.

  17. Stefan Stackhouse

    March 31, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    The Russian Empire didn’t spring up overnight. It grew slowly over several centuries, piece-by-piece and year-by-year. Muskovy would nibble a little bit from neighboring territory, and when it could go no farther it would pause for a few years, and then try again. Sometimes the matter was no more than the residents exchanging one flag and set of rulers for another. In other cases, the residents ended up being wiped out. Just look up the sad history of the Circassians.

    It is clear that Putin knows his history very well, and that he wants to recreate the Russian Empire – or at least as much of it as he can during his time. He may not be able to grab all of Ukraine right now, and thus he may very well have to settle for a small piece. Be under no illusions, though: it will only be a matter of time before he – or his successor – will be back for more. And so it will go, over and over again.

    The only thing that stopped the expansion of the Russian Empire was when it bumped into other powerful empires. This is why Putin hates NATO so much: he knows that it can and will stand in the way of his further expansion to the west. This must be the case. NATO must stand strong.

  18. James

    April 1, 2022 at 7:55 am

    Alex is a typical dirty alcoholic russian troll. I can just imagine his shitty existance. Wake up still drunk from crappy russian garbage vodka, goes to work at troll farm, surrounded by stinking dirty russians, uses trashy computer to copy and paste the same shit on all articles. Goes home to an ugly fat whore wife. Kids are stupid as fuck. Eats some garbage for dinner that people in the west wouldnt even feed a stray dog. Gets drunk on garbage homemade vodka. And … repeat till he dies from liver failure (hopefully soon).

    • Richard

      May 1, 2022 at 8:13 am

      Don’t be so cruel. His alternative is ending up in a mobile crematorium in eastern Ukraine.

  19. Alex

    April 1, 2022 at 9:11 am

    I have been looking for Putin’s confession for the second day in a row and I can’t find it. Author, you fooled me again? And I always believe in you…
    Biden acknowledged that the US military was in such a hurry to escape Afghanistan that they left their faithful four-legged friends behind. Sorry dogs…

  20. James

    April 1, 2022 at 9:21 am

    Alex is a typical dirty alcoholic russian troll. I can just imagine his shitty existance. Wake up still drunk from crappy russian garbage vodka, goes to work at troll farm, surrounded by stinking dirty russians, uses trashy computer to copy and paste the same shit on all articles. Goes home to an ugly fat whore wife. Kids are stupid as fuck. Eats some garbage for dinner that people in the west wouldnt even feed a stray dog. Gets drunk on garbage homemade vodka. And … repeat till he dies from liver failure (hopefully soon).

  21. James

    April 1, 2022 at 9:22 am

    Russia is the new north korea 🤣

  22. James

    April 1, 2022 at 9:24 am

    Alex is commenting on dogs in afghanistan because he wants to eat them. It would be the best meat available to russians 🤣

  23. James

    April 1, 2022 at 9:25 am

    Alex is commenting on dogs in afghanistan because he wants to eat them. Would be the best meat russians can get at this point.

  24. James

    April 1, 2022 at 9:27 am

    See alex… im even better at trolling than you.. stupid russians haha they really do suck at everything.

  25. Alex

    April 1, 2022 at 10:51 am

    Bandera Nazi living in a pigsty believes that everyone lives the same way. He made several accounts for himself and shows how his ass is on fire, and I will show how his Bandera Nazis are on fire:

    The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, demanded that American leader Joseph Biden increase the supply of Javelin man-portable anti-tank missile systems to Ukraine. According to him, the Chechen fighters especially liked the ATGM.

    “We demand from Biden to increase the supply of Javelins! I am ready to personally reward the old man for actively contributing to the Russian special operation,” the head of the republic wrote in his Telegram channel.

    According to him, Chechen fighters are busy around the clock searching for and eliminating “Bandera and nationalist evil spirits” in Mariupol.

    “The guys especially fell in love with the Javelin anti-tank missile system, which has double the effectiveness. In order not to give up this valuable trophy, nationalists usually sacrifice two or three lives. And then our fighters destroy the entire Bandera crew from it,” Kadyrov said.

  26. Jason

    April 1, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Hahaha and pigs fly… well not anymore since russians are forbidden from the civilized worlds airspace.

  27. Alex

    April 1, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    What you consider civilization you will never see is a fact. But summer is coming soon and, perhaps, if you are still alive and you have enough money for a ticket, then you and people like you will beg us Poles to give them work. Pick strawberries, apples, clean our toilets. And it’s not my idea, it happens every year. I have not seen Russians in such shameful works here. So save money for a ticket 🙂

  28. Jason

    April 1, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    Hahaha save for a ticket? The money i have is something you poor russians only see in western movies or rather have as i dont think your communist puppet masters allow you to watch them anymore. Look at your rouble hahah worth pennies of an American Dollar 😂 you work all your life to make what i make in a few months or less 🤣 russia is the last place on earth id go. Backwards country where people are controlled by their authoritarian government. Even McDonalds doesnt want to be there anymore 👍

  29. Alex

    April 1, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    We all understood that you are a poor, underage Bandera Nazi who still considers McDonald’s a restaurant and is ready to eat food there. I won’t even talk to you, poor swineherd.
    In the meantime, thanks to the American Stinger, the soldiers of Donbass shot down a helicopter where the commanders of the Nazi formation “Azov” were located, two survivors testify. Thank you US weapons.
    In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, the following have been destroyed: 124 aircraft and 82 helicopters, 357 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,854 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 202 multiple rocket launchers, 777 field artillery pieces and mortars, as well as 1,722 units of special military vehicles . The data is confirmed by foreign journalists who are in the area of ​​hostilities. Well, you, the authors sitting across the ocean, do not stop delighting us with your lies and propaganda from Ukraine 🙂

  30. L'amateur d'aéroplanes

    April 2, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Is there a moderator on the site? The comment of “Commentar March 30, 2022 at 10:11 pm” is truly distressing.

  31. Stephen Kennedy

    April 7, 2022 at 3:49 pm

    I agree with L’anateur d’aerioplanes that this site badly needs to be cleaned up by a moderator before civil and intelligent discourse can take place.

  32. form_d_k

    April 9, 2022 at 8:57 pm

    Alex:

    “Russia spoke about a special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine. So far, the operation is going well.”

    Russia completely “denazified”/”demilitarized” Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy so well that they had no more reason to remain in any part of northern Ukraine.

    But I hardly think the war is going well. After all, Ukraine’s heavily russified 2nd city is still in the hands of genocidal Azov Ukronazionists. Shouldn’t specially operating on Kharkiv be a priority for Russia’s humanitarian offensive to liberate Ukrainian’s of their lives?

    Either the ascendant Russian military is unable to capture or even encircle the city only 30 KM from the border, an impossibility, or the Russian military is content to let Ukrop ultranationalists flatten the city in an unceasing orgy of crimes against humanity.

  33. Zheng Huh

    April 15, 2022 at 12:09 am

    Alexis and Commiesar, one of your ships is missing.

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