Putin “Believes He Is Winning the War” – Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was the first European Union leader to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine – and according to the European leader, Putin believes that he is winning the war in Ukraine.
Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Nehammer revealed how his meeting with Putin on Monday was “friendly” but that he was “frank and tough” with the Russian leader about the impact of the war and the future of European relations with Russia.
“I think he is now in his own war logic. He thinks the war is necessary for security guarantees for the Russian Federation. He doesn’t trust the international community,” he said. “He blames Ukrainians for genocide in the Donbas region.”
He also said that Putin “believes he is winning the war.”
During a press conference in Moscow earlier this week, Nehammer also revealed that he was “not particularly optimistic” after his call with the Russian president and insisted that he doesn’t share Putin’s view that it is a “special military operation.
“I call it the war,” he said, adding that Putin believes the invasion is a “kind of self-defense operation.”
Putin’s Excuse for Invading Ukraine
Since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion, Putin has claimed that the operation was defensive and designed to protect the people living in the contested Donbas region of Ukraine. In February, Putin claimed that a “genocide” was taking place in the region, where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting with the Ukrainian military since 2014.
During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on February 15, just over a week before the invasion begin, Putin accused the Ukrainian military of committing acts of genocide against the people of the Donbas region.
“In our view what is now happening in Donbas is genocide,” Putin said.
It was a similar justification to the one used by Russia in 2014 when the Crimean peninsula was annexed, Putin claimed at the time that ethnic Russians in the region were being threatened by the Ukrainian military, but the assertions were challenged by the United States and most Western nations.
U.S. President Barack Obama at the time said that Russia was not protecting ethnic Russians, but “seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country.”
“That is not how international law is supposed to operate,” Obama said.
Is Putin Really Winning?
Russian troops have been withdrawing from Kiev and refocusing their efforts on capturing the besieged and destroyed city of Mariupol, as well as the Donbas region. With heavy losses of life, military equipment, and armored vehicles, Russia is widely considered to be losing the war in Ukraine.
Retired 4-star general Barry McAffrey told NBC News on Saturday that Putin has “strategically lost the war already” and that there is “zero chance of Russia effectively threatening the rest of NATO.”
Also on Saturday, Russian Major General Vladimir Frolov, the deputy commander of the 8th Guards Combined Arms unit, was given a military funeral in the Russian city of St Petersburg. Frolov’s cause of death is unknown, but reports suggest that he was killed within the last week.
Former Russian legislator Ilya Ponomarev, who left Russia for Kiev in 2016 and remains in the Ukrainian capital city today, told CNN on Wednesday that he believes Putin has already lost the war and his days in power are numbered.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.