Does Putin Still Intend to Conquer All Of Ukraine? – Despite initially portraying his invasion of Ukraine as a “peacekeeping mission” designed to “liberate” the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly plans to take full control over Ukraine.
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, revealed on Tuesday how the Russian president still intends to exert as much control over Ukraine as possible, even as NATO countries continue to supply heavy weaponry in the country’s defense.
“I still think he has designs don a significant portion of Ukraine, if not the whole country,” Kahl told an audience at an event hosted by the Center for New American Security. “That said, I do not think he can achieve those objectives.”
Kahl said that while Russian forces have made occasional tactical gains – most recently in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region – the Ukrainians are “holding up.” The Pentagon official added that Russia simply doesn’t have the capacity to achieve Putin’s “grandiose objectives.”
At this point, however, nobody truly knows the Russian president’s intentions in Ukraine – aside from the obvious fact that he is attempting to avoid embarrassment. Not only is Putin under pressure to achieve some kind of victory in Ukraine to justify the economic turbulence inflicted on his people by Western sanctions, but his standing on the world stage has likely been irreversibly compromised at this stage.
Without victory, Putin has lost everything.
Russia Effectively Admitted Defeat In March
When Russia announced in March that military resources and troops would be redeployed to eastern Ukraine, with the goal of “liberating” Donbas, Russia effectively admitted defeat in central Ukraine. After more than a month of fighting in Kyiv, Russian troops failed to take control of the city and were outmaneuvered by Ukrainians at every turn who knew the city streets better than the invaders did.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Vladimir Putin won’t redirect operations to central Ukraine in the event that he successfully takes control of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. If Putin’s army continues making gains in the region, using aging Soviet-era weaponry to effectively carpet bomb residential regions and push Ukrainain troops westward, then a recommitment to taking control of Kyiv may not be out of the question.
Putin is also reportedly considering expanding his control over Ukraine’s southern coastline, moving troops westward to the Moldovan border where Russian troops and pro-Russian Moldovan separatists are already stationed.
Whether Putin can achieve these goals, however, depends on Russia’s manufacturing capacity and ability to replace its thousands of destroyed tanks and missiles, and on NATO’s commitment to continuing the supply of heavy weaponry and ammunition.
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.