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Why the War Will Continue

The map of Ukraine a year from now will most likely resemble nothing so much as the map as it appears today. The year ahead promises to be dismal, not decisive – more reminiscent of World War I than of World War II.

MUNICH – In the year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the war has evolved in ways few predicted. The conventional wisdom was that Russian forces would quickly overwhelm the overmatched Ukrainians and take possession of much more of the country than they gained in 2014. Others went further, predicting that Russia would topple the government in Kyiv and replace it with a puppet regime that would ratify Russian control and no longer embody a Western-looking alternative to the bleakness that has become Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Given such dire forecasts, many in the West and in Ukraine would have readily accepted a version of what exists today, namely, a sovereign Ukraine exercising authority over some 80% of its territory. That this is the reality is a tribute to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s military, the collective courage of the Ukrainian people and their leaders, and the steadfastness of US and European support in the form of arms, money, training, intelligence, and the acceptance of millions of refugees. It is also a stunning indictment of Russia’s military.

Putin is faced with difficult choices as he contemplates a war of choice that has not gone as planned. His decision to invade was not irrational, given his assumptions that Ukraine would be no match for his military, that Europe (especially Germany) was too dependent on Russian gas to stand up to him, and that the United States, post-January 6 and post-Afghanistan, was too divided and inward-looking to aid Ukraine’s defense. But, because all these assumptions proved wrong, Putin’s calculation that the benefits of invading would dwarf the costs became a formula for disaster.

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