Putin thinks West will blink first in war of attrition, Russian elites say


HR King
May 29, 2001
Russian President Vladimir Putin is digging in for a long war of attrition over Ukraine and will be relentless in trying to use economic weapons, such as a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports, to whittle away Western support for Kyiv, according to members of Russia’s economic elite.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin has seized on recent signs of hesitancy by some European governments as an indication the West could lose focus in seeking to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially as global energy costs surge following the imposition of sanctions on Moscow.
Putin “believes the West will become exhausted,” said one well-connected Russian billionaire, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Putin had not expected the West’s initially strong and united response, “but now he is trying to reshape the situation and he believes that in the longer term he will win,” the billionaire said. Western leaders are vulnerable to election cycles, and “he believes public opinion can flip in one day.”
The embargo on Russia’s seaborne oil exports announced by the European Union this week — hailed by Charles Michel, president of the European Council, as putting maximum “pressure on Russia to end the war” — would “have little influence over the short term,” said one Russian official close to Moscow diplomatic circles, also speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “The Kremlin mood is that we can’t lose — no matter what the price.”
The Kremlin has pointed out that the E.U.’s move has only provoked a further surge in global energy prices and says it will seek to divert supplies to other markets in Asia, despite a ban on insuring Russian shipments that was also imposed by the E.U. and Britain.
The populations of E.U. countries “are feeling the impact of these sanctions more than we are,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The West has made mistake after mistake, which has led to growing crises, and to say that this is all because of what is going on in Ukraine and what Putin is doing is incorrect.”

This posture suggests that the Kremlin believes it can outlast the West in weathering the impact of economic sanctions. Putin has little choice but to continue the war in hopes the Ukraine grain blockade will “lead to instability in the Middle East and provoke a new flood of refugees,” said Sergei Guriev, former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The Kremlin’s aggressive stance seems to reflect the thinking of Nikolai Patrushev, the hawkish head of Russia’s Security Council, who served with Putin in the Leningrad KGB and is increasingly seen as a hard-line ideologue driving Russia’s war in Ukraine. He is one of a handful of close security advisers believed by Moscow insiders to have access to Putin. In three vehemently anti-Western interviews given to Russian newspapers since the invasion, the previously publicity-shy Patrushev has declared Europe is on the brink of “a deep economic and political crisis” in which rising inflation and falling living standards were already impacting the mood of Europeans, while a fresh migrant crisis would create new security threats.
“The world is gradually falling into an unprecedented food crisis. Tens of millions of people in Africa or in the Middle East will turn out to be on the brink of starvation — because of the West. In order to survive, they will flee to Europe. I’m not sure Europe will survive the crisis,” Patrushev told Russian state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in one of the interviews.
In another interview last week to the popular Argumenty and Fakty tabloid, Patrushev said Russia is “not rushing to meet deadlines” in its military campaign in Ukraine.
The Russian military has been gradually making gains in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, and rather than seeking an immediate and decisive battle, Putin believes time is on his side, the Russian billionaire said. Putin “is a very patient guy. He can afford to wait six to nine months,” the billionaire said. “He can control Russian society much more tightly than the West can control its society.”

The weeks-long diplomatic haggling over the terms of the E.U. oil embargo was seen by the Kremlin as a sign of faltering western resolve, economists and the Russian official said. Phones calls over the weekend by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s to Putin about ways to lift the blockade on Ukraine’s ports will have further bolstered that view. When Western leaders call Putin and seek to do a deal, “it means he thinks he has leverage,” a former U.S. government official said.
The Kremlin has insisted the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports is because of Ukrainian mining of the Black Sea — a claim denied by Kyiv — while Peskov said Western sanctions were also preventing grain shipments from being dispatched.
E.U. agrees to phase out Russian oil but exempts pipeline deliveries
Russia’s potential losses due to the E.U. ban on its seaborne oil exports could be minimal, said Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank, who now lives in exile in the United States. If Russia is able to divert the entire seaborne volume to India and China, Russian losses as a result of the ban could total only $10 billion, he said.
Putin’s economic advisers will “tell him what the estimated loss is from the embargo, and he will laugh quietly,” Aleksashenko said. “He is not changing his course.”
The E.U. embargo should be seen as “only a first step” in efforts to cut off the Kremlin’s hard currency earnings, said Edward Fishman, adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a former official with the U.S. State Department.
Several current and former senior Western officials have been discussing proposals for the United States and E.U. to form a cartel and impose a price cap on Russian oil, possibly at $30 or $40 per barrel. This step could be more effective than the E.U. ban and help drive down global prices, Guriev and Fishman said. Under the proposal, the United States could impose secondary sanctions on anyone buying Russian oil at a price over the cap, they said.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi first floated the idea of creating a cartel of oil consumers at a meeting with President Biden, while the European Commission is now examining Draghi’s proposal for a potential gas price cap.
Russians face prospect of Soviet-style shortages as sanctions bite
Putin has declared that “the economic blitzkrieg” against Russia has failed, and on the surface, the economy has been cushioned against the initial shock of Western sanctions by the inflow of nearly $1 billion in revenue per day from oil and gas exports to Europe before the E.U. embargo on seaborne oil. Thanks to capital controls and orders that Russian exporters sell half their hard currency earnings to the state, the ruble has strengthened to prewar highs.
But Russia’s Central Bank chief, Elvira Nabiullina, has warned that the full impact of Western sanctions is yet to be felt. A ban on high-tech imports is only just beginning to bite, while shortages of some goods are only now beginning to be seen. Inflation is set to exceed 20 percent, and Russia is facing its deepest recession in 30 years. Putin’s attempt to protect the population against inflation, estimated at 18 percent, by ordering a 10 percent hike in pensions and the minimum wage falls far short.
With risks growing for all sides, “it is going to be a war of attrition from the economic, political and moral point of view,” the Russian official said. “Everyone is waiting for autumn,” when the impact of sanctions will hit the hardest, he said.
So far, however, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimating Kyiv needs $7 billion in aid a month just to keep the country running, Putin appears to be betting on the West blinking first, the former U.S. government official said. Putin’s “goal of subjugating Ukraine and eventually placing a Russian flag in Kyiv has not changed.”

  • Like
Reactions: Titus Andronicus


HR Legend
Dec 5, 2002
A lot of us will at least get tired of our government continuing to throw billions and billions of dollars at it.


HR King
May 29, 2001
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that while Russia had achieved “certain results” during the first 100 days of the invasion, the country would continue the war “until all the goals” were achieved.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lauded the invasion efforts to Russian state media as an attempt to “protect people in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.”
“Measures are being taken to ensure and certain results have been achieved,” he told RIA Novosti.
But as Ukraine continues to resist Russian forces 100 days after the start of the invasion, Peskov acknowledged that Russia had yet to achieve its goals.
“This work will continue until all the goals of the military operation are achieved in Ukraine,” Putin’s spokesman said to state media.
Ukraine’s troops remain locked in brutal combat for the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, which is now mostly controlled by Russian forces. Fighting was continuing in the city center and surrounding villages, according to the regional governor.
Even though Russia has destroyed villages and bombarded the country since late February, Peskov again claimed Friday that Russian forces have “provided an opportunity for people to start a peaceful life.”

  • Like
Reactions: Titus Andronicus


HR King
May 29, 2001
Who can end the senseless war in Ukraine? It is a very short list.
No. 1: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sign up for a weekly roundup of thought-provoking ideas and debates
No. 2: Vladimir Putin.
No. 3: Putin.
Extend the list and it’s Putin all the way down. He alone started the war. He alone positioned as many as 190,000 troops to invade his neighbor in February.
Nations around the world pleaded with him not to unleash the largest unprovoked assault in Europe since World War II. He ignored the advice and invaded anyway.

Follow David Von Drehle's opinionsFollow

Now, only he can stop this horror. Weirdly, though, leaders and thinkers of various political stripes seem to think that the United States and its allies have the power to bring the carnage to an end. From Henry A. Kissinger on the right to Katrina vanden Heuvel (a Post columnist) on the left to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in cloud-cuckooland, these voices have complained in recent days that Ukrainian resistance, supported by the allies, somehow stands in the way of a cease-fire.

This is nonsense.
From the first week of the fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly offered the most generous cease-fire terms to Russia, consistent with restoring a stable, peaceful world. Even after kicking Russian tails for more than three weeks, Zelensky asked only that Russia return to its pre-invasion position and commit to respect Ukrainian sovereignty. Ukraine would pause its integration into Western Europe somewhere short of full NATO membership.
Talk about an off-ramp for Putin. His forces have waged wanton and indiscriminate war against civilian centers for three months, raping, looting, kidnapping and murdering. Yet Zelensky’s proffered terms would allow Putin to slink back to the pre-invasion status quo having lost nothing but his nation’s prestige — such as it was.

To let Putin off with that much is the very limit the world can safely allow. To give an inch more would be a betrayal of the vital principle that fascist kleptocrats are not allowed to steal land with tanks and blockade food shipments with warships in the 21st century.
No doubt Kissinger and company are motivated by a laudable desire to end this terrible violence — and the threat of further escalation — as quickly as possible. But they overestimate the ability of the West to impose terms on the Ukrainians.
The whole world was surprised by the fierce patriotism of Zelensky and his people when the invasion began. That patriotism won’t evaporate just because Washington or Berlin or Brussels commands it.

In the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, Ukrainian guerrillas are already at work. Resistance fighters are believed responsible for a car-bomb attack targeting a senior occupation official. Ivan Fyodorov, the city’s deposed mayor, has promised more of the same, vowing that “the ground will burn” in Melitopol until the Russians withdraw.


Remember the grandmas making molotov cocktails in the early days of the war? Such people will decide for themselves when to stop fighting.
More important: Putin doesn’t want peace. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid peace. He has paid — and continues to pay — a staggering price to resist peace. Even as his military power melts and his economy reels, Putin spurns cease-fire talks. Diplomats have begged him to negotiate, yet he has never engaged seriously.

Instead, Putin has cycled from failed Plan A (a feckless blitzkrieg intended to topple the government in Kyiv and conquer the entire nation) to failed Plan B (a thwarted pincer movement to cut Ukrainian forces in half and secure the south and east for Russia) to failing Plan C (a consolidation of nearly leaderless and reportedly mutinous troops trying to add modestly to Russia’s pre-invasion holdings).

These botched efforts have cost Putin dearly. Rather than negotiate a cease-fire, he has preferred to see hundreds of Russian tanks destroyed, the Russian air force humiliated, the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet sunk, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers killed and wounded, the decimation of the Russian high command, the gutting of troop morale, and the coils of economic destruction squeezing the juice from Russian lifestyles.
Few Westerners have a deeper understanding of Russia and Ukraine than Timothy Snyder, author of the award-winning history “Bloodlands.” He recently published a clear-eyed response to those who believe Putin can be coaxed to peace.

“Some observers of the Russo-Ukrainian war seem to think that its greatest danger is that Ukraine will win, or win too quickly, and that this will be uncomfortable for Putin, and that we should care,” Snyder wrote. “This is a deeply perverse way of seeing things.” The destruction, the genocidal crimes — “those are the kinds of things we should be worrying about, not Putin’s self-image.”
Putin will end the war only when he decides he has no other choice. Therefore, Ukraine must fight on.



HR Legend
Jul 8, 2001
He's correct, which is why the West needs to push Russia out of Ukraine and fracture Russia into a dozen different countries before people start starving. This plan to half ass it is going to lead to collateral damage for the world's food and energy supplies