The war in Ukraine is strategically over. Yes, there is a lot more to be played out on the field of battle. But no matter what happens there it is of no avail to Moscow. They have been defeated. Or more accurately, they have defeated themselves.
They did so by invading in the first place, by invading with a shoddy force, by lack of good Intel, by losing the PR game thus making the Ukrainians brave martyrs for freedom, and by their incompetence on the ground. To wit:
1) Invading- Putin violated a basic rule of power. He just didn’t show Ukraine the cliff, thus letting their imaginations do the work his armies could not, he threw them over the cliff thus exposing himself to the vagaries of the military challenge. He should have hovered on the border and demanded realistic goals like no nukes, independence for Luhansk or Donetsk, and armed neutrality. That’s all he’s going to get anyway. But after this war it will look like a consolation prize. He also gave the Ukrainians weeks to arm and train before he went in. A total clustercoit.
2) Shoddy- Doesn’t the Russian Army have an Inspector General? Is he corrupt, blind, mentally challenged? Either way, he should be taken behind the Kremlin and seriously maimed. From the conscripts to maintenance, from the Air Force to outdated equipment, from no clear mission to a publicly stated (denazification) absurd mission, the Russians are not ready for prime time. The world now knows this and will treat them accordingly.
3) Intel- The GRU really needs to pay for this one. This was not hard to call. The Western response, Ukrainian morale, and Zelenskyy’s image were all apparent before Russian troops crossed the border. The Russians had guys on the ground all over Ukraine. Not one of them was a competent intelligence analyst capable of giving a realistic report? The FSB is also at fault here for not challenging GRU estimates and not accurately analyzing foreign intentions. Heads have already started to roll. There will be more. This is what happens when Intelligence puts on a happy face to please Intel consumers.
4) PR- The Star Wars like story of the plucky underdogs versus the Evil Empire was obvious from a mile away. It’s a standard Western trope. How did they miss it? Are they so isolated in the Kremlin that nobody understands image and perception anymore? Did they really think Putin, an aging dictator perfectly cast as a Bond villain, could compete with a TV star and his cute family on the world stage?
5) The ground- They just had to ride straight for Kyiv. Perhaps a coup de main. And it had to be from a standing start surprise covertly and meticulously maneuvered for months. But they telegraphed their punch and fell apart once they undertook the campaign. We’ve seen the videos. Yes, some are Ukrainian propaganda. But they take advantage of a legitimate point, that the Russian armed forces are incompetent.
This is not to mention that the Euros and NATO are awakened to the Putin threat, neutral countries like Finland want into NATO, and several divisions worth of Western troops are now on the Russian border. If Ivan felt encircled before he’s made it much worse since last month. On all counts and in all endgame scenarios the Russians eventually lose tactically and or strategically. Will Putin himself be held responsible? That’s for another article.