Putin bets on an ancient weapon in Ukraine: time

By Guy Faulconbridge
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin chairs a meeting outside Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects via a video conference call at a residence outside Moscow, Russia July 18, 2022. Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS Photo: Reuters/SPUTNIK

Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting on an ancient weapon more powerful than any of the missiles now being supplied by the United States and its European allies to Ukraine: time.

Nearly five months since Putin ordered the Feb. 24 invasion that has devastated parts of Ukraine, Russia is hoping that Western resolve will be sapped by alarm over surging global energy and food prices that the war has helped to stoke.

Russian officials and state television openly gloat about the fall of British and Italian prime ministers Boris Johnson and Mario Draghi, depicting their resignations as a result of the "self-harming" sanctions the West imposed on Russia.

Who in the West, they ask, will be the next leader to fall?

Putin, who turns 70 in October, told the West this month he was just getting started in Ukraine and dared the United States - which enjoys economic and conventional military superiority over Russia - to try to defeat Moscow. It would, he said, fail.

"Putin's bet is that he can succeed in a grinding war of attrition," CIA Director William Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, told the Aspen Security Forum this week.

The former KGB spy is betting he can "strangle the Ukrainian economy, and wear down the European publics and leaderships, and he can wear down the United States because in Putin's view Americans always suffer from attention deficit disorder and will, you know, get distracted by something else," Burns said.

Burns, who was sent by U.S. President Joe Biden to Moscow last November to warn Putin of the consequences of invading Ukraine, said he thought the Russian leader's bet would fail.

But the Kremlin shows no sign of backing down, saying Russia will achieve all of its aims in Ukraine.

Putin's foreign minister of 18 years, Sergei Lavrov, said on Wednesday Russia's ambitions in Ukraine now went far beyond the eastern Donbas region to include a swathe of territory in the south and "a number of other territories".


The U.S. National Security Council said on Tuesday it had intelligence that Russia was preparing to annex all of Donbas as well as land along Ukraine's southern coastline including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

This would formalise Russian control over more than 18% of Ukrainian territory in addition to around 4.5% that Moscow took in 2014 by annexing Crimea.

If the West supplies more longer-range weapons to Ukraine, such as high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), Lavrov said, Russia's territorial appetite will grow further.

"The rhetorical message Lavrov seems to be sending to the West is: the longer the war lasts, the more we claim," said Vladislav Zubok, professor of international history at the London School of Economics.

"It could be pure bluff but I would not be surprised if Russia wanted to keep the southern territories."

The United States, which has provided more than $8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, will send four more HIMARS to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

So how does it end in Ukraine?

"My best guess is that this ends with a stalemate close to the current battle lines, perhaps an ugly armistice," said Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"You’re headed for an ugly period of political-military experimentation followed by an uncomfortable and un-legitimated settlement into a frozen conflict."


Ever since Putin was handed the nuclear briefcase by Boris Yeltsin on the last day of 1999, his overriding priority has been to restore at least some of the great power status which Moscow lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Putin has repeatedly railed against the United States for driving NATO's eastward expansion, especially its courting of ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia which Russia regards as part of its own sphere of influence.

Putin has suggested such moves are aimed at deliberately weakening and even destroying Russia. He has given a variety of justifications for his invasion of Ukraine but increasingly casts it as an existential battle with the West whose outcome will reshape the global political order.

With Russia still exporting its vast natural resource wealth and with crucial backing from China, Putin is gambling that Russia can slowly constrict Ukraine while being able to endure more pain than a West that he sees as decadent.

The costs of that gamble in blood and treasure are immense.

U.S. intelligence estimates that some 15,000 Russians have been killed so far in Ukraine - equal to the total Soviet death toll during Moscow's occupation of Afghanistan in 1979-1989.

Ukrainian losses are probably a little less than that, U.S. intelligence believes, Burns said. Neither Ukraine nor Russia has given detailed estimates of their own losses.

"(Putin) really is an apostle of payback," Burns said. "He is convinced that his destiny... is to restore Russia as a great power."

Only time will tell if the most perilous bet of Putin's 22-year rule will pay off.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Perhaps you haven't noticed that the west is imploding by itself. I don't think Putin has that much to do with it. USA, dumping California water in to the sea, paying farmers not to grow crops, selling off their oil reserves, shutting down oil producing wells, freeing the country border to all who want to come in illegally, placing sanctions on Russia without realising they need their goods as well.

-12 ( +5 / -17 )

Look at the eyes of a psychopath in photos of Putin.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

Ukraine is turning into an Afghanistan for Putin. For America, it's a budget-line item. For Ukrainian patriots, it's existential. We'll see who outlasts whom.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Putin will be dead and buried before Ukraine surrenders.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Putin would love to take Russia back to the days of the Soviet Union and his KGB.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I don't think there will be any winners. More time also means more pain for the Russian economy.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

70 is old for a Russian male. Time may not be the ally Putin thinks it is. But in the meantime, NATO and the US need a Plan B, because Putin wants the whole of Ukraine and an armistice is not going to change that.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )


 More time also means more pain for the Russian economy.

Obviously you haven't be tracking the Russian economy since the invasion..(sorry, special military operation)

This isn't about time, it isn't really that much about Ukraine. Its the first shot in the bipolar new world, USA and her vassal states and China/ Russia/Iran and their vassal states.

The west doesn't care about Ukraine. It wants control of Ukraine.

Sadly for the west, Ukraine has much more importance to Russia....

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Time is working against Putin. With the new Ukraine offensive in the south planning on the full liberation of Kherson by September, the west planning on training Ukraine pilots and providing western fighters, Putin is about to know what it is like to be on the back foot.

The faster the west want or need this conflict to be over, the more pressure on them to provide Ukraine with the modern systems that will bring them victory on their soil.

Nothing right now is in Putin's favor. Russia is about in the best position that they will get in this invasion. Ukraine troops morale is going up as more reports of long range precision hits on Russian ammo dumps and command centers come in. Russian troops are becoming more disillusioned with their generals and with Putin, and being hit from a range beyond their ability to hit back.

Time is turning and going to be Ukraine's ally now and Russia needs to sue for peace or lose all the territory it has stolen. Ukraine will be liberated from the now thrice hated Russians.

Go Ukraine!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Good luck with that, SpongeBob

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The west doesn't care about Ukraine. It wants control of Ukraine.

Putin doesn't care about Ukraine. Putin wants control of Ukraine.

An easy fix, really easy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Mr Putin, the 21st century Josep Stalin, is the Butcher of Ukraine!

0 ( +3 / -3 )


Putin wants control of Ukraine.

Almost correct.... I'll fix it for you..

Putin wants control of some parts of Ukraine.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Well, Putin's bulldog Lavrov finally admitted they want to remove the Ukrainian government (despite having denied such notions before).

Russia can't be trusted. They already broke the grain agreement by shelling Odessa.

They want to remove Ukraine from the maps, remove Ukrainian history, culture, language and all what remains to remember Putin of his biggest mistake in history.

I think it is about time to set things right - UN, NATO, whoever. No tyrant should be allowed to do as he pleases.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I think it is about time to set things right - UN, NATO, whoever. No tyrant should be allowed to do as he pleases.

You mean except for the US don't you?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

They want it all back and maybe some more, geographically from Portugal to Alaska. And they also announced it the one way or other and on several occasions. And yes, time will tell if they succeed or not, if they make it through history, or the West or even someone else, if already on the radar like China or someone else arising, who knows. Putin and also we all will long have gone at the end of that flowing ever changing developments. Someone else in the future will evaluate who in 2022 was true with announcing and predictions and who was not.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What's ridiculous is the comments by people that think Putin is losing his special operation.

I wish that he was

Obviously he's not !

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is not going particularly well for him, with very little recent progress. If you believe the reports from the Institute for the Study of War:

"Russian troops are being forced to engage in various HIMARS mitigation tactics on the battlefield, including camouflage measures and constantly changing the location of equipment groupings.[10] These mitigation tactics are impeding Russian forces from conducting the massive artillery barrages that they have widely employed over the course of the war, as evidenced by NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data that shows consistently fewer observed heat anomalies over the frontline in Donbas since the introduction of HIMARS to Ukraine." Source:

What's ridiculous is the comments by people that think Putin is losing his special operation.

I wish that he was

Obviously he's not !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The Russian economy is doing just fine, No McDonalds is not the end of the world for them, maybe in the US, but not there.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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