Many official reports and media accounts speak of heavy Russian casualties in the Ukraine war, both economic and military, especially in terms of the estimated number of Russian army casualties. The New York Times, in a recent report citing U.S. and Western officials, put these losses at nearly 200,000 Russian soldiers. These losses, incurred in only about 11 months, exceed U.S. losses in Afghanistan over two decades by a factor of eight. Other reports have addressed Russia’s economic and strategic losses.
An objective analysis suggests that the losses in their totality, if accurate and despite the severity of the numbers, will not mean much to the Russian side. It is difficult to compare the U.S. and Russia in terms of the impact of battlefield losses on decision-making because the political systems of the two countries differ.
In the West’s relentless drive to break Russia’s will in the Ukraine war, its plans from the beginning have focused on a number of objectives, including the need to defeat Russia. In this context, a number of statements and positions by Western politicians and officials are worth noting.
President of the European Council Charles Michel said in March 2022 that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be defeated, pointing out that this is a matter of security for the future of Europe and the world. Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss said that her strategy was to defeat Putin in Ukraine. Many other Western positions and statements echo the same sentiment.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger advised the West to stop trying to defeat Russian forces in Ukraine. He argued that doing so would have serious consequences for the long-term stability of Europe and warned the West not to give in to the “mood of the moment”—that is, the idea of defeating Russia.
Kissinger argued that the West’s negotiating goal should be a return to the status quo ante before the outbreak of war and recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In my view, much of the motivation of the United States and its NATO allies to defeat, or at least weaken, Russia in the Ukraine war is related to the long-term confrontation with China, which is not far off.
An important part of the struggle for influence and dominance in the coming world order revolves around making headway in wooing Russia, both from China and the West. The West, certain of the failure of efforts to partner with Russia over the past decade, has embraced the idea of weakening Russia, especially after seeing the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to achieve this important goal.
In fact, it seems very difficult to defeat Russia for several reasons. Not only because Putin and the Russian elite firmly and absolutely reject the idea of defeat, but also because even the Western instruments Russia faces in the Ukrainian arena are not sufficient to achieve this goal. Economic measures and sanctions have not had the desired effect either. Western military support for Ukraine does not appear to be sufficient to bring it closer to a complete military victory over Russian forces.
Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the war will be decided in Russia’s favor strategically rather than militarily. That is, Russia’s goals in this conflict will have been achieved: Recognition of Russia’s control over Ukrainian territory and perhaps the neutralization of Ukraine and the prevention of NATO expansion towards Russian borders.
This would be a strategic victory for Russia in the ongoing conflict with the West, regardless of the economic and human losses that might occur on the Russian side. It is also the most likely scenario to occur and will have significant negative implications for the West, not only in terms of possible new strategic positions in the post-Ukraine order, but also in terms of managing the strategic conflict with China, which is watching events in Ukraine very closely.
To put it in a nutshell: A military or strategic victory by Russia would have enormous consequences for the West and especially for Europe. It will help draw a new political map of Europe, both at the level of political parties and blocs and at the level of the cohesion of the European Union itself. It will further lead to a massive erosion of American influence and hegemony.
Salem al-Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst and a former candidate to the UAE’s Federal National Council.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.