Putin’s ‘Deluded’ Ukraine War Approach Shows Autocracies’ Weakness: Expert

Putin’s ‘Deluded’ Ukraine War Approach Shows Autocracies’ Weakness: Expert


Sir Lawrence Freedman, an emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Ukraine is “deluded,” adding that his actions demonstrate the weakness of autocracies.

Putin launched the full-scale invasion on Russia’s Eastern European neighbor nearly six months ago on February 24. The Russian president reportedly believed that his military would quickly take control of large swaths of the country and easily topple the government in Kyiv.

Half a year later, Putin’s forces have made relatively minimal gains and continue to face fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military and its people. The population has largely united in fierce opposition to Moscow’s aggression.

The Russian president’s “approach to the current Ukraine conflict has clearly been deluded. You have to assume he didn’t realize the gamble he was taking. He genuinely thought Ukraine would crumble quite quickly, and it’s hard to know why,” Freedman told The Guardian in comments published in a Sunday article.

Russian President
Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu are seen on Monday in Kubinka, Russia. In comments published by “The Guardian” on Sunday, Sir Lawrence Freedman said that Putin’s strategy in Ukraine has been “deluded.”
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“Even those [foreign] analysts who thought Ukraine’s military might not do well didn’t believe that the Ukrainian people would succumb,” said the professor, who wrote a book called Ukraine and the Art of Strategy in 2019.

Freedman added that autocracies, like Putin’s Russia, are prone to bad decision-making.

“Autocracies don’t have the feedback mechanism, and dig themselves in by believing that the advantage of autocracy is bold and decisive decision-making,” he said. “While in certain circumstances you can tolerate quite a lot of bad decision-making and come out all right, because you have superior numbers, where it is very tight, one poor decision or bit of bad luck can put you out completely.”

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Foreign Ministry for comment.

Contrary to the Kremlin’s reported belief that it would be seen as a saving force by many Ukrainians, analysts have said that Moscow’s assault has turned many previously pro-Russian Ukrainians against Putin’s government. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military forces have shown significant skill at defending their country, giving Moscow a series of embarrassing defeats and setbacks throughout the course of the war.

Russian troops have suffered a massive number of casualties throughout the conflict. Colin Kahl, a U.S. Department of Defense official, estimated earlier this month that Putin’s forces have seen up to 80,000 casualties in under six months. To put that number in perspective, the United States saw less than 2,500 deaths in nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, with less than 21,000 American service members wounded.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, the former commander of NATO’s Allied Command Operations, knocked Russia’s “bad strategy” in Ukraine during a Thursday interview on MSNBC. His remarks came after a segment outlining the design flaws of Russian tanks, which Ukrainians are exploiting in order to destroy them more easily.

“You remember when the flagship of the Black Sea fleet blew up and sank? Killing 500 Russians,” Stavridis said. “That’s a Slava class cruiser. It has dozens of cruise missiles topside around its bridge, if you will. This is like driving around in your car with 5-gallon jugs of gasoline surrounding you in the front seat. What do you think’s gonna happen?”

Ukraine managed to sink Russia’s flagship Moskva guided-missile cruiser, which was carrying 510 crew members, in mid-April. It was seen as a deeply embarrassing loss for the Kremlin as it was the largest Russian warship sunk in combat since World War II.

“Just bad design, bad tactics, bad strategy,” Stavridis said. Although the retired admiral said Russia still has “a lot of fire power and a lot of capability,” he added that Putin’s “hand of cards [is] not enviable at this point.”

Retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling pointed out in a Saturday Twitter thread that Russia’s initial goals in the war were beyond its capabilities.

“Reducing the goals didn’t help. Now, RU’s defending in more places against a growing conventional UA threat & an expanded guerilla war. UKR has transitioned to the offense & can pick where they attack; RU is now on the defense,” Hertling wrote.

Russian officials have attempted to justify their so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine by bizarrely claiming that the country is led by “neo-Nazis” and needs to be “de-Nazified.” They also claim there is a “genocide” of native Russian speakers in the Eastern European country.

In reality, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is a native Russian speaker and Jewish, who had family members die during the Holocaust that was perpetuated by the Nazis during World War II. He was elected with about three-quarters of the vote in 2019, when Ukraine’s prime minister was also Jewish, which would counter Russia’s claims that Ukrainians have adopted a “Nazi” ideology.

Putin has also referenced the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, suggesting that Moscow has a right to Ukraine and other territories that were previously part of its historic territory. Meanwhile, Ukraine is about to celebrate its independence day on Wednesday, marking 21 years since it declared its freedom from the now-defunct Soviet Union.


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