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The War for the West

With Vladimir Putin betting that Western democracies' support for Ukraine will continue to wane, much hinges on major elections this year, from the European Parliament elections in June to the US presidential contest in November. While broader global forces matter, political leadership is the variable to watch.

Sławomir Sierakowski: As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, few now believe that Russia can be defeated. What fate do you see in store for Ukraine?

Ivan Krastev: I think your question is too gloomy. The events of the last two years amount to a clear strategic failure for Russian President Vladimir Putin. When he launched his “special operation,” he assumed that Ukraine would fall in three days.

Still, Putin did succeed in convincing a majority of Russians that they are in an endless war against the West, one that Russia did not start.

SS: Why is this important?

IK: It means that no one in Russia blames Putin for losing, even though he didn’t achieve what he intended. Together with his success at normalizing the war in terms of Russians’ daily lives – the standard of living is not declining (at least economically) – this allows him to play a long game.