Ukraine’s latest victories indicate that Vladimir Putin is weakened. But the further course of the war is not foreseeable, which is why the American approach is reasonable.
Simulating the rule of law as Putin can do in the Russian parliament does not change the fact that eventually, the military balance of power will decide whether he can incorporate the four regions he has claimed to be permanently a part of the Russian state. The fact that the Ukrainian army succeeded in gaining some important territory in both the east and south over the weekend indicates that it has used the summer for training.
The process still lies ahead of Russia. It may take some time until Putin’s emergency mobilization at the front takes effect. And one of his main problems will remain, and through conscription, may even grow: the low morale of the Russian troops.
No Short-range Missiles for Kyiv
Despite this, the U.S. defense secretary is right when he says that the future course of the war is hard to predict. Putin is visibly weakened but not significantly enough that he (or anyone in his position) would have to concede. In view of this situation, it seems that no one in Washington wants to change their strategy.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin showed no sign this weekend that he is willing to supply the Ukrainians with the ballistic missiles that they currently want. For the time being, the U.S. government is sticking to its approach of steadily, yet carefully, increasing pressure on Putin so that the war does not spread to NATO.
This way, Biden is continuing a course for the Europeans that some hotheads in Berlin may not like. He is, however, being reasonable, and a lot is at stake.
That also applies to the question of Ukraine joining NATO. As long as the war continues, it is out of the question because the Alliance would then have to fight alongside their new ally. The nine eastern member states who joined Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s unrealistic request with an address of solidarity also know that. Isn’t it enough that Putin is trying to stir up disagreement in the Alliance?