They planned to take Kyiv in three days, the rest of Ukraine in six weeks.
More than 21 months later, Russian forces have withdrawn from half the territory they occupied in February of last year. At least 88,000 Russian soldiers are likely dead—a conservative estimate—and at least twice as many have been wounded. Billions of dollars worth of equipment, Russian tanks, planes, artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles, and warships have been destroyed. If you had predicted this outcome before the war—and nobody did—it would have seemed fanciful. No one would have believed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a professional comedian, could lead a country at war, that the democratic world would be united enough to help him, or that Russian President Vladimir Putin would endure such a humiliation.
Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union have achieved something remarkable: Working together, they have not only preserved the Ukrainian state, but stood up to a bully whose nihilism harms the entire world. Putin backs far-right and extremist movements in Europe, provides thugs to support African dictatorships, and colludes with China, Iran, Venezuela, and other autocracies. From the beginning, Putin hoped the war would demonstrate that American power and American alliances can be defeated, not only in Ukraine but everywhere else. He still does, and for this purpose the war remains useful to him. [Continue reading…]