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Putin’s Wins and Losses – The New York Times


As winter approached, military analysts expected fighting in Ukraine to slow as the wet, snowy terrain made it too difficult for either Russia or Ukraine to make any major offensive thrusts. Indeed, the territorial lines have remained largely the same since a successful Ukrainian offensive in late summer and fall.

Still, some recent battles have been good for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. But other developments, particularly the pursuit of Western unity in favor of Ukraine, have gone awry for Russia. (Still others are just plain horrific no matter how they affect the outcome of the war, including a Russian strike on civilians in the town of Dnipro over the weekend that killed at least 35 people .) How these developments unfold could help decide the next phase of the war.

Today’s newsletter will look at Putin’s recent victories and defeats and what they mean for Ukraine.

Russia has recorded few battlefield victories since late summer. Instead, losses piled up as Ukraine recaptured territory to the east and south.

But Russian forces recently made gains around the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine and apparently took Soledar, a town on the outskirts of the city. (Ukraine says it is still fighting.)

A victory at Soledar would be more symbolic than strategic, military analysts say. Russia has been starved of victories in recent months, so any kind of success could help sustain support for Putin’s war. But Soledar himself is unlikely to play a major role in taking over Bakhmut or the greater Donbass region, which has been one of Putin’s main targets.

Another success of Putin in recent months is the lack of battlefield casualties. The Russian defenses seem to have held to the east and south. Again, analysts expected the battlefield lines to not move much during the winter. But this was not always guaranteed; Ukraine, for its part, has vowed to continue its offensive push even through the winter months. This did not happen, allowing Russia to hold territory.

“By maintaining its defensive strategy, Russia has prevented a catastrophic cascading collapse – which would be Ukraine’s best hope for a dramatic victory,” said my colleague Julian Barnes, who covers national security for The Times.

At the start of winter, supporters of Ukraine feared that Western unity was starting to break apart. Europeans in particular faced the prospect of a cold winter and soaring energy prices, fueled by sanctions on Russian oil and gas that powered much of the continent.

But with good preparation and a bit of luck, the worst did not happen. European nations have sourced gas from alternative sources, such as the United States, Nigeria and Qatar. And the winter turned out to be relatively warm, allowing Europeans to avoid some of the higher fuel prices, as my colleague Somini Sengupta has written.

Subsequently, Western unity around Ukraine held. On the contrary, it has grown stronger. Western powers are promising Ukrainian tanks and other armored vehicles, dismissing fears that the supply of such weapons will be considered too provocative by Russia. “The debate is not whether to do less but how to do more for Ukraine,” Julian said.

Another bad sign for Putin: he again changed the Russian military leadership in Ukraine. Russia recently replaced General Sergei Surovikin, who also led Russia’s brutal campaign in Syria, with a close Kremlin ally, General Valery Gerasimov. It was the second leadership change in three months, signaling that Putin is unhappy with the way the war is going.

Recent events for the most part paint a mixed picture for Russia and Ukraine.

While Ukraine has fared far better than many analysts expected at the start of the war, it still needs to make major battlefield gains to the east and south to have the hope for a favorable peace agreement. The pursuit of Western unity – and tanks – could help achieve these victories.

But Russia’s recent battlefield victories and leadership changes could also help its military overcome previous Ukrainian momentum. Ukrainian officials have recently warned that Russia is preparing for a new offensive, which could once again penetrate their capital, Kyiv. US officials are less sure that Russia has the ability to mount another major push.

Whichever side pushes first, the battles to come, as wet and snowy conditions recede, will decide who has the advantage.

  • A year after promising a voting rights overhaul, President Biden offered no concrete policy plan in a speech to the black community in Atlanta on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

  • Election deniers in Pennsylvania persuaded county officials to conduct a 2020 recount last week – and didn’t believe the result when it showed almost no change.

  • Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, traveled to the southern border to pressure Biden to send financial aid to the city to respond to an influx of migrants.

  • Global inequality and food crises call into question the relevance of the World Economic Forum, which is taking place this week in Davos, Switzerland.

  • A robbery in Nepal was filmed moments before a crash yesterday that killed at least 68 people.

  • The attack on Brazil’s capital shows just how serious a threat extremism is to Latin America’s largest democracy.

  • Italian police have arrested mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the country’s most wanted fugitives.

  • After a year-long stalemate, police have cleared climate activists who were trying to stop a German village being razed to make way for an open-pit coal mine.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon focuses on the economics of racism that politicians often ignore, Esau McCaulley said.

Cincinnati Survival: Joe Burrow and the Bengals advanced to the AFC Divisional Round after a narrow win over the Ravens. Next stop: Buffalo.

An exclusive club: LeBron James has surpassed 38,000 career points, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in NBA history to reach total points.

A market: The Connecticut Sun sent Jonquel Jones, a former women’s basketball MVP, to the New York Liberty yesterday in a three-team trade.

On Friday nights, a crowd gathers at a nightclub in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to drink, flirt and dance to live rock music. The official name of the party is “Ann Arbor Happy Hour at Live”, but it is also affectionately known as the “Geezer Dance Party”.

That’s because almost the entire crowd is over 65. “I call us the money tsunami,” said Randy Tessier, a 72-year-old lecturer from the University of Michigan who is organizing the event. “We are many and we always want to rock.”

The Gathering is the latest iteration of a musical happy hour that’s been happening since the 1970s, and some regulars have been coming for over 50 years. “It’s the most wonderful thing of my life,” said Maggie Levenstein. “It makes me happy every week.”

nytimes Gt

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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