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Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

ISW told how the West can disrupt Putin's plan to continue the war against Ukraine

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is delusional about his "victory" in the war against Ukraine and remains committed to the destruction of Ukrainian statehood and identity. Hoping that his troops will be able to gradually advance on the front, he will indefinitely delay hostilities, which will only strengthen his commitment to this goal.

Therefore, the West must hurry to provide Kyiv with the support it needs to conduct counteroffensive operations by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to refute the Russian president's "theory of victory" and avoid dragging out the war longer than necessary to secure peace acceptable to Ukraine and its partners. These key factors were pointed out by analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Putin hopes for a protracted war

The Kremlin leader has formulated a "theory of victory," which assumes that Russian troops will be able to continue their gradual offensive in Ukraine indefinitely, prevent the Ukrainian Armed Forces from launching successful, operationally significant counteroffensive, and "win a war of attrition" against Ukrainian forces. The command of the occupiers is now prioritizing successive attacks that provide gradual tactical gains, rather than a small-scale offensive operation that would aim to achieve operationally significant successes through rapid maneuver.

"Putin and the Russian military commanders likely view creeping offensives as a more assured way to achieve success in Ukraine than larger mobile offensives, and appear to accept that Russian forces may have to pursue individual operationally significant targets for many months if not years," ISW suggested.

Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

They reminded how the Russian dictator recently demanded that Ukraine "cede" all the temporarily occupied territories of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions, as well as part of these four regions that Ukraine currently controls.

Therefore, analysts believe that the protracted war only favors Putin's calculations, who believes that Russia will be able to hold any captured position and that Russian troops are more likely to achieve their current territorial goals the longer the fighting continues.

"Putin and the Kremlin have deliberately set no limits to their goals of conquest in Ukraine and have repeatedly stated that the territories outside the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions are 'part of the Russian Federation. A protracted war encourages Putin to set new territorial goals as long as he believes that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will be unable to stop his offensive or launch significant counteroffensives," the experts emphasized.

Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

Kremlin has not given up on its goal

According to analysts, the Russian president hopes that the gradual advance of his troops in Ukraine will convince the West that victory "is unattainable for Ukraine and that concessions to its territorial integrity and sovereignty are better than the country's defeat." At the same time, he is currently unwilling to accept anything but Ukraine's complete surrender, as his comments and demands constantly show. Any negotiated ceasefire agreement will be viewed by the dictator as a mechanism that allows his aggressor country to prepare for the resumption of offensive operations in the future to achieve its overall goals.

"A negotiated ceasefire agreement that further sets a precedent for violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, in addition to the precedent already set by the Minsk agreements after the seizure of Crimea and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in 2014, will strengthen Russia's position to achieve the complete eradication of Ukrainian statehood," ISW said.

Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

It added that this would provide Russia with a breathing space in the war to rebuild and expand its forces, as well as to further mobilize its military-industrial base for future aggression. Putin and the Russian military commanders hope that the ceasefire will allow them to begin the next phase of the war with an army capable of achieving significant operational success. Putin himself is not interested in a ceasefire, as he seems to continue to believe that he can achieve his goals by force. If the Kremlin leader does make some kind of agreement on this issue (on his terms), it "will be tantamount to the surrender of Ukraine and the West."

"None of these options are consistent with the survival of an independent Ukrainian state or the Ukrainian people, nor are they compatible with NATO's vital security interests," the ISW emphasized.

Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

What the West can do

Experts believe that Ukraine's partners can help it reduce Putin's willingness to continue waging an endless war to destroy the country by helping it conduct significant counteroffensive operations. The kind that would not only liberate Ukrainian territories but also disprove the dictator's assumption that "Russia can achieve Ukraine by force."

Putin's current theory of victory relies on Russia's ability to survive and overcome the security assistance promised to Ukraine by the West, as well as Kyiv's efforts to mobilize most of its economy and population for the war effort. The Kremlin leader and the command of his occupation army increasingly view maintaining the initiative on the entire front as a strategic imperative. They will continue to use this initiative to try to force Ukraine to commit manpower and equipment to ongoing defense operations and to prevent the Ukrainian Armed Forces from accumulating the manpower and resources necessary to challenge this initiative.

Putin is betting on dragging out the war in Ukraine, but the West can thwart his plan: ISW names key factors

"Putin's theory of victory is based on the assessment that Ukraine cannot liberate operationally important territory. But Russia's gradual offensive will have no operational significance if Ukraine can reverse these gains more quickly when it regains the initiative on the battlefield," the analysts said.

They say that it is unlikely that Putin will change his assessment of the possibility of destroying Ukraine without significant Russian losses. Therefore, Western security assistance and efforts to build a defense force that allows Kyiv to challenge this initiative are crucial to changing the Russian dictator's calculations.

"Western assistance that provides Ukrainian forces with the necessary equipment and weapons on the scale, timing, and regularity they need to operate to liberate significant territory remains the only likely way to reduce Putin's current commitment to destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity, regardless of the time or cost," the ISW concluded.

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