ISSN 2330-717X

Putin Failed To Achieve His Three Goals In Ukraine – OpEd


Moscow’s open movement of forces toward the Ukrainian border this spring was intended to achieve three goals, but because it was never intended as the beginning of a thrust that would lead to a major war between Russia and the West, Vladimir Putin failed to achieve any of his three goals regarding Ukraine this time around, Jerzy Targalski says.  

In 2014, Putin used stealth to advance Russian forces toward and into Ukrainian territory; but this time, the Polish defense analyst says, he flaunted what he was doing in the expectation that such a display of force would be sufficient to achieve his goals. It wasn’t and he didn’t (,Политолог-об-эскалации-ситуации-на-границе-с-Украиной-Путин-проиграл-на-всех-фронтах).

First of all, Putin wanted to use his actions as a test of the new US president and to find out whether Joe Biden would support Ukraine or cave. Washington didn’t cave. In fact, Biden’s proposal for a meeting with Putin, while the Kremlin leader may have welcomed it at one level, worked very much against Russia’s plans.

It significantly strengthened the position of Ukraine, Targalski says, because it meant that talks about Ukraine were going to involve the US and the UK facing off against Russia rather than France and Germany who would likely be more willing to compromise with whatever Moscow wants.

Second, Putin wanted to force Kyiv to agree to the Steinmeyer plan for elections in the Donbass. Such elections, in which Russian citizens would vote and the OSCE would supervise, would in Putin’s plan lead to the reincorporation of the Donbass into Ukraine but as an entity more loyal to and controlled by Moscow.

That would have weakened Ukraine beyond recognition. And because his bluff didn’t work and the Americans didn’t back down, Kyiv continues to refuse to consider such an arrangement, a second defeat for the Kremlin in this round, the Polish security and defense analyst continues.

And third, Putin had as his goal the sowing of fear and panic among Ukrainians in the hope that they would force Kyiv to accept Moscow’s conditions in order to avoid a major war. But buoyed by Western support, the Ukrainians organized to resist so that Putin and his associates would know that any invasion would cost him dearly.

“I consider,” Tagalski says, “that Putin lost on all three fronts.” Had Putin been prepared for a major war, he might have been willing to pay such a price. But it is clear that he “does not intend to set off a full-scale war now.” Hence when his bluff failed, he pulled back, yet another defeat but not one he planned for.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

4 thoughts on “Putin Failed To Achieve His Three Goals In Ukraine – OpEd

  • May 4, 2021 at 2:36 am

    I think your article was exactly correct. I think Joe Biden has bigger balls then Putin cares for .

  • May 4, 2021 at 5:33 am

    Forgot to mention:
    (1) 300 million military aid to Ukraine moving through Congress, and
    (2) Decision in Ukraine to properly train & arm 150,000 people who volunteered to serve in the Territorial Defense Force which will now be under the Ministry of Defense.
    Ukrainian Armed Forces: 250,000 active duty + 80,000 reserves with combat experience + 150,000 territorial defense.
    Russian forces facing Ukraine: 150,000 Russians + 50,000 “Russian backed-separatists” who have yet to win a battle.
    Oh, and then there is Belarus ready to blow up, thousands of Russians protesting in the streets, and Turkey selling battle tested tank-killing drones to Ukraine.
    Alternate interpretation: Putin chickened out.

  • May 6, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    What this article is saying, basically, is that the buildup of Russian troops was just a bluff. I totally disagree. It was, and still is, Putin’s intent, to control the water supply for Crimea. If he does not secure that water supply this year, before the growing season is fully under way, then Crimea will suffer immeasurably. Already, Crimea’s two major cities are under water rationing. Another dry year, and Crimea will be worse than a desert. That will make Putin look totally foolish, that he did not consider the potential for Ukraine to shut off the taps to Crimea, after his invasion in 2014. Putin’s ego is too big to allow that kind of smack in the face. You can count on Putin trying again to take over the water supply to Crimea. It will happen after Nordstream 2 is finished, at the latest.

  • May 6, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    Ukraine should finally accept, and be happy, to let Crimea and Donbas go. The ethnic, linguistic and political composition of the country has changed decisively in favor of the Ukrainians, and they should let it stay that way.

    Thanks to Putin’s actions, Russia has lost Ukraine forever.

    Now the Ukrainians can twist the blackmailing tool out of Putin’s hands by just recognizing the Donbas “republics” and the annexation of Crimea. Then, NATO membership would be next.


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