This week, NATO’s general secretary Jens Stoltenberg told the Guardian that the West buckle itself in for the long haul as he believes Vladimir Putin is embarking on a “war of attrition”. As Russia ploughs on in an attempt to win new ground in eastern and southern Ukraine, all that has been achieved is bloodshed. How long is left of Putin and the war is often interlinked, but this is one of the world’s “imponderable questions”, Professor Mark Galeotti told Express.co.uk. But the political scientist and historian said that as the war continues, the 70-year-old leader’s regime only continues to become more precarious.
Professor Galeotti, who penned the book We Need to Talk About Putin in 2019, believes the Russian leader’s time in office is far from drawing to a close.
He said: “Sadly, I think he’s going to be around for some time. All I do think is that this war and his rather foolish decisions around it are making his regime a lot more brittle.”
The war has not been the short campaign to victory Putin is said to have envisioned. The war has raged on for more than a year with there now being reports that a second mobilisation is on the way.
According to US and European officials, more than 200,000 of Russia’s armed forces are dead or injured.
The strength of Ukraine’s forces caught Russia by surprise meaning Moscow has been forced to resort to using private military companies and arms from other states over the past year.
Professor Galeotti continued: “It looks still very tough but it’s that much less flexible, less able to cope with crises. The point is that one of the guaranteed things in politics is you’ll be confronted with the unexpected at some point.
“When that happens I think that Putin and Putin’s regime will be that much less able to deal with it. I have no idea if that’s going to be in a month, or in a year, or a decade’s time.”
Similarly, Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence Service found that Putin’s regime is “simultaneously the strongest and the weakest it has ever been” with there seemingly being no viable alternative leader.
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Experts believe Putin is now biding his time, hoping that he can simply outlast Ukraine and the West.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor, director of the transatlantic security programme at the Center for a New American Security, and Erica Frantz, associate professor at Michigan State University, believe that Putin will also continue the war because it is in his “personal interest”.
Writing for Foreign Affairs magazine, they said the dynamics created by wars make it “more difficult to orchestrate a dictator’s removal”.
Not only this but the Kremlin has also cracked down on independent media and opposition within Russia. Citizens now face ten years in prison if they speak out against the conflict, “mitigating the risk of the kind of mass protest that can unseat leaders”.
While Putin may have long left, the repercussions of his actions will be felt for years to come, experts believe.
Robert M. Gates, former US secretary of defense, told the Washington Post that the war has weakened the country for years to come.
Speaking in February, he said: “Whether or not the Russians are defeated, Russia at this point has been significantly weakened for a long time to come.
“The hundreds of thousands of young men who have fled the country, many of them in tech, many of them entrepreneurial not wanting to fight and be killed in Ukraine, that’s the loss of a huge resource for Russia… Putin has significantly weakened Russia, probably for a generation to come.”