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ISW: Western officials should not overstate Russia's failures in Ukraine

by Abbey Fenbert December 23, 2023 5:06 AM 2 min read
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the State Department on Dec. 20, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Western officials should be wary of public comments that suggest Russia has already been defeated in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in its Dec. 22 report.

In recent days, high-ranking Western officials have made public comments emphasizing Russia's strategic failures in Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Dec. 22 that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin "has lost Ukraine altogether." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made similar comments on Dec. 20, saying Russia has already failed to meet its key aim of conquering Ukraine.

As military aid to Ukraine stalls and the country girds itself for a difficult winter at war, these comments may suggest that Western support for Ukraine is not urgently needed, the ISW warns.

"Russian information space actors will likely continue to exploit Western statements regarding the failure of Russian operations in 2023 and falsely frame such statements as indicators that Western leaders intend to stop supporting Ukraine," analysts said.

The report pointed out that Vadym Skibitskyi, a representative of Ukraine's Military Intelligence (HUR), rejected the idea that Russia has already lost the war.

"Putin's goals ... have not been achieved either in 2022 or 2023. He is simply postponing them to the next year," Skibitskyi said.

The ISW agreed with Skibitskyi's assessment that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will continue to pursue his military objectives despite enormous losses.

"[T]he current failure of Russian operations in Ukraine thus far is not a permanent condition," the ISW said.

The ISW wrote on Dec. 17 that Putin believes a full Ukrainian surrender is still possible and that Western support is wavering. Putin himself reaffirmed his maximalist ambitions in a news conference on Dec. 14.  

"There will be peace when we achieve our goals," he said.

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