Recommended Reading on the Russo-Ukrainian War

Russia may be in for a long war, but few experts believe Vladimir Putin will fall.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its fourth week. Russian forces have made limited headway, according to Western assessments. Russia has failed to take major Ukrainian cities and is instead shelling them from a distance, causing enormous destruction to property and unknown casualties.

In Mariupol alone, which has been surrounded by Russians attacking from Crimea in the west and the Russian puppet republic of Donetsk in the north, officials report 2,500 dead.

More than three million Ukrainians, out of 44 million, have left the country, according to the UN. Almost two million fled to Poland.

Chernihiv, close to the border with Belarus, has been without electricity, heat and water for almost three weeks. Suburbs of Kiev were cut off from heat and water this week.

Russian forces have progressed farthest in the agricultural Kherson Oblast in the south, reaching the east bank of the Dnieper River that cuts Ukraine in half.

Here are the most insightful takes on the war I’ve read this week. Click here for my previous recommendations.

Headed for defeat

Francis Fukuyama is the most optimistic, writing:

  • Russia is headed for defeat.
  • Vladimir Putin will not survive defeat.
  • Joe Biden was wise to refuse a no-fly zone, which would do little against Russian artillery but risk a NATO-Russia war.
  • Putinists — Jair Bolsonaro, Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump, Éric Zemmour — have been discredited.
  • China should be less likely to attempt an invasion of Taiwan.
  • Victory for Ukraine could usher in a new springtime of democracy.

Anders Åslund, a Swedish economist who wrote Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy (2019), is hopeful sanctions will cause Putin to lose popular support. He argues the Western embargo is equivalent to the sanctions imposed on Iran, and he expects labor and social unrest as the Russian economy collapses.

Don’t count on a coup

Others aren’t so sure.

David Petraeus, the former American military commander in Iraq, told CNN Russia underestimated the resolve of Ukraine’s leaders and armed forces, and did not prepare for a long war. But he also believes the most likely near-term outcome is a bloody quagmire.

Anatol Lieven, who reported from Russia for The Times of London in the 1990s, pours cold water on hopes that the men around Putin will stop or topple him, writing for the Financial Times (article available to non-subscribers) that they share his worldview.

Zack Beauchamp asked experts about the odds of a military coup or popular uprising against Putin for Vox and came away no more convinced.

EU defense

Dutch readers may be interested in my story for Wynia’s Week about how Europe is deepening defense cooperation to meet the Russian threat. There won’t be an “EU army”, but countries can do more to harmonize equipment and procedures, share resources and jointly procure new (European-made) weapons.

One comment

  1. Fukuyama’s analyse neigt aan wensdenken. De Amerikaanse IR onderzoeker Richard Hanania is een stuk soberder:

    Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the West can sanction its way to a desirable outcome in Ukraine. In the end, the results of the war will be determined by negotiations, the terms of which will for the most part reflect battlefield realities. Economic pressure may also have a role to play, but there is nothing to suggest that it can be relied on to make Russia abandon its core national security interests, which at the very least include a no-NATO commitment, the acceptance of the secession of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the recognition of the annexation of Crimea. Russia recently said that if Ukraine can accept those conditions, the war could stop “in a moment.”

Comments are automatically closed after one year.