December 7, 2022

Institute for the Study of War: Putin compares himself to Peter the Great, indicating a long war ahead

Institute for the Study of War

Russian President Vladimir Putin is setting conditions for a protracted war of conquest in Ukraine. During a meeting with the Russian Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC), Putin remarked that the “special operation” in Ukraine can be a “lengthy process” and that the acquisition of new territory is a significant result of this process for Russia. Putin compared himself favorably with Russian Tsar Peter the Great by noting that Russia now controls the Sea of Azov, which Peter the Great also fought for. This invocation of Russian imperial history explicitly frames Putin’s current goals in Ukraine as overtly imperialistic and still maximalist. Putin is conditioning Russian domestic audiences to expect a protracted, grinding war in Ukraine that continues to seek the conquest of additional Ukrainian territory.

The Russian information space responded positively to Putin’s assertions and set further conditions for the protraction of the war, with one milblogger comparing Ukraine to Syria and noting that Russian forces did not start meaningfully experiencing victories on the battlefield until years into the operation. ISW has previously observed that the Kremlin has been setting information conditions for the protraction of the war in Ukraine since the summer following Russian forces’ dismal failures to secure and retain their primary objectives. This informational conditioning is fundamentally incompatible with any discussions regarding a ceasefire or negotiations. Putin seems unwilling to risk losing domestic momentum by halting his offensive operations even briefly, let alone to pursue an off-ramp short of his full objectives, which, as he is making increasingly clear, appear to include the reconstitution of the Russian Empire in some form.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is setting conditions for a protracted war of conquest in Ukraine.
  • Putin is using Russia’s Human Rights Council to consolidate power while rejecting principles of international human rights law.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made comments supporting ISW’s previous assessments that an operational pause in the winter of 2022-2023 would favor Russia.
  • Russian forces used Shahed-136 drones in Ukraine for the first time in three weeks.
  • Russian efforts to pressure Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine may be causing friction in the Belarusian military.
  • Russian forces are likely increasing the pace of their counterattacks in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City areas.
  • Russian forces continued defensive operations and the reorientation of their forces in eastern Kherson Oblast.
  • Independent Russian media sources indicated that mobilization efforts will continue despite statements from Russian officials to the contrary.
  • Russian occupation authorities are likely transforming Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, into a rear military and logistics base for Russian forces.

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