Putin’s Patience

Is Russia Betting on the West’s Fatigue of War?
Mark Davis
Lionel Laurent
Olivier Knox

Last week, many American analysts and the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, seemed to agree on one thing: Russia is betting on the West’s war fatigue.

A front-page headline in the Washington Post: “Putin Bets on Fatigue in the West;” Newsweek: “Ukraine Fatigue is on the Rise;” Yahoo News: “War Fatigue Undermining West‘s Support for Ukraine;” and, the New York Times asked: “Will the West Stay United Behind Ukraine?”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Zelensky seemed to agree. In statements to Ukrainska Pravda,” he warned that “Putin’s dragging out the war is causing some countries to become tired of the fighting.”

He added that "Everyone really wants to push us little by little towards some result that is definitely undesirable for us. We have not been asked yet, but there are other parties that have their own interests.”

Following are excerpts from three Americans’ opinions, extracted from their tweets, websites and statements to the media:

First, “Ukraine fatigue is on the Rise,” said Mark Davis, host of the Mark Davis Radio Show and author of a book, “Upside Down: How the Left Turned Right into Wrong.”

Second, “Europe at a loss,” said Lionel Laurent, a columnist with Bloomberg, covering Europe.

Third, “No Fatigue for President Biden, Yet,” wrote Olivier Knox, a columnist with the Washington Post.”

MARK DAVIS: “MORE FATIGUE”

“You can feel it in the reduced appetite for hourly updates on troop movements. You can see it in emerging doubts about the heavy sums of American money cobbled together on the fly, with little scrutiny. And you can sense it in a growing mood that we are in for a long struggle of uncertain results …

These are the early stages of Ukraine fatigue, and it has ramifications for America, Europe and the world.

Our once-rapt attention to Russia's invasion now feels more like a passing daily interest, as news reports continue to offer images of the latest Putin atrocity or the most recent act of spirited Ukrainian resistance.

It's not that we have lost our overall wish for Putin to be thwarted in his designs to absorb Ukraine back into Mother Russia; but as the weeks pass, as inspiring as the Ukrainian resistance has been, more Americans are starting to wonder about the cost and duration of our involvement …

This should be a proper environment for principled debate, but that's been made difficult by hot takes from both sides seeking to insult opponents.

Skeptics slam Ukraine aid supporters as ‘endless war’-supporting neocons or opportunistic Democratic hawks looking to give Joe Biden one issue on which he might be able to claim success.

Meanwhile, casting doubt, or even asking questions, about expensive American immersion into this crisis can draw accusations of siding with Putin …

Where does it end?

It's a fair question, and there is no clear answer …”

LIONEL LAURENT: “EUROPE AT A LOSS”

“The momentum behind Western sanctions against Vladimir Putin is flagging. Even as the European Union toasts its toughest restrictions yet against the Russian war machine — including a partial ban on oil imports — concessions are mounting, from exempting pipeline crude to removing Putin’s favorite cleric from the sanctions list …

Hungary’s Viktor Orban, an admirer of Putin, is clearly playing a big role in splintering the united front …

The cost of hitting Putin where it hurts — energy — is preying on many leaders’ minds at a time of high inflation and economic slowdown …

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is keen to keep tightening the screws on Moscow. But she acknowledges everything will get more ‘difficult’ in the future…

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said it was time for a different approach — or a ‘pause.’

A ‘YouGov’ survey found European public opinion somewhat conflicted: More than 30% of respondents in seven countries, including Spain and Italy, advocated investing in trade and diplomacy with Russia, rather than defense and security …

Without light at the end of the economic tunnel, the public mood might turn. If this war drags on and becomes a test of morale.

The West and the EU have the advantage in terms of resources and human capital. But that comes with a need to protect the most vulnerable in society...

The ‘financial weapon’ is an imperfect tool that is prone to patchy enforcement and unintended consequences. The unprecedented scale of sanctions against Putin’s inner circle, as well as Russia’s financial system, airlines and trade, will contribute to an estimated 10% decline in Russian gross domestic product this year.

But it has not deterred Putin …”

OLIVIER KNOX: “BIDEN’S FATIGUE NOT YET”

“One of the most remarkable aspects of President Biden’s unequivocal invitation for Sweden and Finland to join NATO is that the Senate ratification vote eventually required to make it happen will be both immensely consequential and probably almost entirely bereft of suspense …

‘They have the full, total, complete backing of the United States,’ Biden said in the Rose Garden, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at his side. ‘Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger,’ he added …

For a nation thought to be tired of war and suspicious of new foreign entanglements, most U.S. leaders and voters seem broadly comfortable with deepening American involvement in Ukraine, with vast bipartisan majorities in Congress siding with the Biden administration.

‘Let me be clear,' Biden declared in the Rose Garden, ‘new members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation. It never has been. NATO’s purpose is to defend against aggression. That’s its purpose: to defend.’

But, perhaps mindful of U.S. worries about NATO allies freeloading off American defense spending, he pitched Sweden and Finland more as friends indeed than friends in need. He highlighted their ‘strong democratic institutions, strong militaries, and strong and transparent economies, and a strong moral sense of what is right.’

Barring a seismic shift, lawmakers will sign off, committing in effect to spill American blood and spend American treasure if either Stockholm or Helsinki invokes the Article 5 mutual-defense provision that designates an attack on one alliance member as an attack on all of them.

But it’s a sign of the geopolitical realignment Russian President Vladimir Putin ushered in with the war he unleashed …”


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