Putin addresses the Federal Assembly on Feb. 21. Sergei Savostyanov / TASS  

Tatiana Stanovaya, Moscow Times: A Fight for Survival: What Victory Looks Like to Putin 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address on Feb. 21 was eagerly anticipated inside Russia, yet it shed no light on the question that is foremost on the minds of the Russian elite and public: how Putin intends to win this war. 

The address had been postponed from last year, prompting speculation that Putin didn’t know what to say amid the lack of victories at the front. It’s more likely, however, that he was just too immersed in his unsuccessful military campaign to find the time. In the end, the address was a mixture of what Putin considered it necessary to say (the geopolitical part about the “crazy” West), and what he is required to say under the constitution (an update on Russia’s socioeconomic situation).  

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WNU Editor: Just as Ukraine President Zelensky has framed the war as a fight for the existence of Ukraine as a nation state, Russian President Putin has done the same thing in Russia…. Russia issues warning about future of Ukraine conflict (RT). 

Bottom line. This is a war that is going to be decided on the battlefield, and the end of it will occur when the losing side agrees to the terms of the other. 

So what does victory look like to Putin? IMHO It has changed since the start of the war last year. 

From what I am hearing, Putin’s current version of victory is the fracturing of Ukraine where some (if not all) of the Russian speaking portions of Ukraine join the Russian Federation. The parts of the country that are dominated by Ukrainian speakers will permitted to exist as Ukraine. A commitment by Ukraine to never enter NATO or any other defense bloc without Moscow’s approval. And the demilitarization of its military. 

Will this happen? I do not know. It all comes down to what will the West do. But I do know that the Kremlin is preparing for a long war that may last for years. To put it into context. The second Chechen war fought with Putin as the Russian President lasted 9 years. The war in eastern Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014. My nightmare scenario sees the Ukraine war grinding on for 3 to 5 years.