At the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden both insisted this week that they were committed to the fight. Putin prepared Russia for a long war to be waged “step by step,” while the American president said “we will not tire” in the quest to ensure a democratic Ukraine.
And in a news conference in Kyiv on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said he was “certain” his country would win, calling victory inevitable.
But none of the leaders made it clear what an attainable victory might look like, while hitching their legacies to a war with no discernible end.
“Putin is as committed as he’s ever been to his grand victory,” said Eugene Rumer, a former American intelligence officer and the director of the Russia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “Ukrainians are as committed as ever to defeating Putin, even if it will be at a most terrible price.”
Declaring the resolve to fight on, however, is much easier than mustering the resources and support to do so. Ukraine, with a population less than a third that of Russia and an economy devastated by the invasion, is increasingly dependent on Western aid. Russia, facing sanctions and voluminous front-line casualties, depends on close ties and economic cooperation with China, as well as a populace and a ruling elite that remain willing to accept the pain caused by Putin’s war.
On the battlefield, Russia’s winter offensive has so far been underwhelming. Ukraine is widely expected to mount a spring offensive of its own, but is running low on ammunition and, Ukrainian officials say, is desperate for better weaponry. Zelenskyy faces the twin tasks of keeping his country’s morale high and maintaining the resolve of Western allies.
Of all Ukraine’s challenges, the latter is perhaps the most urgent. Having held onto Western support through the winter, when economic upheaval threatened to break the will of European countries making domestic