Confident Putin vows victory in Ukraine


President Vladimir Putin voiced renewed confidence yesterday in Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, as he staged a marathon press conference a week after announcing plans to stay in the Kremlin until at least 2030.

Looking relaxed and bolstered by Kiev’s recent struggles on the battlefield, the 71-year-old Russian leader brushed off nearly two years of Western sanctions and reaffirmed his maximalist goals in Ukraine.

“There will be peace when we achieve our goals,” Putin said, speaking at his first end-of-year press conference since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

“They are not changing. I will remind you what we talked about: The de-nazification and de-militarization of Ukraine, and its neutral status,” Putin said, adding that Russian forces were “improving their position on almost the entire line of contact.”

Putin’s nationally televised appearance came at one of the lowest points for Ukraine of the entire campaign.

Its summer counteroffensive petered out without making much progress and its Western support is fraying due to growing fatigue amid some U.S. lawmakers in Washington and frictions within the European Union.

Putin appeared to point to these, stressing that nearly two years of Western sanctions and international isolation had done little to hurt Russia’s economy or morale.

“There is enough for us not only to feel confident, but to move forward,” Putin said.

The echoes of Russia’s military operation reverberated in the grand hall in central Moscow where hundreds of journalists passed four police checkpoints to hear Putin speak.

Putin’s choreographed call-in show was canceled last year as Moscow reeled from the shock of early failures of its military operation, where Ukraine managed to repel the Kremlin’s assault on Kiev and then regain territory in the east and south.

Ukraine’s strong resistance and support from its allies had surprised observers around the world and in Moscow, where many had expected to conquer Kiev in a few days.

But almost two years into his offensive, Putin appears to be sensing the tide turning in his favor.

Russia’s military resurgence prompted NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to warn yesterday that Putin could attack other countries if Western military support for Kiev fades.

“If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is real risk that his aggression will not end there,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

“Our support is not charity, it is an investment in our security,” he said.

Putin was bolstered also by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit this week to Washington, where he failed to overcome Republican opposition in Congress to approving a new $60-billion aid package.

Moscow, meanwhile, is still able to sustain its military effort through oil sales, which Putin discussed during a trip this month to the UAE and Saudi Arabia where he was received with full honors.

In any case, Putin’s reelection campaign, which he launched last week, is unlikely to be forced to address the real economic and human costs of the offensive.

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