In a war like this one, what does winning even look like?
That’s a question Russian President Vladimir Putin will have to answer, at least implicitly, when his country marks one of its biggest and most bombastic patriotic holidays, Victory Day, on Monday — a highly choreographed celebration of Moscow’s military might that awkwardly coincides this year with a smaller neighbor’s improbable defiance in the face of a withering 10-week assault.
“There’s no victory to announce,” said Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at University College London. “So he’ll have to proclaim one all the more loudly.”
The war on Ukraine — the “special military operation,” as the Kremlin dubbed its Feb. 24 invasion — can in no way be said to have gone according to plan. Putin’s armies have killed thousands, flattened once-vibrant cities, sent more than 5.7 million people fleeing into exile and inflicted billions of dollars in damage to Ukraine, a country of 44 million people that became a sovereign nation more than three decades ago when the Soviet Union imploded.