Mar 1, 2022 - News

Putin overestimated his chances, but not poised to back down, experts say

A police officer stands guard at a checkpoint on Feb. 28 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin overestimated his military chances within Ukraine and his support in his own country, a panel of experts from the University of Colorado Boulder argued.

Yes, but: His resolve and the latest developments from the frontlines suggest he has no plans of backing down, they said during a virtual forum Monday evening.

State of play: "Basically [Putin] has made Ukraine the place he never wanted it to be — he's made Ukraine more of a unitary state than he ever thought it could possibly be," said John O'Loughlin, a professor and leading researcher of Ukraine public opinion.

  • 8% of Russians supported sending military forces to battle Ukraine in a December poll cited by Sarah Wilson Sokhey, a political science professor who specializes in Russia. Even if that increases now, "there's reasons to think that it's not at all a popular move."

The big picture: More than 400 people attended the forum in what Tom Zeiler, the university's international affairs program director, called "a sign that we are all concerned, saddened and angered by this war."

Yes, but: The U.S. economic sanctions on Russia won't do enough because the two countries have minimal trade relations, and similar policies from European countries may backfire, said David Bearce, a professor focused on international affairs and monetary policy.

  • "Yes, they impose costs on the sanctioned state, but they also impose a lot of costs on the sanctioning states, in this case Western Europe," he added.
  • Bearce expects Putin to eventually be successful in dethroning the current Ukrainian leadership and installing his own pro-Russian ruler.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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