August 10, 2022

The United States, its Western allies, and even private companies have been imposing severe economic sanctions and other penalties on Russia for nearly three weeks over the invasion of Ukraine — yet so far there has been no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is reconsidering his decision to attack his western neighbor.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to acknowledge that the West has resorted to simply watching and waiting on Putin’s next move. 

“What we’re looking at is whether or not President Putin will decide to try to finally cut the losses that he’s inflicted on himself and inflicted on the Russian people,” he said. “We can’t decide that for him.”

Against all expectations, Ukrainian forces have put up fierce resistance during the 16 days of fighting, enduring hundreds of missile strikes and thousands of casualties while losing just one major city — Kherson, in the south.

Western leaders are watching and waiting to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue his brutal war in Ukraine.
EMRE CAYLAK/AFP via Getty Images
Ukraine War
Many fear the war in Ukraine is only going to get worse.
EMRE CAYLAK/AFP via Getty Images
Mass grave Ukraine
The Ukrainian people have suffered thousands of casualties in this war.
AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

But a State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Post on Friday that the Biden administration fears the invasion “could go on for some time” as Putin throws more men and materiel into the fight.

Get the latest updates in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with The Post’s live coverage.

“Whether it takes a week, a month, or a year to play out, we believe the people of Ukraine will prevail,” the person said. “Putin can’t impose his will on 45 million Ukrainian citizens.

“We want this to end as quickly as possible, with Ukraine having its independence, territorial integrity, and its sovereignty, but we have to be prepared that that may take some time,” they added.

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Fleeing Ukrainians
Western leaders are optimistic Ukraine will prevail, but fear the war can go on for a long time.
REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Many fear that the bloodshed will get even worse in the coming weeks, with Putin potentially spreading the conflict further into Europe or even unleashing chemical and biological weapons to assist his bogged-down forces.

During a congressional hearing this week, CIA Director William Burns predicted the next few weeks will be “ugly,” suggesting Russia would redouble its efforts “with scant regard for civilian casualties, in which urban fighting can get even uglier.” 

In order to lessen the possibility of a push further west by Moscow, former EU ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Usackas wrote that “only the threat of force” will stop Putin.

“NATO must provide more substantial assistance to Ukrainian forces and project a permanent military presence into the Baltics,” Usackas, a former Lithuanian foreign minister, wrote in Time magazine this week.

“While we appreciate assurances of support, what we need are American boots on the ground and NATO defense posture in place,” he said. “That is what Putin understands, and the stakes could not be higher.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Western nations to join in his country’s fight against Russia, either through sending volunteer fighters or enforcing no-fly zones. NATO and the US have resisted the latter move, viewing it as a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

Instead, the US has continued to build up its military presence in NATO nations bordering Ukraine, like Poland and Romania, in an effort to show unity. 

The US will keep supplying Ukraine with support and “work closely with our allies and partners to impose further costs to Putin and his enablers as appropriate if Putin does not change course,” the State Department spokesperson said.

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A diplomatic solution to the Ukraine war is hoped for, but talks have not rendered any progress.
Ian Langsdon/Pool via REUTERS

Bill Browder, co-founder of Russian-focused hedge firm Hermitage Capital, warned last week that Western sanctions alone would not scare Putin off Ukraine.

“The only way we can stop him is to starve him of resources,” Browder told Barrons. “That means completely cutting him off financially, freezing his personal assets, those of his oligarchs, and getting companies to stop doing business in Russia.”

However, at least one administration official believes that internal pressure would be more effective at getting Putin to fold.

“The way this conflict will end is when Putin realizes that this adventure has put his own leadership standing at risk with his own military, with his own people,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday. “He will have to change course or the Russian people take matters into their own hands.”

Others have agreed that Putin will need to be sidelined in order for the violence to stop. 

Ukraine war map
A map of Russian advances in Kyiv as of Friday, March, 11, 2022.

“I can’t see this ending in any way good for Ukraine as long as Putin is in power,” retired US diplomat and former ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly told the Associated Press. 

“He’s put out his maximalist goal, which is basically surrender, and that’s something the Ukrainians aren’t going to be able to accept and the Russians are not going to be able to implement.”

“Withdrawal for him is death. It’s too weak,” Kelly added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) offered up a more drastic solution last week — having someone inside the Russian government assassinate Putin. 

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“If [Putin] continues to be their leader, then he’s going to make you complicit with war crimes,” Graham told Fox News March 4. “You’re a good people, you’ll never have a future, you’ll be isolated from the world, and you’ll live in abject poverty.

“So I’m hoping somebody in Russia will understand that he’s destroying Russia, and you need to take this guy out by any means possible.”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Graham’s proposal, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying it was “not the position of the United States government. And certainly not a statement you’d hear from — come from the mouth of anybody working in this administration.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said that internal pressure would be most effective at getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.
Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Some still hold out hope for a diplomatic resolution. However, no progress has been made between Ukrainian and Russian officials who have met several times over the past two weeks. 

On Thursday, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dymtro Kuleba met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey to discuss a potential ceasefire.

However, Lavrov only came “to talk, not to decide,” Kuleba wrote in a tweet following the meeting. 

“Until the Russians are ready to negotiate something serious and real, there’s not much you can do,” Jeff Ratke, a European expert and president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told AP.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden’s White House distanced itself from a comment made by Sen. Lindsey Graham calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assassination.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Ratke added one point on which most observers seem to agree: “Nobody knows how this is going to end.” 

With Post wires