Putin Throwing Away Two Decades of Success in Ukraine War: Former Diplomat

Russian President Vladimir Putin is throwing away two decades of success with the Ukraine war, according to Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

McFaul’s remarks come more than 10 months after the Russian leader launched the invasion of Ukraine. Putin hoped for a quick victory over his Eastern European neighbor, but Kyiv responded with a stronger-than-expected defense effort, further bolstered by Western humanitarian and military aid.

Despite its vast ranks, Russia’s military has struggled to achieve substantial goals in Ukraine, whose troops reclaimed thousands of square miles of formerly occupied territory throughout the fall. Now, Putin is reportedly facing internal pressure to change the course of the war amid mounting losses, even as many Russians continue to support the war.

McFaul, who served as the United States’ ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, tweeted on Saturday that the war may be taking a toll on Putin’s legacy as a leader.

Putin throwing away two decades success: McFaul
Russian President Vladimir Putin, inset, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. McFaul on Saturday said Putin is throwing away two decades of accomplishments with the Ukraine war.
Alex Wong/Getty Images; Contributor/Getty Images

He pointed to several areas in which Putin saw success throughout his presidential tenure, including strengthening Moscow’s economy and previous military successes, that now threaten to be tarnished by a potential failure in Ukraine.

“Putin (tragically, in my view) had a good couple of decades. He strengthen his grip at home, generated economic growth, earned some respect abroad & won 4 wars — Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine (2014) and Syria. In 2022, he overreached in Ukraine, throwing away 2 decades of success,” he tweeted.

Putin first became president of Russia in 2000, serving for eight years. He again rose to the position in 2012, where he has served ever since. His rule has been marked by Russia’s growing influence in international politics. Putin, has in fact, seen some victories, including a previous win against Ukraine in 2014 that resulted in the annexation of Crimea.

As losses pile up in the ongoing war, some experts say Ukraine could even retake Crimea, essentially undoing one of Putin’s key accomplishments. The war has also taken a toll on Moscow’s economy, which has been hit hard by Western sanctions. His approval among Russians has dropped throughout the war, as well.

McFaul’s remarks followed Putin’s New Year’s Eve address, in which he continued condemning the West for providing support to Ukraine, but expressed optimism for Russia’s future, despite mounting setbacks.

“We have always known, and today we are again convinced that the sovereign, independent, secure future of Russia depends only on us, on our strength and will!” the Russian leader said.

Russia’s Military Losses Could Continue Into New Year

Putin’s military faced several losses in recent months, losing territory and suffering from low morale despite efforts from officials to boost the number of troops fighting in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has suggested that almost 106,000 Russian soldiers died in combat throughout the 10-month conflict, though other estimates suggest the number could be lower. Newsweek can not independently verify this number.

Ukraine has also suggested that Russia, which has turned to attacking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure amid battlefield defeats, could be gearing up to launch another offensive early next year. However, experts have been skeptical that Putin will be able to turn the war around and lead his military to victory.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

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