With Russian troops yet to take Kiev and Kharkiv thanks to NATO weaponry and intelligence aiding Ukrainian defenses, Putin has decided to change his aims in Ukraine.
Although there was much speculation that the original intent of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was all about regime change in Kiev, what is apparent now is that Russia has decided to only focus on the Donbass in the east. By refocusing his army on taking over the rest of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, Putin appears to aiming for a face saving victory.
“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which … makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass,” said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate.
From the beginning the idea of taking and holding Kiev felt detached from reality, but the Donbass has always been in his reach. Currently the main focus of the Russian army is switching to finally taking over Mariupol, a strategic port city. If Mariupol falls then Russia will be able to connect Crimea directly to Russia.
At the same time Russia is trying to pivot to a smaller victory, NATO continues to ratchet up the rhetoric. Biden was in Poland for a NATO conference, where he called Putin a butcher and advocated for regime change. With Russia attempting to wind things down, NATO has quickly found itself in need of a far more expansive war.