Possible election of Donald Trump, European dissensions, weaknesses in munitions production… The year 2024 is crucial, from the Russian president’s point of view.
Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, February 6, 2024. (POOL / GAVRIIL GRIGOROV)
Until recently, and for more than twenty years that he has been in power in Russia, Western leaders have often thought they understood Vladimir Putin’s strategy, and defended Moscow’s place as an international partner. Former President George W. Bush thought he had glimpsed a part of “his soul.” Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair believed that
he deserved a place at the “head table”
and Emmanuel Macron had invited him for long hours of discussion in the summer residence of French presidents.
This approach, however, was shattered on February 24, 2022 with the invasion of Ukraine, relegating to a bygone past images like that of the Russian leader all smiles in August 2019, flowers in hand for Brigitte Macron, in Fort de Brégançon, where the heads of the French state rest in the summer.
In the early months of the conflict, the Russian army failed to take major Ukrainian cities in what was supposed to be a lightning offensive that winter.
But the Kremlin strongman is now showing growing satisfaction, after his troops neutralized a Ukrainian counter-offensive this summer
highly anticipated and that large swathes of territory in the south and east of Ukraine remain in the hands of Russia, as does the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014.
“President Putin is convinced that he can hold out longer than the West. It is therefore up to us to show determination to prove him wrong,” a senior Western official warned at a recent meeting. , on condition of anonymity.
Putin increasingly optimistic
The Russian president has been increasingly optimistic in recent weeks, emphasizing for example in December that Ukraine “has no future” or, more recently, in an interview broadcast on Thursday with the controversial American host Tucker Carlson,
a strategic defeat of Russia was “impossible by definition”
Western leaders responded by saying that a Russian defeat in Ukraine was the only option or, like Emmanuel Macron, that Europe’s priority should be “not letting Russia win.” Many analysts believe, however, that only increased support from the West for a Ukraine that will soon run out of ammunition can change the situation. But this support is not guaranteed, at a time when American elected officials are torn apart over a new aid program, where
a victory for Donald Trump in the American elections seems possible
this year, and where the Ukrainian cause further divides Europe.
“Both sides are racing to rebuild their offensive capability. If Western funds are not released, if Russia gains the advantage in one way or another, it will have the opportunity to make further progress,” explains to the
Andrea Kendall Taylor, researcher at the Center for New American Security, based in Washington. “The dynamic has changed,” believes this analyst, emphasizing that
“from Putin’s point of view, 2024 is a crucial year”
Ukraine is particularly concerned about a possible second presidency of Donald Trump, who declared in 2023 that he wanted to “settle this war in one day, 24 hours” if he was re-elected. Far-right parties, more flexible towards Russia, are also booming in France and Germany.
The opportunity to take advantage of the West’s weakness
The year 2024 therefore represents for Vladimir Putin a
“window of opportunity” to take advantage of the West’s weaknesses
, analyzes Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R. Politik consultancy firm. The Russian leader is banking in particular on “a temporary limitation of Western military support, with ammunition production only expected to accelerate at the beginning of 2025,” she wrote on her Telegram channel.
“The electoral process in the United States could lead to a less determined American strategy to support Kiev, and it is unlikely that the European Union, beset by internal disagreements, will compensate for this support on its own,” adds – She.
For Westerners, however, a reason for optimism lies in Russia’s internal weaknesses, with an economy trailing the war, a declining demographics, and the first signs of weariness with regard to the conflict in public opinion. Russian and the magnitude
human losses that Western sources estimate at 350,000 killed or injured on the Russian side.
“Maintaining interior stability takes up a lot of the bandwidth
of Putin”, points out Dara Massicot, researcher for the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, who sees an “excess of confidence” in the current tone of Russian officials. But without significant Western support, “I don’t know in what position of negotiation the Ukrainians would find themselves. This one would be terrible,” she analyzes.