- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said 2022 has been a “dismal” year for Putin.
- “Putin underestimated Ukraine” and NATO unity, Stoltenberg said.
- Russia’s economy and military have been significantly depleted as a result of the Ukraine war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has left Russia “poorer and more isolated than for decades,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a new op-ed for Financial Times.
Stoltenberg said 2022 has been “a year of dismal failure” for Putin, saying the Russian leader made “two big strategic mistakes when he launched his brutal full-fledged invasion” of Ukraine.
“Putin underestimated Ukraine. He thought he could take Kyiv and decapitate the government within days. Ten months on, the Ukrainian people, armed forces and leadership continue to defend their homeland with skill, courage and determination that have inspired the world,” Stoltenberg said.
“Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been injured or killed. Around 1 million people have left Russia since the start of the year, many to avoid being conscripted for a war they do not believe in,” the NATO chief added.
Russia is estimated to have suffered approximately 100,000 casualties in Ukraine since the invasion began in late February. Meanwhile, Russia has faced crippling sanctions from the US and its allies in response to the war. In November, Russia’s economy fell into a recession.
Stoltenberg said Putin’s other mistake was to “underestimate NATO unity.” NATO countries rallied behind Ukraine after Russia invaded, and have continued to provide Kyiv with military aid — including crucial weapons. Finland and Sweden, two historically neutral or militarily non-aligned, also moved to join NATO as a consequence of the war.
“Putin claimed he wanted less NATO on Russia’s borders. He is getting the opposite — a stronger, larger NATO,” Stoltenberg said. Putin has offered a number of justifications for the invasion, including blaming NATO at times. Though Ukraine has sought to join NATO for years, it’s not a member of the alliance and was not on the formal track to become part of it when Russia invaded.
Though Stoltenberg zeroed in on Russia’s failures in the war, the NATO chief also emphasized that Ukraine needs ongoing assistance as the invasion continues.
“We must continue to support Ukraine so that it can prevail as a sovereign, independent state in Europe. If Putin prevails in Ukraine, the message to Russia — and to other authoritarian regimes — will be that force will get them what they want,” Stoltenberg said, adding that this would be a “catastrophe” for Ukraine and “make the whole world more dangerous.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a historic visit to Washington on Wednesday, thanking the US for its support while urging Congress to continue approving more aid. “Your support is crucial, not just to stand in such fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Congress.