There is a “realistic possibility” that Russian forces could “win” in Ukraine and that the conflict, in the eastern European state, could last for a “long period,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded on Friday.
During a press conference in New Delhi, a British reporter asked Johnson if he agrees with the Western intelligence assessment that the military action in Ukraine could continue till the end of 2023 and end in victory for Russia. The British prime minister conceded that both these statements might turn out to be true.
Weighing on Russia’s chances of ‘winning,’ Johnson said: “I think the sad thing is that is a realistic possibility, of course.”
Saying that Vladimir Putin “has a huge army,” the prime minister claimed that the Russian president “has a very difficult political position because he has made a catastrophic blunder.” He didn’t specify what he meant by “blunder” but he was presumably referring to the military attack on Ukraine.
In Johnson’s opinion, Putin now has only one option: “to continue to try to use his appalling grinding approach, led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down.”
Pointing out that Russian forces are now “very close to securing a land bridge in Mariupol,” Johnson stressed that the situation “is unpredictable at this stage.”
The prime minister noted, however, that the Ukrainians are demonstrating “incredible heroism” and such a “willingness to fight” that their spirit cannot be conquered, even if the conflict lasts for a long time.
Earlier this month Johnson visited Kiev for talks with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, following a promise to provide Ukraine with £100m worth of weapons.
“And I think no matter what the military superiority Putin may be able to bring to bear in the next few months – and I agree it could be a long period, he will not be able to conquer the spirit of the Ukrainian people. This is just an observable fact,” Johnson said.
On Thursday, unnamed western officials told journalists that “even if Putin were able to secure a respectable set of objectives inside Ukraine it’s very hard to see how Russia will have succeeded strategically as a result of this intervention.” In the officials’ opinion, Russian authorities’ actions “united opposition” and have already led to “significant changes in European security architecture” which is “very much contrary to Russia’s strategic interests.” That point of view prompted intelligence representatives to call Russia’s attack on Ukraine a “strategic blunder.”
Russian officials, meanwhile, insist that the military operation is going “according to plan.”
“Of course, the Commander-in-Chief not only receives daily, but hourly reports from the military, and from the Minister of Defense, the Chief of the General Staff, he receives information, clarifications on how the special military operation is being carried out,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday, apparently refuting numerous claims by Western intelligence that Putin has allegedly been misinformed by his advisers about the situation on the ground as well as of the consequences of sanctions for the Russian economy.