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This week marks six months of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s barbaric war against Ukraine. Our CIA must be assessing with great concern the trajectory of Europe’s bloodiest ground war since World War II and its impact on Putin’s regime. The Kremlin’s propaganda machine has concocted many pretexts for Putin’s “special military operation,” but only to hide that he is at war with democracy to protect his regime’s security, preserve his legacy, and prepare the ground for a successor to follow in his monstrous ways. .

A Western-oriented Ukraine, focused on economic and strategic integration with Europe and the US, is an existential threat to Putin’s kleptocratic autocracy. Nothing threatens Putin more than a democratic Ukraine with its significant Russian-speaking population, which will serve as a beacon of hope for Russian citizens whose human rights are being mercilessly violated by Putin. Putin falsely calls Ukrainian democrats “fascists” and deliberately conflates the things that scare him most – freedom, liberty and democracy – with non-existent military threats. By painting Russia as a besieged fortress that only he can defend, Putin takes his propaganda machine back to 1941, when the enemy was at the gates and only the Russian army and intelligence services could be relied upon to protect the homeland.

According to Pentagon estimates, Russian forces suffered at least 80,000 casualties and lost at least 4,000 armored vehicles. Putin is now relying on the Wagner Group and other mercenaries to carry on the fight, while his army has been forced to deploy Soviet-era ammunition and tanks as supplies have seriously deteriorated and run out.

But Putin’s propaganda is holding up despite a poorly designed and executed battle plan that failed to topple Zelensky’s government and led to an expensive war of attrition. Western sanctions have nowhere been powerful enough to cause a change in Putin’s strategy. This year, the export of energy carriers from Russia increased by almost 40% and amounted to more than 300 billion dollars. NATO’s military support kept Ukraine in the fight, but it was not enough to turn the tide of the war.

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Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis only worsens every day, as does the intensity of shocks in the world economy. And the fighting at the Zaporozhye NPP and its surroundings threatens another humanitarian catastrophe.

There are at least three key transformative developments from Putin’s horror war that show the Kremlin is willing to stay in the fight for the long haul and negotiate only on its own terms.

The firstRepresentatives of the Biden administration have rightly emphasized the value of Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO, which will make the alliance stronger and better able to defend against any future Russian aggression. But looking at the world through the crooked eyes of Putin’s KGB, we should expect the Kremlin to use this latest round of NATO expansion to bolster its claims about NATO’s military threat to Russia, even though NATO is a defensive alliance. Putin’s goal is to spew his propaganda chimera to bolster the security of his regime.

Secondly, Putin began to move Russia into China’s orbit as an economically subordinate junior partner, increasingly dependent on the Chinese market for hydrocarbon exports. Even if, for now, Russia has been forced to rely on its own dwindling supplies of military equipment and Iranian drones, the signs of an ever-closer alliance are ominous. China and Russia have stepped up joint military exercises to boost cooperation.

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The third, Putin has aggressively tightened the screws on suppressing domestic dissent while gaining Kremlin control over Russian intelligence services, including using FSB foreign intelligence chief Sergei Beseda as a scapegoat for Russian intelligence failures at the start of the war. Russian intelligence services were forced to tell Putin what he wanted to hear, not what he needed to know. They spread Putin’s propaganda, but they know the truth about how much Putin’s war in Ukraine has worsened Russia’s economic, military and strategic position in the world.

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At the moment, however, there are no signs that Putin’s inner circle believes that betting on Putin is a losing proposition. And that is why there is no end in sight to Putin’s strategy to unleash hell on Ukraine, which is on the geopolitical divide between dictatorship and democracy.

The question for the Biden administration is what additional policy measures it will take, most diligently in coordination with our NATO allies, to favorably alter the trajectory and successfully end this destructive and dangerous war.

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