A war of attrition is under way for the forests and streets of eastern Ukraine; a war of attrition is under way for the minds of Russians, as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin knows its dangers. The more Russians realize the gap between official Kremlin claims and reality, the more their support will slip. As Putin’s war is prolonged, Russians’ growing dissatisfaction may affect its course.
Attuned to these dangers, Putin has flogged a distorted tale of Western aggression. His state media insist that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s grasp for Ukraine drove Moscow into a defensive war.
Unable to trumpet victory, Putin pleads necessity. Lauding Russian heroism, he points to mighty NATO, not tiny Ukraine, to excuse battlefield reverses. To shield his lies, Putin first banned and then criminalized anti-war commentary, reporting, and protests.