Putin turns 70 in an isolated and humiliated Russia amid military defeats
- Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70 on Friday.
- When he invaded Ukraine, he hoped to have comfortably conquered the country by now.
- Instead, he faces domestic turmoil, military defeats, isolation, and sanctions.
Despite being one of the most powerful people in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to feel invincible on his 70th birthday.
Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine was prompted by an apparent desire to reclaim the former Russian empire, to reclaim lands he considered Russian. At one point he explicitly compared himself to the Russian conqueror Peter the Great.
He expected a quick victory with little opposition, hoping to overthrow the Ukrainian government, assert his will beyond Russia’s borders and portray NATO as hollow and ineffectual.
Instead, Ukraine waged a bitter struggle forcing Russia out of the capital Kyiv and forcing Putin to drastically reduce his war aims to conquer the eastern region of Donbass.
Even there, a months-long stalemate has evaporated in recent weeks as Ukraine advanced to retake swaths of territory and leave Russia on the run.
After eight months of trying, the once feared Russian army has achieved almost none of its goals and is badly exhausted.
The situation forced Putin to announce an unpopular plan to coerce more people into seeing, prompting an exodus of military-age men from his country and undermining his iron grip on power.
There are nationwide protests against his mobilization efforts, and even the usually loyal Russian media and Putin’s own officials acknowledge how badly the war is going.
Each Russian defeat also encourages Ukraine’s Western allies to bolster its support, eroding what was once widespread pessimism, especially in European capitals, which saw Ukraine as having no chance of victory.
In the face of these setbacks, Putin found himself threatening to deploy nuclear weapons – a desperate move that left him even more isolated.
Putin said his attack on Ukraine was aimed at countering NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders. But his invasion only led to an increase in support for the military alliance, with long-time neutral nations Sweden and Finland abandoning that stance to begin the process of joining.
Putin’s reduced status was clear even in his plans for the day. In recent years, the Moscow Times reported, Putin has met with leaders of powerful nations like China and Japan, positioning Russia among the world’s leading nations.
In 2022, despite the historic 70th anniversary, Putin’s plans were distinctly provincial – with planned visits from a handful of leaders from post-Soviet states like Belarus and Tajikistan.
It will be hard for him to avoid the conclusion that he is entering his eighth decade as the diminished leader of an isolated nation.