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What is Putin’s endgame now?

Just over five weeks into the war, and one thing is clear about how it will end: there will be no surrender.

“There will be a negotiated settlement, I think, but clearly there is still a lot of fighting as each side tries to create conditions that give them more leverage at the negotiating table,” the statement said. former director of the CIA and commander of the American wars in Iraq. and Afghanistan, retired Army General David Petraeus.

He says the Russians have already lost the battle for kyiv: “They will not be able to accomplish what was presumably their main objective from the start, which was to overthrow the Zelensky government and replace it with a pro-Russian government.”

David Martin, national security correspondent for CBS News, asked: “If the plan to take kyiv has failed, has the decisive battle of the war already been fought?

“Only if Ukraine can prevent another decisive battle from happening again,” Petraeus replied. “It could be crucial in the sense that it’s perilous for Ukraine.”

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The danger now hovers in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is reinforcing and concentrating its firepower in an attempt to encircle a large part of the Ukrainian army. The outcome of the fierce battle for the city of Mariupol could be key.

/ Credit: CBS News

Petraeus said: “Mariupol has become the Ukrainian Alamo, fighting to the last defender, pinning down huge numbers of Russian battalions and making them pay for literally every block they take. Once that finally falls, as tragically as it looks like it will, it will free up a number of Russian forces.”

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“Yes [Putin] were to destroy the Ukrainian army in the East, would the rest of the country then be open to him?” asked Martin.

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “You’re fighting an entire nation. There will be limits to how far they can go, and I don’t expect it to go any further than the center of the country. They would like to get to the very center.”

“Is it possible that the Ukrainians are holding out?

“If they can get additional weapons, ammo, vehicles, etc., absolutely, definitely,” Petraeus said. “And of course they have this incredible determination, this courage, this creativity, this ingenuity. They are everything that the Russians are not.”

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President Zelensky, who has proven himself not only a brilliant communicator-in-chief but also a shrewd commander-in-chief, says the war is at a turning point.

Martin asked, “Would you say it’s going to take weeks or months for that to happen?”

“It could take weeks; it could take months, depending on the extent of the damage,” Petraeus said.

“Are you essentially describing a war of attrition?

“There’s a war of attrition going on, and again, it’s not just on the battlefield. It’s also to some extent between what’s happening in Ukraine and what’s happening to Moscow and to the Russian economy, financial system and business community.”

And a war between two men, says Petraeus: “Between Vladimir Putin, who cannot seem weak – he must remain the strong man, infallible, imperturbable, in control, the master of everything; and President Zelensky, who leads a country that is fighting for its very survival.”

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US officials say one of them – Putin – is not being told the truth about what is happening on the battlefield.

“How does a war end when you don’t tell the truth to the leader?” Martin asked.

“Well, the chef isn’t stupid,” Petraeus said. “He has to acknowledge the reality of what happened.

They did not achieve what they set out to achieve. Deep down, he realizes that he has plunged his country into a colossal mistake, and shown a colossal error of judgement.”

“Will he be punished enough not to try something like this again?”

“I don’t know if he’ll think he’s chastened enough,” Petraeus replied. “What he will be is sufficiently – we hope – sufficiently weakened.”

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Story produced by Mary Walsh. Publisher: George Pozderec.

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