The Russian military setback that took place recently in Kherson, after the Russian President had annexed it to his country weeks ago, is in fact a strategic military setback for Putin personally, despite him distancing himself from the withdrawal decision made by Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu. However, everyone inside and outside Russia is fully aware of who is leading the battles in Ukraine, as many followed how Putin was issuing his military decision to the commanders of his soldiers in the operational movement on the ground.
This setback was described by an advisor in the Kremlin as the greatest setback that Russia has faced since the collapse of the Soviet Union but, despite this, Putin swallowed the insult, and did not use nuclear weapons based in accordance with Russia's doctrine for their use, which stipulates using nuclear weapons when the country's lands are under invasion. However, it seems that this rule applies to Russia's old land, not its new land that Putin announced the annexation of in 2014. The Crimea may fall within its scope and, therefore, the disorganised Russian withdrawal from Kherson relieved the West, which was worried about Putin resorting to nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, the Russian losses in the Ukraine war will be long-term, regardless of the deterioration of the Russian reputation and the reputation of Putin that he built during the past years, based on Russia's strength and might. He will be seen as a tyrant over civilians, as in the case of the razing of the Syrian cities – Damascus, Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, and others – but when he faced some of the Western weapons, the result was different.
Now, considering the foreseeable Russian losses, we can monitor and see military, economic and political losses, and on top of the military losses is Putin's loss of members of his country's forces, which the esteemed Foreign Affairs magazine estimated at more than 80,000 dead and wounded. More dangerous than this is the death of senior Russian military leaders in this war. These are the leaders who gained military experience and global fame that is not easy to obtain and establish, meaning the Russians needs a long period of time to return to the level they were at, whereas their opponents and enemies will have gone far ahead of them.
Everyone saw Russia resorting to its allies, whether to North Korea by obtaining artillery shells, or to Iran by obtaining Iranian drones and its advisors, as well as its request for spare parts from China, after the first week of its invasion of Ukraine. The Russian army also sought help from the Wagner militia, and its leader emerged at the forefront of the military scene, to confirm and prove the extent of the huge losses suffered by the Russian army. The Russian army will continue to suffer more in the future from the Western sanctions imposed on the export of components used by the Russian military industry, which will certainly negatively affect the Russian arms industry in the future, as well as the Russian military doctrine itself.
As for economic sanctions, Russian gas and oil will lose their role and influence in the West in the long term, after the latter resorted to new sources and alternatives. The West, perhaps, no longer trusts the agreements reached with Russia after seeing these agreements abandoned with the first obstacle, making the West pay a heavy price at the popular level, when popular demonstrations took place denouncing the war in Ukraine, and demanding Western governments not to support Ukraine to maintain the flow of Russian gas.
OPINION: Putin's nuclear threat
As for Russia resorting to bypassing Western sanctions, it will not work in the future; specifically it is resorting to using China and India as mediating countries between it and its international customers, especially in light of the process of searching for an alternative, and even finding it in many cases. This is in addition to the strengthening of the Western ban on all who cooperate with Russia. All of this will make the process difficult, costly, and useless in many cases.
On the political level, Russia seems almost isolated, and the closest thing to a rogue state. If a member of the UN Security Council invaded a country like Ukraine, how could such a member be a trustee of global peace and security? This was even reflected in Chinese and Indian criticism of Putin and his policies in Ukraine. We also see Russia's decline in Europe, after Putin made many strides and progress in Europe before its invasion of Ukraine, at the expense of American interests. Today, we see this decline also in the countries of Central Asia, which found an outlet for themselves in being liberated more and more from the Russian iron security grip and heading towards new European and Chinese horizons.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.