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Ukraine’s Stronger Hand & Putin’s Missed Opportunity | GZERO World

Ukraine’s stronger hand and Putin’s missed opportunity

The Russian military is terrorizing local populations in in eastern Ukraine to force President Volodymyr Zelensky to negotiate after Russia has seized territory in the Donbas region.

Will it work? Perhaps, but Ukraine's objectives have changed, US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

A month ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky was willing to talk about Ukrainian neutrality and even the size of the country's military.

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Podcast: The Ukraine war is destroying Putin’s reputation


Listen: Michael McFaul knows a thing or two about Russia and Putin from his days as the former US ambassador in Moscow. As Putin's Victory Day speech illustrated, Russia hasn't moved on much since 1945, McFaul tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. But if the West goes too far, there's a much bigger risk: World War III. McFaul says that Putin signaled in his nothing-burger speech that Russia is ready to gobble up another chunk of Ukraine in the Donbas region, and explains why that gives Ukraine a stronger hand at the negotiating table.

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Putin Couldn’t Declare Victory in Ukraine – So He Changed the “War” Objectives | GZERO World

Putin couldn't declare victory in Ukraine - so he changed the "war" objectives

For Michael McFaul, Vladimir Putin's May 9 Victory speech was a "nothing burger."

But there was something in there that signals his intentions in Ukraine, the former US ambassador to Russia tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

McFaul says Putin changed the "phraseology" he's been using for the last two months when referring to the Donbas, where perhaps he now knows he can't prevail.

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Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow.

Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

Putin declares ... nothing

In the end, Russian President Vladimir Putin threw the experts for a loop again.

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Pro-Russia protesters burn a Ukrainian flag outside the district council building in Donetsk.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

What We’re Watching: Russian annexation fears, Russia-Israel drama, Mali breaks from France

Will Russia annex more of Ukraine?

The US is warning that Russia plans to formally annex the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the city of Kherson, which Moscow has controlled since early March and where it has introduced the ruble. This wouldn't be the first time Russia illegally swiped a chunk of Ukraine – the Kremlin has run Crimea since holding a bogus referendum there on “joining Russia” in 2014. Washington believes Moscow will soon announce similar votes in the Donbas and Kherson — perhaps as soon as Russia’s Victory Day (a World War II celebration) on May 9. This major Russian holiday has become even more important now that the Kremlin frames its war in Ukraine as a fight against “Nazism.” Symbolism aside, why would Putin do this? For one thing, he needs to show something for his war effort, and he may want to make these territories bargaining chips in any eventual talks with Kyiv. But there's a downside for him, too: successfully holding these areas will mean pacifying hostile populations and supporting battered economies. Does Russia really have the military and financial wherewithal to do all that?

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How Putin Created the Ukrainian Resistance | The Autocrat’s Curse | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

How Putin created Ukraine’s determination to resist

Two months ago, Joe Biden said invading Ukraine would cost Russia and Vladimir Putin dearly.

Since then, not much has gone Putin's way. But can he climb down without a win he can sell back home?

While the Russians focus on the Donbas, the US now seems to think it can make Russia lose — which could trigger an escalation if Putin feels he's out of options.

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks to political scientist Ivan Krastev, who believes Putin has the autocrat's curse: his back is against the wall because he can't be perceived as weak.

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Putin Punishes Ukraine To Avoid Looking Weak | GZERO World

Putin punishes Ukraine to avoid looking weak

Russia's war in Ukraine is clearly not going as Vladimir Putin planned.

His "special military operation" has become a punishment because he can't convert Ukrainians, says political scientist Ivan Krastev, author of "After Europe."

Meanwhile, he tells Ian Bremmer, on GZERO World, Putin's state media has convinced many Russians that they are really fighting the West — basically fighting Americans since the propaganda says Ukrainians are really Russians.

"This is why he cannot stop."

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Russia Escalates in Donbas in Push To Take Eastern Ukraine | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Russia escalates in Donbas in push to take eastern Ukraine

As Russia is launching a new phase of war, will eastern Ukraine fall? What is the West's last resort if the war further escalates? With US airlines dropping mask requirements for passengers, is this a bold move? Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

As Russia is launching a new phase of war, will eastern Ukraine fall?

Well, first of all, they said they were going to launch the new phase like a few weeks ago. What gives? It's like weeks for the new phase but yeah, they're now really moving into military escalation across the Donbas. Remember, this is the territory that the Russians have declared, recognized as independent. It's about two-thirds more than the territory they had occupied from 2014 until just before the war started, February 24th. And yeah, the Russians clearly have learned some lessons from mistakes that were made in the last eight weeks of the war. They've got new leadership on the ground. They've sent some additional troops, but they also have poor morale. The troops have been depleted and the Ukrainians have an awful lot of military capability. I'll tell you, I think it's very unlikely that east Ukraine will fall by May 9th, which is when Putin wants to make his announcement of victory on Victory Day. I think eventually yes, it's more likely than not that eastern Ukraine will fall, but this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. And that's a very sad thing.

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