Western officials believe Russia has already lost the war because it failed in its primary aim of subjugating Ukraine, arguing that Ukraine's battlefield progress is not a measure of its overall success.
Speaking in a briefing on Wednesday, the officials conceded that Ukraine’s progress had been incremental and slower than anticipated two months ago, due to Russia’s well-prepared defenses, but said that Moscow had already lost regardless of battles over territory.
“This could be a very long struggle over territory, but in terms of the war and what Russia was looking to achieve, Russia has lost and Russia is a diminished power and is on a diminishing trajectory,” one official said.
“This notion that somehow Russia can win even if it retains the territory that it’s got, and that is victory, is insane when Russia has strengthened NATO, has grown it with the likes of Finland and Sweden, has put Ukraine on a path to joining NATO, and has put Ukraine on a path to potentially joining the EU,” the official added.
“I think if you’re Putin, you’re basically gambling that Donald Trump wins the next election and that is quite a long phase. It’s a long way away. In the meantime, the Prigozhin mutiny wouldn’t have happened if the war was going well in Ukraine,” another official said.
Some context: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted Saturday that Kyiv's counteroffensive is moving forward, after troops made some headway in its campaign to recapture territory seized by Russia.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces said they had penetrated the “first line” of Russian strongholds in the Zaporizhzhia region, in a sign that Kyiv is edging closer to Moscow’s sprawling network of fortified trenches along the southern front.
Overall, Ukrainian gains have been hard won after its counteroffensive formally got underway in mid-June. There have been no captures of major settlements as Kyiv's troops encounter well-defended Russian lines.