The Russian war of aggression has been raging in Ukraine for more than 100 days. Villages and towns are being attacked every day, and on Sunday morning, after a few weeks, the capital Kyiv is being attacked again. Many people die every day – on both sides. Every day people have to flee their homes. So far, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has not had any really great military successes.

This is not least due to the support that Ukraine is receiving from the West: weapons, secret service information and humanitarian aid, and last but not least: a lot of money. This is the only way that Ukraine, with its President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, has been able to keep the numerically clearly superior enemy in check and even drive him out of some areas that have already been conquered.

No one can really estimate how long this war in Europe will last.

“It can take another two to six months,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak on Friday evening in an interview with the Russian opposition online portal Medusa. There will only be negotiations when the situation on the battlefield changes and Russia no longer feels that it can dictate the terms, Podoljak said. In the end it depends on how the mood in the societies of Europe, Ukraine and Russia changes.

With his statement, Podoljak alluded to a point that could actually become decisive for the war – the question of how long the West will be willing to support Ukraine to the extent it has so far – not least with the sanctions that have been decided on, which have long since had effects worldwide. And according to a report in the prestigious Washington Post, this is precisely the Russian dictator’s new strategy.

According to members of Russia’s business elite, Putin is preparing for a long war of attrition over Ukraine and will seek to use economic weapons such as a blockade on Ukraine’s grain exports to reduce Western support for Kyiv. Putin believes “the West will be exhausted,” the paper quotes an allegedly well-connected Russian billionaire who, according to the newspaper, wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

Putin did not expect the initially strong and unified response from the West, “but now he is trying to reframe the situation and he believes that in the long run he will win,” said the billionaire. Western leaders are vulnerable to election cycles and Putin believes “public opinion can change in a day”.

Putin “is a very patient man. He can afford to wait six to nine months,” explains the billionaire. “He can control Russian society much better than the West can control its society.”

The paper also quotes a Russian official who, according to the report, is said to be close to Moscow diplomatic circles and also wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

The embargo on Russian oil exports by sea announced by the European Union this week – welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel as maximum “pressure on Russia to end the war” – would have “little impact in the short term,” he said officials accordingly. “The mood in the Kremlin is that we can’t lose – no matter what the price.”

And this attitude is also reflected in official statements by the Kremlin. “The West has made one mistake after another, leading to growing crises, and to say that this is all because of what is happening in Ukraine and what Putin is doing is wrong,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri said Peskow of the Washington Post.

Former European Bank for Reconstruction and Development chief economist Sergei Guriev told the newspaper that Putin had little choice but to continue the war in hopes that Ukraine’s grain blockade would “lead to instability in the Middle East and a new wave of refugees.” will trigger”.

In this context, the newspaper also cites interview statements by the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. According to the newspaper, the hardliner is said to be one of the few who still have access to Putin.

In several interviews, according to the newspaper, Putin’s former KGB companion, who is actually shy of the public, emphasized that Europe is on the brink of a “deep economic and political crisis”, with rising inflation and falling living standards already affecting the mood of Europeans, and that a new migrant crisis would create new security threats.

“The world is gradually falling into an unprecedented food crisis. Tens of millions of people in Africa or the Middle East will be on the brink of starvation because of the West. In order to survive, they will flee to Europe. I’m not sure if Europe will survive the crisis,” Patrushev said in an interview with the Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

More about Putin on Tagesspiegel Plus:

According to the Washington Post report, the Kremlin is already seeing the first signs that the West’s position is beginning to crumble. Weeks of diplomatic haggling over the terms of the EU oil embargo would be taken as a sign of the West’s waning resolve, economists and the Russian official said.

Putin is therefore likely to have been pleased with the recent statement by French President Emmanuel Macron. In an interview on Saturday, he said that Putin must not be humiliated so that a diplomatic solution can be found after the fighting in Ukraine has ended. “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can use diplomatic means to build a launch pad,” the president said. “I am convinced that France’s role is to be a mediating power.”