The war in Ukraine is likely headed for a “devastating Russian defeat,” according to an expert on economic policy in the eastern European region.
In an op-ed published in Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Swedish economist Anders Aslund, who has served as an economic adviser to both the governments of Russia and Ukraine in the past, predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to see “one of the most spectacular failures in contemporary history” as his troops continue to struggle to bring him a military victory three months into the battle.
Aslund said that Russian troops have failed to capture the capital of Kyiv and are “struggling to make any headway in eastern Ukraine.”
“Ukraine’s military, by contrast, has exceeded all expectations,” he said.
The resistance of the Ukrainian people has delivered an unexpected blow to Putin, prolonging the war way beyond what the Kremlin had been prepared to face when the invasion was ordered on February 24.
As the war enters its fourth month, the determination of the Ukrainian people, alongside the military assistance from their Western allies, is pointing to an unfavorable ending for Putin, whose own troops have begun looking for paths to go against their leader and leave Ukraine.
On Thursday, Aslund warned that the ending of the war will not only be a military failure for Putin but an economic defeat—one that is unlike anything the country has seen and one that will reverberate across the world.
“Today, Russia is facing not just a humiliating defeat but also a horrendous economic collapse, for which Putin bears full responsibility,” Aslund wrote.
Citing the heavy Western sanctions that were swiftly imposed on Russia in response to the war, Aslund said that “In a single day, Putin wiped out most of the economic gains Russia had made since 1991.”
The economist cautioned that the severity of Russia’s economy has pushed the country’s elite to the brink and suggested that Putin could be ousted by those who were once in the president’s inner circle—if public outrage doesn’t overthrow his government first.
“In August 1998, after six days of a far less severe financial crisis, Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed his government. Putin, by contrast, has not allowed anyone in his government to resign, compelling everybody to be with him until the bitter end,” Aslund wrote. “Needless to say, fear appears to prevail among the Russian government elite.”
“Social unrest has not been widespread in recent years, but it does occur, and the level of anticipated decline in output and living standards has not been recorded since the early 1990s,” he added. “A natural popular reaction would be widespread social unrest, which would aggravate the tensions among the security services.”
“Whatever the outcome, the West must begin to plan for the collapse as well as the reinforcement of Putin’s regime,” Aslund concluded, noting that, “This would not be the first time Moscow has launched an ambitious military adventure in search of additional territory, only to find itself outmatched and humiliated.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.