Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, is a man enjoying remarkable political rehabilitation from the days of his unpopularity. On all fronts, from Ukraine to the United States, the wind seems to have changed in Putin's favor.
But if the Wagners' mission to Kherson was part of Putin's long-term strategy in Ukraine to outlast Western support, it would now be bearing fruits in a considerable challenge, which in the past year he has encountered: internal opposition shown by the Wagner rebellion, and the resilience of the Ukraine Western-aided counteroffensive.
But through 2024, the landscape changes dramatically. Ukrainian forces come under mounting pressure in Kyiv and beyond, battling rising Russian assaults amid diminishing supplies of ammunition. Complicating it further, Republicans in the US House of Representatives are dragging their feet on approval to send more aid.
Putin aligns himself with some factions of the GOP in the US, and they respond with perks. A case in point was the recent interview Tucker Carlson had with Putin, where the Russian leader was able to espouse his controversial justification for the invasion of Ukraine with hardly any challenge.
In doing so, this interview not only gave Putin a direct line to the voices of GOP voters and leaders key to the US aid to Ukraine debate but amplified his narrative to a global audience in its reaction.
Putin's Mixed Fortunes
The week brought further good news for Putin.
A special counsel investigation was reported questioning the mental ability of US President Joe Biden - an issue of importance as Biden has been a critical ally to Ukraine. Meanwhile, at a rally in South Carolina, comments by Donald Trump indicated a possible erosion of NATO solidarity when he hinted that he would ignore Russian hostility to NATO countries failing to meet their financial responsibilities.
However, tough times still lie ahead for Putin. Public opinion in the US and Europe is mostly in favor of further aid to Ukraine. In the US, legislative efforts continue to develop, with a new Ukraine aid bill passing in the Senate and awaiting a House vote.
It poses a significant challenge amidst strong resistance within Ukraine, the logistical difficulties within the Russian army, and the possible economic and social backlash within the country. In addition, the re-election of Biden in the next elections may be one of the possible factors that will enhance the power of uniting within NATO because of the internal divisions signaled by Trump's statements.