Skip to content
Reviews |  What is Putin really looking for in Ukraine?

For the editor:

Re “What if Putin hadn’t miscalculated?” (chronicle, March 30):

The alternative scenario proposed by Bret Stephens, in which Vladimir Putin plays a high-stakes game for more modest gains, is not only entirely plausible, but also has most of the facts on its side.

The Russian invasion force of 150,000 to 190,000 troops was never going to be enough to conquer and suppress all of Ukraine, a country twice the size of Italy. But it was probably enough to take over much of eastern and southern Ukraine and rain terror and death on all its major cities – including the capital, kyiv – until that the government be forced into a favorable negotiated settlement.

Such a settlement, which would likely incorporate Crimea (which Mr. Putin seized in 2014) and much of Russia’s energy-rich eastern Ukraine, would fulfill Mr. Putin’s goal of a land bridge to Crimea and an expanded Black Sea Fleet to connect with Russia’s growing naval presence in the Middle East.

The West and the Biden administration might try to sell this as a “victory” for Ukraine and the West, for preventing the total loss of Ukraine. But unless Ukrainian freedom fighters are significantly able to turn the tide – or the world is able to sustain the punishment against Russia for its many heinous violations against Ukraine – Vladimir Putin could very well emerge victorious.

Stuart Gottlieb
new York
The writer teaches US foreign policy and international security at Columbia University.

For the editor:

Bret Stephens makes a good point in “What If Putin Hadn’t Miscalculated?” He postulates that the conflict is actually an energy war and that Russia should come out of it with even more oil and gas reserves than it currently has.

But all of these fossil fuels are worthless to Vladimir Putin and Russia if there are no markets. Europe is expected to announce immediately that it is decoupling from Russian gas, giving a five-year window to find other energy sources. And it should use this period to develop renewable energy and thus achieve international targets in 2030 to progress in decarbonizing the economy due to the climate threat.

Europeans will end up with cheaper energy and progress in the fight against global warming. And Mr. Putin’s oil and gas reserves will be as useless as the proverbial buggy whip.

Stephen R. Dujack
Charlottesville, Virginia.

For the editor:

The prevailing narrative is that Vladimir Putin has miscalculated the ability of his forces to take Ukraine quickly, that he is displeased and appalled by the West’s unity and economic disengagement, and that he might be mad now . Bret Stephens suggests that we may be underestimating his intentions, and that he was really after Ukraine’s energy resources and coastline and could be mad as a fox.

It seems obvious that Mr. Putin thought that Russia could quite easily take Ukraine, all for reasons of energy resources but also for many other advantages he thought he could derive from it. It has not been easy or even possible so far. In this he made a miscalculation. But I think his fallback position on acquiring lands, seas and resources is not, as Mr. Stephens suggests, catastrophic from his perspective.

Where I think the West may have miscalculated is in believing that Mr. Putin is unhappy that Russia is cut off from the rest of the world. Based on repeated remarks he made before and after the invasion of Ukraine, he seems to feel that Western influence is contagious to his people and culture.

Isn’t it possible that he wanted another cold war, in which he completely controls his people and their access to information, eliminates dissent and restores Russia’s reputation as a great threatening force in the world ? We may have helped him achieve goals of which we were unaware.

Because Western countries, like most people around the world, organize their priorities around peace and prosperity, it can be difficult to imagine a worldview in which peace and prosperity are not the priorities. The fact that Mr. Putin is not bound by these motivations is an advantage for him. We should keep that in mind.

Wendy Chapiro
Mill Valley, California.

For the editor:

Regarding “How 2 friends gave birth to the union inside Amazon” (front page, April 3):

Last week’s victory for workers to have a union at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center should be a useful wake-up call for workers. Amazon workers voted for better wages and a direct voice in decision-making to improve their safety and general working conditions. They decided they had to form their own union to achieve these results.

At Starbucks stores, members are also demanding a direct voice in decision-making about running their workplace rather than leaving those decisions solely in the hands of management.

An important lesson for unions from these recent organizing campaigns is that to win, they must find ways to give today’s workers a voice in decision-making and fight for better wages and benefits. Making this happen can help rebuild the labor movement.

Pierre Lazes
West Stockbridge, Mass.
The author is a visiting professor at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Penn State University.

For the editor:

Regarding “The Exploitation of Judge Jackson”, by Emily Bazelon (opinion guest essay, March 31):

While I was appalled by the vicious and despicable questioning of a female judge by male Republican senators, I believe our justice system needs an overhaul when it comes to the guidelines for determining the punishment for sex offenders.

I am a therapist who has provided therapy and counseling to many sex offenders, including very young juvenile sex offenders. What I have learned from my practice and research in the field is that sexual offenses have very little to do with sex per se and a lot to do with power and control.

Sentencing guidelines do not take this into account when they walk out of prison thinking that justice has been done for society and for the victims. Not so! Unless treatment is offered and mandatory, these people will reoffend their sentence again and again — long or short, it doesn’t matter!

Recovering from sex addiction is a lifelong endeavor, just like recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction. Unless the justice system understands and addresses this problem, no sentencing practice will suffice.

Manuela Bonnet-Buxton
Cornelius, Ore.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.