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Russian military setbacks in Ukraine have a geopolitical price

The Russian army’s recent setbacks in Ukraine, the loss of large swaths of territory previously captured in the war, have more than just military implications. They have geopolitical costs, undermining President Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions to restore Russia’s status as a great power.

That was evident last week when he met with Mr Putin’s key ally, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and acknowledged that Beijing had “questions and concerns” about the war. He also had to swallow a harsh rebuke from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Why we wrote this

Russia’s military setback in Ukraine has weakened the standing of President Putin’s allies and dealt a blow to his dream of restoring Russia’s superpower status.

The war is by no means over. Mr. Putin called up 300,000 reservists on Wednesday and still has enough weapons to continue his invasion of Ukraine. But Russia’s international heft has shrunk, and whatever happens on the ground is likely to continue.

Russia’s neighbors, the former Soviet republics where Moscow’s influence is strongest, find the Russian bear distracted and less able to impose its will. In recent times, fighting has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan and between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

And in a further blow to Mr Putin’s pride, it was not Moscow, but Washington, that pushed for a ceasefire in Armenia.

“Questions and Concerns.”

The surprising admission that China, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has those doubts about his war in Ukraine is a sign that the price he is paying for his army’s backsliding is not just a military one.

There is also a geopolitical cost: the army’s failures have dealt a blow to his grand neo-imperial ambition to restore Russia as a major power on the world stage. The invasion of Ukraine was a crucial part of that plan.

Why we wrote this

Russia’s military setback in Ukraine has weakened the standing of President Putin’s allies and dealt a blow to his dream of restoring Russia’s superpower status.

The implications go beyond China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Asia’s other emerging economic power, publicly criticized the Russian president over the war last week.

Closer to home, former Soviet republics — from Azerbaijan to Central Asia — appear to be recalculating their interests in response to a sense of Russia’s weakening ability to impose its political will.

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