Negotiations and agreements regarding Ukraine have not had any effect on the Kremlin in the past. The think tank ISW concludes that only if Putin’s plans in Ukraine fail can his intentions change.

After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj traveled to the United States on Wednesday to express his gratitude for the US support, the Kremlin came under heavy criticism. Russia accuses the USA of a “proxy war” and threatens to use new weapons. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov complained that there were no “real appeals for peace” during the visit.

Washington and Kyiv would not be willing to listen to Russia, Peskov said. The Kremlin spokesman is apparently alluding to the fact that Ukraine and the West still want to change Putin’s war plans months after the war began. But efforts to change Putin’s mind have so far been unsuccessful. An analysis by the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) states that the Kremlin plans are inflexible and cannot be influenced.

The Kremlin’s intentions are not the only reason for Russian action. It is much more important whether Russia is able to put its intentions into practice. This is the only way that Russia’s behavior in the past could be changed, the ISW analyses. The war experts explain how Ukraine and the West should behave now.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Ukraine and its allies have been trying to change Putin’s plans. In the fight against Putin, only military operations were successful. The large-scale Ukrainian counter-offensive has allowed Russia’s military objectives to be scaled back. However, Russia did not leave Kiev because it rejected the plan to take Kyiv, but because Russia was forced to do so due to its weakness, writes the ISW.

According to the ISW, all Russian losses to date cannot be attributed to Western persuasion, but to the poor military position of the Russians. And this has also been shown in the past: In 2014, the Kremlin planned to take six regions in Ukraine and failed because Russia was stopped and not because Russia’s goals had changed. And the Russian plan to prevent Montenegro and North Macedonia from joining NATO in 2017 and 2020 was not abandoned by Putin, but failed miserably.

And that hasn’t changed in 2022 either. According to the ISW analysis: “The defeats on the battlefield in Ukraine forced the Kremlin to reformulate its goals in the information space – even if the real goals of the Kremlin remained unchanged”.

The Russian military had to publicly reduce its aim of forcing a change of government in Ukraine to the capture of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And even this goal Russia could not achieve.

The ISW therefore concludes that Ukraine and its allies should focus on weakening Russia’s military capabilities rather than trying to change the Kremlin’s intentions. So it is particularly important that Ukraine maintains its momentum on the battlefield, even if Russia should launch a new offensive in the winter, according to the ISW.

According to the think tank, the Ukrainian focus should be on holding territory. After all, Russian military bases pose a constant threat to Ukraine’s survival – because Russia would use any territory it holds as a launch pad for attacks.

In addition, Ukraine and its allies should weaken the core Russian military capabilities. According to the ISW, Russia’s lack of personnel also limits their ability to produce heavy and modern weapons.

Accordingly, it is of crucial importance that the West endeavors to deny Russia access to the world military markets. This also includes preventing Russia from obtaining technology from Iran, China and other countries.

And the West has another task: Russia must be denied the opportunity to go on the offensive again in the information space, writes the ISW. For the Kremlin, information operations have so far been a key capability for Russian propaganda.

After all, for years Putin has achieved goals beyond his means simply by manipulating perception. The more the Kremlin loses on the battlefield, the more Russia will invest in manipulating perception.