Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus one week

Commentary on the invasion that began last Thursday, and a look at the polls since the invasion in the US, UK and France, where there are elections in April.

12:29pm Friday UK Labour has retained Birmingham Erdington at a by-election by a 55.5-36.3 margin over the Conservatives, up from 50-40 at the 2019 election. The Lib Dems and Greens had about 1% each.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Historically, attempts to conquer sovereign countries have not been unusual. Alexander the Great and Napoleon are still famed as conquerors. The Roman empire did much conquering, and European colonial powers were very cruel to native populations. The UK’s Queen Elizabeth is the descendant of William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066.

Occasionally invasions by more powerful countries are repelled. Two examples from the UK are Scotland repelling England in the 14th century, and the UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2. But in most cases, the only feasible protection for smaller countries is to be allied to bigger powers that will fight if the smaller ones are invaded.

Putin’s gamble was that the West would not send major military equipment, such as tanks, warships and aircraft, to support Ukraine. Without this support, it is likely that weight of numbers will eventually allow Russia to conquer Ukraine. While sanctions will damage the Russian economy, they won’t stop the Russian tanks or artillery. In a drawn-out invasion, civilian casualties will be high.

I am sceptical that Ukraine will continue to resist if conquered. Tyrannical regimes are effective at brutally suppressing dissent. There isn’t news anymore about Chechnya, which rebelled against Russia in the 2000s.

The polling is not like the reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The only leader who has received a massive jump is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose approval surged 59 points since December to 91%.

US: Biden’s ratings down, 62% say invasion wouldn’t have occurred under Trump

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, 53.0% disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance and 41.5% approve (net -11.5). Biden’s net approval has dropped about one point since the invasion.

In a poll conducted at the start of the invasion, 62%, including 38% of Democrats, thought Putin would not have invaded had Donald Trump still been president. 59% thought Putin ordered the invasion because he saw weakness in Biden, while 41% thought Biden was not a factor.

I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue. It also continues to affect his ratings on eg the economy because voters have lost confidence in his competence.

In US redistricting news, courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have finalised new maps. The new NC map was created after courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, while Pennsylvanian courts resolved a dispute between the Democratic governor and Republican legislature. In Ohio, Republicans used their majority on a redistricting commission to pass a gerrymander, but it is likely to be rejected by state courts.

Overall, there are currently 179 Democratic-leaning seats in the FiveThirtyEight tracker, 171 Republican-leaning and 33 competitive. Democrats are up 11 seats from the old maps, Republicans down six and competitive down six.

Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the US Supreme Court. If confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate, Jackson will be the first Black woman Supreme Court judge. But she will replace a left-wing judge, and the 6-3 right majority will be retained.

France: a Macron vs Le Pen runoff more likely

The first round of the French presidential election will occur April 10, with a runoff April 24 between the top two. Since the Ukraine invasion, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has gained to be in the mid to high 20s from the mid 20s. The latest polls suggest the far-right Marine Le Pen has moved ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse.

Pécresse had appeared to be the most competitive runoff opponent for Macron, but the latest two runoff polls have Macron winning by about 60-40. Le Pen is now closest, with Macron leading her by about 56-44.

UK: Little change as Labour faces by-election

The Ukraine invasion has not changed the polls very much in the UK, with Labour ahead of the Conservatives by a low single digit margin, reflecting a continuing recovery for Boris Johnson from “Partygate”.

Polls close at 9am AEDT Friday for a by-election in Birmingham Erdington, which Labour won by a 50-40 margin over the Conservatives in 2019.

211 comments on “Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus one week”

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  1. I think the war will be longer than you think. Ukraine is not Chechnya….much much bigger. Ukraine is in Europe and any atrocities will be intantly broadcast. The cities are much bigger and the population more determined it would seem. The sanctions and sentiment for the “Brave Ukranians” will not quickly dissipate especially if harsh repressive measures begin to leak out. Once Ukraine is beaten militarily….if Putin has the stomach for seeing both Russia and Ukraine destroyed…..then I think it will be a long drawn out urban guerilla war with Russian soldiers regularly going home in boxes

  2. Putin I think was counting on a quick installation of a semi plausible puppet government that could be manipulated with Russia maintaining a low profile. That rule at a distance I think will be difficult to achieve – it will now require an occupational force that will not be cheap to maintain in lives & funds. Ukraine has the advantage over Chechnya of a much greater visibility with direct borders to Europe. I doubt that the cases are comparable.

  3. I would have voted the following way in that FiveThirtyEight poll (if there was such an option):

    “If Trump was President he would have had afternoon tea and vodka with Putin in Kyiv after the conquest was completed”

    Wishing the Ukranian people all the best.

  4. A Canadian military podcast I listened too suggested that militarily it may be much harder for Putin than assumed. 200,000 men is not that much in a country of 40 million, and they are spread thin. It all depends on whether the Ukrainians have the will to keep resisting.

    Putin’s tactics seemed to be to mount a lightning strike on the Ukrainian leadership and cowering Ukraine into surrender. After Kabul and with NATO fractured that might have been understandable. But the Ukrainian leadership and army were more determined than assumed and the resistance has lasted long enough for the Ukrainians to get more organised and for western assistance to flow.

    If Ukraine had surrendered quickly Putin would have been correct. But they haven’t so far. NATO was reluctant to help before the invasion but that has changed rapidly. The shift of Germany is dramatic.

    A majority of Finns are now also in favour of joining NATO, which is a first in Finnish history. Ironically, the Russian move may see a more united Europe and NATO, undoing Trump’s work.

  5. There’s lots of differences between Chechnya and Ukraine, but a particularly relevant one when it comes to sustaining an insurgency is that Chechnya has only a short, mountainous border with a foreign country whereas western Ukraine has a long one with several countries not predisposed to be friendly to Russia and readily passable.

  6. I’d love to know just what goes on inside the head of someone who believes Trump would have managed to stop Russia going to war with Ukraine.

  7. Thanks Adrian.


    I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue.

    Is there enough polling for a statement like that? Upticks and downturns in poll aggregates in the US over a short period of time would surely have to be read carefully as we arent comparing the same batch of polls from one snapshot to the next. While it is probably fair to say Bidens early polling in this international crisis would be affected by previous fallouts, I am not convinced he is criplled by it. My take is that the polling on Biden immediately after the invasion reflects a kneejerk reaction to something that is pretty much out of the control of the US – and his low approval rating leading up to it (the same pollster had Biden at a very low 38% approval just prior to the one mentioned in the thread). My punditry would be that the crisis will have a neutral effect on Bidens approval, or, if anything, a slight uptick.

    Remember that Obama took a polling hit in March 2014 wrt Ukraine. And Obama wasnt hamstrung by the issue you suggest Biden is afflicted by.

    Obama’s approval rating stands at 41 percent. That’s the second-lowest figure the poll has ever found.
    Part of Obama’s problems appear to be related to foreign policy: The poll shows Americans disapprove of his handling of the situation in Ukraine 57-40 and disapprove of how he handles relationships with other countries 58-40.
    In January, Americans were evenly split on Obama’s diplomacy skills.


  8. Asha @ #9 Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 – 5:05 pm

    I’d love to know just what goes on inside the head of someone who believes Trump would have managed to stop Russia going to war with Ukraine.

    Trump would have pulled away further from NATO, withdrawn missiles and troops, left Ukraine to be overtaken by an internal coup or even civil war, backed by Russia, for a Russian friendly puppet government and a potential for further destabilisation of the eastern european Nato states.

    It could be argued that the defeat of Trump brought this invasion on because Putin had to move to Plan B.

  9. It took the Russians, two wars (1994-1996, 1999-2000) to re-take Chechnya.

    It then took Russia another 9 years to put down the insurgency following the second war in Chechnya.


    That’s 15 years to invade a country of 1.4 million people and 17,300 sq km and to crush all opposition.

    Ukraine is a country of 41 million and 600,000 sq km.

    I don’t think Chechnya is a good argument to say that a Russian occupation of Ukraine would work.

  10. “I am sceptical that Ukraine will continue to resist if conquered. “…

    Adrian, remember Afghanistan….
    Putin’s greatest error would be to try to annex the entire of Ukraine…. that would be his “dead” sentence….

  11. “US: Biden’s ratings down, 62% say invasion wouldn’t have occurred under Trump”…

    Oh dear, Trump is the greatest of mates to Putin…
    Poor USA, with voters like that you are doomed….

  12. “I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue. “…

    So, Americans wanted the useless Afghanistan war to end, Biden ended it…. and the Americans are allegedly p…d off with Biden?

    Poor USA, with voters like that you are doomed…

  13. “Isle of Rockssays:
    Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 6:49 pm
    …..I don’t think Chechnya is a good argument to say that a Russian occupation of Ukraine would work.”

    Indeed!… Staying long-term in Ukraine would be suicidal for Putin. But if that’s his plan, he is far more stupid than I thought.

  14. There are too many variables to predict the outcome of a prolonged occupation of Ukraine militarily. But Putin’s war has galvanised the EU, and the sanctions have been quicker and more severe than anything previous. The USSR was largely self-reliant in most fields; Putin’s Russia is not. Ordinary Russians are finding their Apple-Pay not working, planes are leaving the country, there will be no spares for all the imported machinery, the the move to renewables has been vastly accelerated. Even if Putin manages to impose a puppet in Kyiv, he will lack the means to maintain him there.

  15. I know that experts abound in these times but I did listen to one expound the theory that Putin had no interest in permanent acquisition of western Ukrainian territory.
    The two main reasons he put forward in support were firstly the population in the west were ethnically mainly western Slavs and secondly the westerners were overly contaminated with Catholicism.

  16. Fédération Internationale Féline’s (FiFe) bans Russian cats
    My cats aren’t Russian. They are mostly calm and slow.

  17. The Russians are going to have a hard time flying by airliner internal soon. Boeing, Airbus and Embraer have all said they are going to cease dealing with the Russians. And Antanov is Ukrainian based. So getting spare parts will be an issue and safety will be compromised.

  18. The supplying of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles is critical and Europe and America have both stepped up bigtime on this.
    The days of tanks being unbeatable by infantry were almost over by the end of the Second World War. But these new anti-tank weapons are just deadly for the soldiers in those heavy metal coffins. There has not really been a war with one side has been armed with modern anti-tank weapons vs modern tanks (but a lot of the Russian tanks are fairly old), but for the experiences in Iraq and Libya it seems the missiles have the upper hand.
    Equally, anti-aircraft missiles can make life hell for piloted aircraft. Two jets have been lost this morning by the Ruskies. The days of piloted jets looks to be waning.

  19. “UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2”

    That’s a bit of historical revisionism – UK did not ‘repel’ the German invasion as no invasion was ever attempted.

  20. The University of Canterbury’s National Centre for Research on Europe in NZ has organised a forum on Putin, Ukraine, Europe … on Friday 4 March at 10 am to 11am Sydney time (start noon NZ time).

    Participants: Prof. Graeme Gill (University of Sydney), Dr James Headley (University of Otago), Dr Nicholas Ross Smith (NCRE) and Dr Milenko Petrovic (NCRE)

    Zoom link: Join Zoom Meeting at:


    Meeting ID: 999 4864 1427

  21. Zorro @ 10:47pm
    “UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2”

    That’s a bit of historical revisionism – UK did not ‘repel’ the German invasion as no invasion was ever attempted.
    WTF do you think Operation Sea Lion was? It was the first phase of an invasion and planned occupation of the UK but ended up being Hitler’s first military defeat. It proved he and his strategy were vulnerable.

  22. Great to see Biden increasing the sanctions so quickly on the Russian Oligarchs.

    A question why has so little been done to bring down the Pro Putin American oligarch – Trump?

  23. They are only stunned that the west finally reacted in ways they should of in the past.
    They expected the west to continue enjoying all the money that flooded in from the oligarchs.
    There is always a price to pay.

    “Everyone is fucking stunned,” says one source close to the Kremlin. Another source says no one in the presidential administration expected a full-scale war—or the sanctions. “You can’t resign,” said first source. “You can only resign right to jail.”

  24. The 40 mile long column is not really a convoy, it is a traffic jam. Getting it to move will take hours, if not a day. It shows that the traffic of the Russian invasion is stuck to the roads as if they go off road at this time of year it just turns to mud in a matter of few vehicles (at little earlier than it used to be… thanks to global warming).
    It also means that something needed out of the convoy, like fuel trucks or river crossing equipment, is going to take a long time to get to where it is needed. There is a scene in the film “A bridge too far” where they need the boats and it takes forever. It just shows incredibly poor planning.

  25. That’s a bit of historical revisionism – UK did not ‘repel’ the German invasion as no invasion was ever attempted.??

    It was cancelled because Britain had Air superiority.
    Battle of Britain 1940.

  26. Garry Kasparov
    Putin’s war on Ukraine has entered its next phase, one of destruction and slaughter of civilians. It is also a part of Putin’s World War, a war on the civilized world of international law, democracy, and any threat to his power, which he declared long ago. 1/13
    March 2nd 2022

    16,545 Retweets44,768 Likes
    The free world’s denial of this war and decades of appeasement allowed Putin to threaten and conquer abroad while turning Russia into a police state. The price to stop him has gone up every time he has advanced unchallenged. Ukrainians are paying that price in blood.

    If Putin is not stopped now, not prevented from destroying Ukraine and committing genocide against its people, there will be a next time and it will be in NATO, with an unprecedented nuclear threat. Do not let Putin escalate again in a time and place of his choosing.

    Everyone is quoting my 2015 book Winter Is Coming and saying I was right & “listen to Kasparov”. But will you still listen when I say this will take sacrifice and risk? Not just wheat and gas prices, not just empty chalets and unemployed lobbyists. Easy is over.

    Or will you say that I am irrational, blinded by hate, as I heard in 2015? I hope not. Putin must be stopped because the unthinkable is now the possible. The world has awoken, at long last, and many steps I recommended last week are happening. It’s not enough.

    My recommendations:

    1 I cannot demand NATO attack Russian forces directly, but I can speak from history & knowledge of Putin. A dictator who has already crossed every line cannot be prevented from escalating with restraint. If he destroys Ukraine, he won’t stop.

    2 We are not trying to appeal to the murderer in his bunker in the Urals. The message is to those who carry out his orders. Will they? Do they all wish to die? Putin will escalate anyway if he is not stopped now. He will, as he always has before, & the price will be higher. 7/13

    3 Send Russia to the technological stone age. No support, no parts, no services. Oil boycotts aren’t necessary if oil tech is unavailable. The industry will grind to a halt. This means a war footing in sacrificing, retooling & increasing production to substitute. It’s war.

    4 It’s always tragic that ordinary people suffer, but they are not being bombed in their homes like Ukrainians. Every element of Russian society that can pressure Putin must know they have to choose between him & everything else. Some will cling to him, but for how long?

    5 Clear message to Russian generals that they will suffer annihilation if one inch of NATO is touched. Send UKR every weapon, including the jets that have been blocked, as if Putin cares about the difference. Stop guessing about his thoughts and do what is needed. 10/13

    6 Every day Ukraine endures gives opportunity to communicate this catastrophe to the only people who can really stop Putin, the Russian people, from oligarchs to commanders to protestors. Let all in the power vertical know they will be treated as war criminals. They are.

    7 Leave nothing in reserve. Speed is of the essence to stop payments and catch them and their assets before they hide. Threats like “he doesn’t know what’s coming” don’t work if Putin doesn’t believe you. Show him. And show Russians there is no way back with Putin. Never.

    8 Root out the corrupt politicians, businessmen & dark money that corrupted a generation to turn a blind eye or serve authoritarian regimes. Follow the donations, payments, gifts, influence. Hold them accountable. Down with Putin & his appeasers, glory to Ukraine.

  27. “That’s a bit of historical revisionism – UK did not ‘repel’ the German invasion as no invasion was ever attempted.”

    My late grandmother, who spent just about every night of 1940 in a bomb shelter, as her town was bombed by the Lutwaffe, and who had both her kids evacuated for 18 months says hello from the grave.

  28. The last successful invasion of England was by Dutch William. He tidied up Ireland for the English while he was at it.

  29. Putin has no intention of retreating. He will push on no matter what the outcome for Ukraine, Russia and himself.

    Putin can continue to sit 100 metres away from his people at his table. It wont ultimately save him. Nothing less than hell for him.

  30. Boerwar @ #43 Friday, March 4th, 2022 – 11:15 am

    This is Putin’s War. This is Putin’s fire.

    Oh absolutely it is. But Putin’s not about to put the fire out, pack up his army, and go home, is he?

    Once it was clear that Putin had no intention of peaceably abiding by international law, every Western (and non-Western) nation which purports to care about such things had justification to intervene. It’s not their fault, but they could have prevented what’s happening now and have (so far) chosen not to.

    You can watch the dictator set the world on fire from the sidelines, or you can stop him. Blame is for afterwards, if everything isn’t turned to ash first.

  31. Boerwar @ #41 Friday, March 4th, 2022 – 10:52 am

    “Europe’s largest nuclear plant reported to be on fire following Russian shelling. It’s official: Putin is insane.”

    I must agree. Militarily there is no advantage to this. If they wanted to cut off the power supply from it they only had to knock over one pylon of the power line just outside it. THisis another deliberate terror tactic.

    How high will the brinkmanship go?

  32. ar

    “You can watch the dictator set the world on fire from the sidelines, or you can stop him. Blame is for afterwards, if everything isn’t turned to ash first.”

    And how exactly do you propose to stop a 200,000 man army? Nuke them? What is your solution that won’t escalate a dangerous situation even further?

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