Putin is on a major high as his enemies attack each other and freak out about Tucker Carlson
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a stronger position than he's been for months.
- From Ukraine to the US, events are going Putin's way.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy has long been to grind out a victory in Ukraine by outlasting Western resolve, say analysts.
Last year there were times when that looked like a major blunder.
The Russian leader faced the most direct challenge to his power in two decades with the Wagner rebellion, and his military struggled to resist Ukraine's Western-backed counteroffensive.
But weeks into 2024 things look very different.
From Ukraine to Europe and the US, events seem to be turning in Putin's favor.
In Ukraine, it is Kyiv's forces that are now on the back foot, fighting to defend against intensifying Russian attacks as ammunition supplies dwindle. Further US aid is being blocked by House Republicans.
And elsewhere, the symbiosis Putin formed with the GOP far-right is proving to be fruitful.
Tucker Carlson last week interviewed Putin, offering minimal pushback as the Russian leader delivered a two-hour lecture on the dubious historical theories underpinning his Ukraine invasion.
It gave Putin an opportunity to directly address the GOP voters and leaders who form the core opposition to US aid for Ukraine, and reinforce their skepticism.
The furor over the interview, as Western officials and pundits attacked Putin and Carlson in equal measure, only served to project Putin's perspective to an ever-broader audience.
In the aftermath, the Kremlin cited outraged responses from NATO nations as proof that the interview was a success.
On Friday, there was more good news for Putin when a special counsel investigation cast doubt on President Joe Biden's mental competence.
Biden has been a staunch ally to Ukraine in resisting Russian aggression, and analysts say his defeat would likely be celebrated by Putin.
Biden's 2024 rival, Donald Trump, may well have made Putin's week with comments at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday.
Trump, horrifying the White House and many in Europe, said he would allow Russia to invade any NATO country if liked if it wasn't paying its way.
His comments chipped away at the bedrock of NATO's fundamental strength — the prospect that invading one member would bring the wrath of them all, particularly the US.
Trump's disdain for NATO is not new. But with the Ukraine war raging on NATO's doorstep, his latest comments are particularly alarming.
Putin still faces huge challenges, though.
According to polls, most Americans and most Europeans continue to support funding Ukraine's battle for independence.
US lawmakers are still trying to approve new funding: on Sunday, a new version of the Ukraine aid bill passed in the Senate and will be voted on in the House.
Ukraine continues to resist Russia's attacks, with the Russian military continuing to experience problems with logistics and inept commanders that have dogged its invasion.
Biden may well defeat Trump for a second time in November, blunting the internal threat to NATO's unity.
And Russia itself has suffered badly too — millions have fled the country, and the economy is badly dented.
But last week's events will likely fuel Putin's conviction that, in the long term, events are going his way.
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