Russian President Vladimir Putin is digging in on his war effort against Ukraine, betting the West will cave as he attempts to use economic weapons to raise costs, according to a report published on Friday.
Putin “believes the West will become exhausted,” an unnamed Russian billionaire told The Washington Post. The individual was one of several members of Russia's economic elite interviewed by the newspaper about Putin's thinking.
The billionaire acknowledged that the Russian leader had not expected the initially strong Western response to his war, "but now he is trying to reshape the situation and he believes that in the longer term he will win."
The comments come as the US is looking towards midterm elections in November, and Putin "believes public opinion can flip in one day" on opposition to his war within the West, particularly as he attempts to increase costs.
Part of the Russian leader's arsenal includes a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports that has already exacerbated a global food crisis. All of Ukraine's ports are blockaded by Russian warships, if not occupied outright by Russian forces. The Kremlin has sought to blame the blockade on Ukrainian mines.
Ukraine is colloquially referred to as a global "breadbasket," and is the fifth largest wheat exporter worldwide, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The blockade has resulted in tons of Ukrainian wheat remaining locked in port, or being shipped via far less efficient overland routes.
Putin also believes that the sanctions the West, and particularly the EU, has imposed on Russia will backfire, resulting in rising cost of living that will further fuel political discontent.
EU residents “are feeling the impact of these sanctions more than we are,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Post. “The West has made mistake after mistake, which has led to growing crises, and to say that this is all because of what is going on in Ukraine and what Putin is doing is incorrect.”
The unnamed billionaire told the Post that Putin believes his chances of success in Ukraine only grow the longer the war drags on, saying he "is a very patient guy. He can afford to wait six to nine months.”
“He can control Russian society much more tightly than the West can control its society," he added.