The war in Ukraine will not end anytime soon because it is, as one respondent put it, “an existential struggle for both Putin and (Ukrainian President Volodomyr) Zelensky”. Instead, a majority of the respondents ventured, the fighting will continue at some level while both sides try to drain their opponent’s patience, resources and resolve.

As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, one obvious request is: Tell me how this ends.

Although it’s a mystery without any clues, it’s an important question, with the death toll mounting, the atrocities continuing, Vladimir Putin brandishing Russia’s nuclear arsenal and cutting off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, U.S. President Joe Biden asking Congress for another $33 billion in aid and other NATO members sending more weaponry to Ukraine.

Here are some tentative answers from more than two dozen current and former U.S. and NATO military and intelligence officials, diplomats and other experts, writes John Walcott in Making Sense of a Mad, Mad World.

Their responses vary, but the general consensus is that the war in Ukraine will not end anytime soon because it is, as one respondent put it, “an existential struggle for both Putin and (Ukrainian President Volodomyr) Zelensky”. Instead, a majority of the respondents ventured, the fighting will continue at some level while both sides try to drain their opponent’s patience, resources and resolve.

Putin, offered one current senior U.S. military official, “is probably still betting that we and our NATO allies will eventually be consumed by our internal bickering and dysfunction and lose interest in what’s going on far away — and in paying for it”.

A current NATO political leader called far right French politician Marine Le Pen’s loss to President Emmanuel Macron a setback for Putin, but one that, with “a wobbly Germany, probably did not erase his hope for a populist wave sweeping Europe, maybe resuming with the French parliamentary elections in June”.

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