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By now it is a commonplace that, by invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has committed not only a monstrous crime but a calamitous error. And like many commonplaces this is mostly true.

There can be no doubt the war is not going as he had planned. Badly trained, poorly led, indisciplined and under-supplied, Russian forces have made little headway in the face of ferocious Ukrainian opposition. As of Thursday the invasion had cost the lives of more than 9,000 Russian personnel, according to Ukrainian defence officials. Even allowing for some degree of exaggeration, that is an extraordinary figure: more than half as many dead in a week as the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of bloody fighting in Afghanistan.

And yet, but for Kherson in the south, no major city had yet fallen to the invaders. Ukraine’s air force, far from being destroyed as expected, was mostly intact. Its power grid and communications networks were still functioning. Anti-tank missiles and other advanced weaponry, late to arrive before the war, are now pouring into Ukraine from countries around the world. Worst of all, from Mr. Putin’s perspective, the fighting spirit of Ukrainians appears only to have grown, even under the most savage Russian bombardment.

If the war has been a setback to Mr. Putin’s ambitions, the deterioration in Russia’s strategic position is a disaster. As much as he underestimated Ukraine’s resolve, he seems also not to have anticipated how far-reaching the response from its fellow democracies would be, or how swift: not only in the supply of weapons, but in the most devastating suite of legal, financial and economic sanctions the world has ever seen. Mr. Putin’s billionaire cronies face confiscation of their assets abroad, while at The Hague, war crimes trials are being prepared for Mr. Putin and his leading advisers.

Politically, the invasion has succeeded only in galvanizing opposition to Russia on all sides. Ukraine, whom Mr. Putin had hoped to subsume within a new Russian empire, has never been more determined to preserve its independence. NATO, whom he had hoped to divide, is united and infused with fresh purpose, as is the European Union.

Germany, shedding 30 years of pacifist irresolution, has pledged a massive defence boost. Hungary, whose Prime Minister had dallied with Mr. Putin, is on board. Turkey has closed the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Historically neutral countries, such as Sweden and Finland, now look increasingly likely to join NATO.

The same is true elsewhere: Russia is increasingly isolated, a pariah state. Business is leaving. Sporting and cultural ties have been severed. China, its erstwhile ally, looks increasingly nervous at the company it is keeping. In the U.S., as elsewhere, pro-Putin demagogues are in retreat. Even the United Nations was moved to denounce the invasion, by a massive majority.

Meanwhile in Russia, its economy collapsing, its streets filled with protesters, the talk is that martial law will soon be imposed. Dissenters face mounting repression, including the threat of conscription to fight in Ukraine. Many are fleeing the country, in ironic counterpoint to the flood of refugees leaving Ukraine. For it is not only Ukraine Mr. Putin is destroying, but Russia.

All this, in the space of little more than a week. The question is: Where does this go from here? It is hard to see how it can get any better for Russia, or for Ukraine. While the Russians have the overwhelming advantage in arms and personnel, the Ukrainians have a number of other crucial advantages. Their troops are more motivated. Their population is more united, and increasingly armed. They are defending territory they now hold, against an attacker that does not know the terrain nearly as well. When the fighting moves to the cities, the numbers of dead will soar.

And yet it is impossible to imagine how either side can give in. For the Ukrainians, this is existential: Not only would surrender mean the extinction of their hopes of joining Europe as a free and independent state, it would in many cases mean their literal extinction. But it is no less existential for Mr. Putin. Defeat, in such a meaningless cause, at such a monumental cost, would leave him exposed and vulnerable. In a thugocracy like Mr. Putin’s Russia, political careers do not often end in retirement.

But even a Russian victory, with whatever brutality it might be achieved, would not begin to solve the problems Mr. Putin has brought upon himself. Indeed, it is difficult to believe he has thought this through. It would take a vastly larger army than the one Russia has amassed to subdue a population of 44 million people, let alone one so buzzing with rage as the Ukrainians.

Suppose you could: what do you do with this pseudo-state, reviled by its population, unrecognized by most of the world, now that you have constructed it? How do you pay for it, with your own economy in ruins? How do you rebuild the commercial and other ties that had previously sustained your economy, when by your actions you have permanently ruptured them?

By invading Ukraine, Mr. Putin has driven his country into a cul-de-sac of blood and madness – one from which there would appear to be no way out. Three possible endgames have been suggested. None look promising. In the first, Ukraine agrees to be partitioned, or some such grubby compromise. It will not happen. In the second, NATO enters the war on Ukraine’s side. It does not dare.

And in the third, Mr. Putin is toppled from power. This is by far the most desirable of the three. But it is hard to see how this could happen, so entrenched is his position, and there is very little anyone outside Russia can do to hasten its onset. Only in the fullness of time, I fear, after Russia’s condition has become so dire, its isolation so absolute, might those around him be desperate enough to risk it.

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