Will Ukraine Win the War Against Russia?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Ukraine can defeat Vladimir Putin's troops, but what is the likelihood of a victory by Kyiv's forces over Russia and what form could it take?

Johnson told the BBC on Friday that "there's a sense in which Putin has already failed or lost," adding "I think Ukraine can certainly win."

Russia continues to bombard cities such as Mariupol and Chernihiv but Putin appears to be scaling back his ambitions in Ukraine away from seizing Kyiv to fighting for control of the east. On Friday, Moscow said the "special military operation" would now focus on the "main goal, liberation of Donbas," according to Reuters.

Meanwhile in calling for negotiations with Moscow to end the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday his "heroic armed forces had dealt powerful blows to the enemy."

Given Russia's stalled invasion, losses of troops and equipment as well as Ukraine's strong resistance, Newsweek asked six experts about whether they thought Kyiv could ultimately win.

Clifford Brown, political science professor, Union College, New York

"If winning means Russia being forced back from Kyiv and Kharkiv, I think the chances are good.

"If it means Ukraine holding the land bridge from Russia to Crimea, since this is Putin's minimum objective and he will fight very hard to achieve it [...] there the battle hangs in the balance.

"Ukraine could still hold this corridor, but to do so would mean a very serious collapse in the Russian position that has not yet taken place. Certainly possible, but odds no better than even here. [That] if successful, in my view, would constitute a win for Ukraine.

"If winning means re-taking Donbass and Crimea, I think either would produce escalation, probably WMD [weapons of mass destruction], and are out of the question at present."

Katie Laatikainen, political science professor, Adelphi University, New York

"The scattered reports of Ukrainian forces pushing back Russian positions is also a sign that Ukraine has been holding its own as long as materiel continues to flow. But it seems unlikely that Ukraine could 'win.'

"Here, the experience of Finland in the Winter and Continuation wars [during WW2] with the Soviet Union is instructive. Finland also faced a superior Soviet military and managed to hold its own for several years after Stalin miscalculated the costs of subduing Finland.

"The Finns also scored some stunning reversals of Soviet advances. Like Ukraine today, the Finnish military was supported by the whole of society which mobilized to resist the Soviets. In the end, the Soviet Union 'won' the war, annexed Karelia...and established a military base after the war until 1956.

"But Finland retained its sovereignty with constrained political independence rather than being subsumed in the Warsaw Treaty Pact.

"Finland avoided the far worse fates of Eastern European countries—which is something of a 'win'—but winning continued Finnish sovereignty came at a very high price. I fear that we have yet to see the real cost of a Ukrainian 'win.'"

Matt Qvortrup, political science professor, Coventry University, U.K.

"Ukraine is not likely to prevail in the traditional military sense of the word, which means to win outright—but nor is Russia.

"I think the more likely scenario is akin to Finland in 1941 or Georgia 2008. Or, to use another example, Serbia did not lose the war in Bosnia, nor did they directly lose in Kosovo. But they were weakened."

Lt. Col. William Astore, ex-professor of history at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAF)

"It's unlikely Ukraine will prevail. The longer the war persists, the more likely it is Ukraine will be catastrophically damaged."

Andrew Latham, international relations professor, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

"Russia is likely to emerge victorious enough, if not as victorious as they might have initially hoped.

"A similarly intriguing question is will Zelensky survive his imminent defeat? I think if he is forced to concede neutrality as well as the loss of Crimea and the Donbas not even his recent popularity will be sufficient to prevent the nationalist tiger that he's been riding from devouring him.

"More prosaically, I imagine he'll suffer the same fate as [ousted ex-President Viktor] Yanukovych back in 2014."

Michal Baranowski, Warsaw office director of the German Marshall Fund

"It will be a while before we will be able to see what Ukraine victory would mean in the end. It is certainly very likely that Russia will not reach its goal of total domination of Ukraine, but I'm afraid it's still too early to say that the war will end in Ukraine's victory."

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry for comment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3, 2022. Zelensky has expressed hope that negotiations with Moscow can end the war in which his forces are resisting Russian aggression. SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images