Today, May 9th, Russia is celebrating Victory Day, the anniversary of the end of World War Two on the eastern front, where the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany.
There was a huge military parade in Moscow, and President Putin defended his invasion of Ukraine.
It's not at all clear, though, that the war is going as well for Russia as Putin might've hoped for.
To find out where the war stands now, and what Russia, Ukraine and Western actors are approaching the conflict, we are pleased to welcome Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who is the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
He joins us from Frankfurt, Germany.
1) Let's start with Russia's assault on Mariupol. Ukraine says now that all women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from the steelworks there, which would leave essentially only Ukrainian troops. What is going to become of them? Their families have reportedly been pleading for them to be spared.
2) Today is May 9th, and in Russia, that date is celebrated as the end of World War Two, or as it's known in Russia, the Great Patriotic War. There'd been a lot of speculation about what we'd hear from President Putin. Some saying it might be something really dramatic, like a major change of course in the war. What's your takeaway from Putin's speech, and how might he see the war going for Russia right now?
3) Now Sweden and Finland are looking at joining NATO, a move the Secretary of State has said the U.S. will strongly support. Russia has said before that this would result in military escalation. Sweden is traditionally neutral, while Finland has been wary of NATO membership because of its long border with Russia. Are they going to go through with this, and how would it change the security situation in Europe?
4) U.S. intelligence officials are telling the media that they've been helping Ukraine with information leading to the deaths of multiple Russian generals and the sinking of the warship Moskva. The Pentagon spokesperson himself said they're providing Ukraine with information useful to its military. Some are questioning the wisdom of talking openly about this. How far ought the U.S. go with this kind of thing?
5) Russia made last-minute payments in dollars on two sovereign bonds last week, narrowly avoiding default. Of course, it's in this situation, at risk of default, because the United States has frozen its reserves and countries are cutting economic ties with Russia. What would default mean for Russia and the rest of the world?
6) Are the sanctions on Russia ultimately harming the economies of the countries that are implementing them? Some companies, for instance, have been willing to buy gas in rubles, and there are the obvious issues of higher prices for energy and grains.
7) Is there any aspect of the war in Ukraine or the impact of it, in your view, that we should be paying more attention to?