U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo hosted a virtual town hall Thursday with guest Michael McFaul, Stanford University professor and former ambassador to Russia, to address local residents’ questions about the Russian war on Ukraine.

Eshoo, a Democrat who represents District 23, which encompasses Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View among other cities, has served in Congress since 1993.

“We are inspired by the bravery and the courage of the Ukrainian people. They are fighting, some of them until their very last breath, to protect and defend their democracy,” Eshoo said before launching into a question-and-answer session.

Topics discussed ranged from potential scenarios for the end of the war to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals in invading and the Russian people’s perception of the war. While McFaul, who is considered a national leading expert on Russia, gave substantive and thoughtful responses to questions, there were many times he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the conflict.

McFaul posits there are three possible outcomes for the ending of the war. First is the unlikely but still possible scenario where Ukraine outright wins. Second, and what McFaul believes is the most likely outcome, is a stalemate on the battlefield, which he said is still far away but coming closer by the day. Third is a “short-term Putin victory but a long-term Putin defeat,” in which Russia may capture Ukrainian capital Kyiv but will be unable to maintain occupancy of Ukraine for long due to a shortage of military power and lack of an actual guiding ideology.

“Whatever we can do to help (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky to that second-scenario stalemate should be the focus of our attention,” McFaul said.

Despite his lengthy and detailed answers backed by current information and historical precedent, McFaul again made the point that everyone speculating on various aspects of the conflict is guessing.

“I want to remind everybody we political scientists are very bad at telling the future,” he said. “One of the things I wrote several years ago is that before revolutions happen, they seem impossible, and after they happen, they seem inevitable.”

McFaul, however, did say that he felt certain about some things, including his position that the war may lead to the end of “Putinism as a system,” though not necessarily the overthrowing of his government.

“I don’t think he will ever get back the legitimacy and the support that he had in the previous 20 years,” he said. “And that will eventually be the unraveling of the system in place in Russia.”

Eshoo and McFaul discussed ways Americans could act to support Ukraine. McFaul said gestures as simple as waving a Ukrainian flag to show solidarity are meaningful to people in the U.S. who are from or have family in Ukraine. He also suggested donating to organizations that support families who have had to relocate from Ukraine and rebuild their lives elsewhere.

To view a recording of the town hall, visit tinyurl.com/3xbpmyw5.

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