Russian President Vladimir Putin casts the war in Ukraine as a watershed when Russia finally stood up to the West — but some within the elite fear he has committed his country to a long and fruitless drain on lives and resources.

When he ordered troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, he expected to win quickly, earn a place in history alongside the tsars of old, and teach the United States a lesson about Russia's revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He was wrong. The war has killed or wounded hundreds of thousands; Russia and Russians are vilified in the West as aggressors; and his army now faces a resilient Ukraine backed by an expanding U.S.-led NATO military alliance.