Putin’s War – Is he Doomed to Failure?

[Updated 29 Aug: Putin’s war aims section. ]

[Chernobyl – Release of Nuclear Material? A high pressure over Moscow and the Baltic States would cause a release of atomic material to go over Europe. This would enable Putin to intimidate his opponents and, possibly, make the western parts of Ukraine unliveable.].

[Another thought. In Putin’s own words “Someone who fights you hand to hand you can respect; but someone who won’t is a coward”. Under that definition Vladimir Putin is a coward – as are his soldiers. Why? Beause his troops are bombing civilians and flattening their towns … from a distance! They seem to be too cowardly to come close to the courageous Ukrainian fighters!]

— How might the Ukrainian War end? —

The key to ending this nightmare is, IMHO, the Russian people and especially the young Russian conscripts. They are not the war-hardened veterans who went into Afghanistan in the 1980s. These youngsters are the Social-media generation. They know that there is something different outside Russia, and they (mostly) know a lie when they see it.

Putin  is making the same mistake that the USA did in Vietnam – telling only half the story. If you are wise you use the ‘double-sided argument’ with your soldiers. You say ‘This might happen and we can be successful’ but you also say ‘But we may face these difficulties and so these are the contingencies in place’. Without that, when it goes wrong, trust is lost and defeatism sets in.

— Putin’s Art of War —

The West must not underestimate Putin. All this talk of Putin being ‘mad, ‘deranged’ is unwise. Within his view of things is a cold logic (he is KGB after all). Western leaders must remember Sun Tzu (Chinese general from 500BC) who said “Know your enemy and know [that it is] yourself” … ie, that you can be deluded, even by yourself.

Two years ago Channel 4 aired ‘Putin: A Russian Spy Story‘. As it has a fair quantity of (genuine) interviews and recordings of Putin speaking it is chilling in the current context … In it he makes clear that:

= You can respect the hand to hand fighter but the traitor [be it person or peoples] must be destroyed wherever and whenever by any means available.

= [Following judo] You defeat a strong opponent by turning their strength against them; [following Machiavelli] and with a weak opponent you must hit first and hit hard so they will never hurt you.

= What comes from the Motherland is sacred and Russians will never undervalue it [in response to BBC’s Kendal asking, in 2006, if he would turn off oil/gas to Europe] and if anyone else does [undervalue it] we will deny it them, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

These principles are amplified in an excellent recent article, where the NYT examines Putin’s background, formative years, ideology and religious connections. It is clear that Putin has, over time, moved to an even more extreme position to right the wrongs of the end of the Cold War – which he feels deeply, even viscerally. He now even talks of Russia as a 1000-year Empire of Greatness (of which he is new Tzar?). Maybe Putin doesn’t yet realise that his worst enemy is now himself … [Added 28 Mar]

— Ukraine – Putin’s War Aims — Three Options? —

1. Option One (Easy). [FAILED] Advance the Russian border west to the Dnieper (checkpoints are already being built). Take over Kiev and put in a puppet government like in Belarus. Advantage, Putin can claim that Ukraine still exists so he has complied with West’s requests, yet he then has firm hold on Crimea and hinterland.

2. Option Two. (a stretch). [UNLIKELY – as at Aug 29] Advance Russian forces up to western edge of Ukraine. Establishes a firm border from St Petersburg to Odessa. Advantage, with Ukraine’s grain and oil / gas he can bargain hard in the economic sphere. Also, he’s right on the NATO / EU border so can create ongoing anxiety that he might go further (Western politicians don’t do long-term anxiety well). He may then give this western part (including Moldova) to Belarus.

3. Option Three (an improbable, but ‘while he is about it’ one). [PENDING? Moldova looks very vulnerable] Option Two plus:

– in the SW take Moldova and the eastern parts of Romania (inc the mouths of the Danube);

– in the NW take Baltic states (mop up Finland later) and add to Kaliningrad.

Why would he take this bold step? He knows that NATO will be stalemated in its Article V decision-making; he has total contempt for Western leaders; he knows his EW / cyber / economic influences are in place and he has China’s, behind the scenes, support [even Trump thinks it’s ‘genius’ ] ).

Advantages, reinstates the ‘Soviet Union’ (almost) and tidies up his western border. Also, with control of grain / oil / gas and the mouths of the Danube he can hit EU logistics / economies hard. Triggering a major shock to democracies already weakened by Covid (and the election of puppets like Trump, Orban and Johnson).

— Putin’s errors – Risks and Threats to his Options —

Putin is using the same strategies as those in Chechnya and Syria. But that’s a mistake. Ukraine’s population is Westernised, educated, disciplined, well-informed, courageous and united:

– they cannot be dismissed as ignorant religious fanatics, and have already shown themselves willing to fight hard and die for their freedom;

– their unity means he cannot play factions off one against each other as he did in Grozny and Aleppo;

– they have a leader who shows real courage and integrity, a leader the people trust and have faith in. If Putin assassinates Zelenskiy he will make things worse. People will fight for a martyr almost more than for anyone else.

Also, Europe and NATO are directly threatened by Putin and have shown a resolve he did not bargain for.

But his Biggest Error is isolating himself from reality. Those around him are in fear of their own lives and will not speak ‘truth to power’. When the crash comes, as it always does, Putin will be buried under rubble of his own making.

So what are the wider risks to his plan and the treats to his success?

a) Russian conscripts don’t fight (well). These are not the same type of soldiers who went into Afghanistan – they are the social media generation and used to getting their voices heard … and this is Slav vs Slav. Will they keep fighting? They are already finding out that they have been misled and there is sabotage and desertions.

b) Ukrainian refugees and horrific deaths triggers World backlash. Biden goes into Crusade mode ‘for God’ … [he is entirely under the influence of American RC bishops who are still threatening to deny him Eucharist … oh and Boris is RC too, as are his key advisors].

c) Russian Patriarch stops supporting Putin. The Pope appeals to the Patriarch to stop the fighting before it turns into a religious war similar to the Balkans. However, in 2012, Patriarch Kirill call Putin a ‘Miracle of God’ so that seems unlikely he would listen … but the distress of Russian mothers (over the deaths of their sons) may change Kirill’s views. And Zelenskiy has asked the Pope to intervene so the religious battle lines are now drawn.

—– [ First posted 12th March, modified 22nd and 28th Mar 2022 ] —–