Putin won’t stop until he reaches the gates of Berlin. That was a reported comment from one of the many “experts” on the Russian war against Ukraine. It rang true when I heard it a few weeks ago. Today, with a Russian general’s statement that their current goal in southern Ukraine was to open a route through to Moldova, it became even more real, if not a definitive statement of intent.
Putin is already a pariah, and that status should be irreversible no matter what he does from now on. So what’s he got to loose. “The proverbial ditch” (See my previous blog) may be looming larger every day, but he seems hell bent on pursuing a legacy that includes the re-establishment of the original borders of Russia under the Tzars. He won’t stop until someone stops him. Remember the gates of Berlin.
We can hope that his demonstrably inefficient, incompetent and demoralized armed forces will screw up his vision without outside help, but we can’t count on that.
Also, we have to keep firmly in mind that Xi Jinping is watching carefully how far the West will go to stop Russia’s invasion. He is paying close attention so he can refine his timing on invading Taiwan. The West not only has to stop Putin, it has to stop Xi’s plans as well, and that requires, unfortunately, definitive action beyond just sending arms and money.
Yes, Russia is hurting from sanctions: From the number of Russian soldiers the Ukrainian Army and people have killed, the enormous loss of Russian military equipment, etc, etc, BUT PUTIN DOESN’T CARE. His die is cast. He’s an uncivilized thug, who will end up in a ditch one day, but the West has to decide where to draw the line on his ambitions because he won’t, until he reaches the gates of Berlin.
If the West doesn’t draw a line, they can also give up Taiwan.
The announcement that the Russian Army’s current goal is to secure a corridor along the southern coast of Ukraine to the Moldova border is more than sufficient evidence that Putin will not stop until he is stopped.
It would be far preferable if he was stopped from the inside: people in the streets, a revolt of the armed forces, an oligarch who has a death wish or maybe one of his close advisors who is willing to die. However, at the moment that seems unlikely, and is certainly not an useful Western strategy. Yes, direct confrontation is dangerous when you are dealing with a powerful, vengeful, immoral, callous, but perversely intelligent, lunatic, but the world stakes are far too high for hesitation and inaction.
I remember the decision Winston Churchill made in World War II to let the Lufwaffe bomb Coventry, which killed 60,000 people in one night, rather than evacuate the city, which would have told Hitler that the Enigma Code was broken. We need leaders who will make the hard, visionary, decisions. Anyone can make easy ones, and we seem to be overloaded with “anyones” at the moment.
Remember the gates of Berlin. Seemingly a ridiculous comment but why would Putin stop, if he is not stopped? One of the most outspoken Russian oligarchs said recently, on his Twitter account, that the West must find a way of giving Putin a face-saving way out. I propose to all my readers here and now, Putin doesn’t want a way out. This is his life’s dream, and he will go down in flames trying to achieve it…..hopefully. It is interesting that Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian President who groomed Putin, and put him in office, admitted to President Clinton that he had made a terrible mistake in doing so.
It’s time to stand up and be counted as nations and leaders. It will be dangerous, and very possibly painful, but to do nothing, or to appease Putin, in any way, will have long and short term consequences that none of us want to contemplate. Time to get off the pot and avoid having to defend the gates of Berlin again.