Putin’s comeuppance is becoming real. His stated reason for starting the war with Ukraine was the defence of Russia, and a reaction to the expansion of NATO. Of course, that is basically bullshit. He wants to re-establish the Soviet Union, if not the full extent of the old Tsarist, Russian Empire. However, let’s look at the stated goal for a moment.
He launched the war on Ukraine with the obvious belief that it would fold in a few days and the West would sit of their hands, cry a little, and do nothing. To be honest, that’s also what most people in the West thought would happen as well.
Obviously, Putin and virtually everyone else, were completely wrong.
The Russian armed forces have been an embarrassment, the Ukrainian Army has been disciplined and effective, Ukrainian citizens have been resolute in their defence of their homeland, and President Zelensky has been remarkable. Most unexpected of all, the West has reacted with cohesiveness, strength and a stated and unwavering commitment to the defence of Ukraine. Who would have thought? They’ve certainly rarely exhibited those attributes before.
Putin may just have managed a rare accomplishment. He’s brought Europe together, he’s strengthened the North Atlantic alliance, his actions have promoted a response that sends a strong message to China about their conquest of Taiwan plans, and he has shown the world the incompetence of his armed forces.
A northern European general, I’m not sure if it was Lithuanian or Finnish Air Force general, when asked recently if he was concerned about Russia’s intentions, said, “I always thought we were confronted by a superior force…..we’re not”. A telling comment.
As this blog went to press today, I received my latest copy of the Economist. It was interesting to see that the front page headline was “How Rotten is Russia’s Army?” Several articles inside that copy analyze the chronic state of Russia’s armed forces in general, and how Putin’s megalomania and corruption has failed to upgrade their actually capabilities despite spending millions of rubles. The reality of Russia’s military might falls far short of its popular image at home and abroad.
Putin has achieved almost exactly the opposite of what he stated he wanted and, in the process, has probably totally obliterated his actual dream, all in one three-month period. A definite comeuppance and the West’s dream-come-true.
To add insult to injury, his actions have led Finland to be within weeks of applying to join NATO, probably closely followed by Sweden. I would not be surprised if that was followed by Moldova and possibly Georgia, almost certainly followed by Ukraine. Putin’s comeuppance with a vengeance.
Putin’s latest tirade/threat just shows his desperation. Remember nuclear weapons, he said. Russia’s response to Western involvement in Ukraine will be swift and vicious, he said. Yes, he could do it, but the words and the timing suggest frustration and desperation rather than strategy.
A report from the London War College, and a separate report from Eastern Ukraine, both issued this week, show why that desperation is increasing. The Ukraine report admitted that Ukrainian casualties in the Donbas region has been significant, but the Russian casualties have been, quote, “colossal”. The War College report predicted that Russia will “run out of troops” within two weeks, and the Ukrainians will counter-attack. Putin’s comeuppance barely describes the outcome of his decisions.
The West’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could not have sent a better message to Xi Jinping. It was not direct, therefore not a threat as such, but it was clear. If you try and invade Taiwan, you had better think carefully about the consequences. Russia is now a declining power and a world pariah thanks to Putin’s arrogance and ambition. Do you want to risk taking China down that same path?