Only one of Vladimir Putin’s bets pays off: his oil and gas revenues are still intact and even benefit from higher prices.
His most characteristic miscalculation, after watching Ukrainians mobilize in the hundreds of thousands in 2004 and again in 2013-2014 to protect their country against political domination by Russia, was to believe that they would not defend it. not militarily. He told himself that these previous protests were not real, that they were organized and financed by foreigners, just as he told himself the same thing about the protests in Russia.
It’s worth stopping to note how nothing goes as he planned. Tens of thousands dead, entire cities reduced to rubble, horrific war crimes, the Russian economy in tatters, now an incipient series of direct Ukrainian air power attacks on Russian soil. Thousands of Russians of military age would flee the country to avoid becoming fodder in its military debacle.
Hear statements or tweets from his most Western-minded servants, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and versatile lapdog Dmitry Medvedev. They don’t bother to suggest that the war is not a disaster for Russia, only that it may also become a disaster for the West.
Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds, authors of an analysis published by the UK’s Royal United Services Institute, share a insight from this column: In mid-March, Mr. Putin missed an opportunity to cut his losses. “Instead, the decision was made not only to continue the narrative of a struggle against Nazism in Ukraine, but to widen the scope of ambition to a confrontation of systems” – that is say between Russia and NATO, which Mr. Putin, in a fact that is perhaps not widely appreciated, has always acknowledged to his people vastly outclasses Russia in terms of conventional military might.
Whatever Mr Putin has in mind, his annual Victory Day speech on Monday, marking the collapse of the Hitler regime in 1945, should, according to military analysts, frame what comes next. Meanwhile, commentary in the United States appears to accept as inviolable President Biden’s promise that American troops will not be directly engaged. Are we still quite sure of that?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not hesitate to do so: he is impatiently awaiting a NATO intervention. Moreover, he currently faces military-political choices – about whether to trade ground or risk his troops in the attack – which can only be influenced by the suspicion that the Biden administration has not more willing to let Ukraine fail.
Likewise, the Russian side, which was disenchanted with an easy victory and recognizes NATO’s degree of commitment, felt the ground shift. Returning to a theme, it is becoming increasingly conceivable that Mr Putin would prefer to be stopped by the Western alliance, with its recognized superiority in conventional air power, rather than by Ukraine, which would only dramatize the vacuity, corruption and lack of motivation of the army. The Russian army thus paints an unacceptable contrast between the two regimes.
Hang on to your hat. If Mr. Putin wants to drag NATO into war, he knows how to do it. Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, one of the three perpetrators of the war with Mr Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, paid an unusual visit to the front lines last week. Presumably, he went to see for himself the state of his army. What conclusions did he draw from this, in particular on his ability to hold ground against a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the months to come, fortified by a large influx of Western equipment?
Which brings us to Joe Biden. He conducted his presidency, at least by interpretation, as if he meant what he said at the start: a transitional figure.
He chose to respond to the left. This did not make him popular but did not weaken him by causing a civil war in his own party. He wanted to leave Afghanistan and didn’t care what the exit was like.
In a podcast with The Journal’s Gerard Baker, former CIA chief and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted the possibility that Ukraine could still fail and “we will live in this world.” This is not the worst possible outcome (a nuclear war would be). But over the past few weeks, presumably on the basis of the best military advice, with solid intelligence and communicating who knows what with elements of the Putin regime, Mr. Biden has been putting American chips in to force Russia to swallow something. something that looks like a defeat rather than the simple stalemate Mr. Putin is probably heading into now. Anything that looks more like a Ukraine failure will also look like a US failure.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8