EUROPE: Putin Doesn’t Have An Endgame for Ukraine- But We Do – Opinion

By: Lucian K. Truscott IV

When orders over 150,000 troops and tanks and howitzers and missile launchers to cross another country’s borders and attack its capital and other major cities and kill its civilian citizenry after accusing them of being “Nazis” and committing “genocide”, the question quickly becomes, where is this madman going to stop?

Hitler wasn’t satisfied when he took Austria in 1938. He wasn’t satisfied when he demanded and got the Sudetenland a few months later. He didn’t stop when he took Poland in 1939. What will satisfy the angry, resentful, aggrieved “president” of Russia? Where will he stop? What is his endgame, to use the modern word?               

The New York Times this morning had three op-eds by its top opinion columnists discussing how the war in Ukraine will end. One of them, Ross Douthat, used the word “endgame” in his title. Thomas Friedman, the Times’ chief foreign affairs columnist, exclaimed at the top of his piece, “I see three scenarios for how this war ends.” Brett Stephens, one of the Times’ so-called “conservative” columnists, made it more explicitly political, calling his piece “Biden must not allow Ukraine to fall”, as if the President of the United States could somehow pick up a rifle and get out there on the front lines in Kharkiv and personally insure Ukraine’s survival.

All three columnists essentially addressed the question of Putin’s endgame, two of them laying out what they thought scenarios for the war’s end might be. Douthat put the possibilities most succinctly and Friedman more or less agreed with him: 1) Putin “wins” a bloody “victory” followed by a “grinding occupation.” 2) There is a ceasefire followed by what Friedman called a “dirty compromise.” 3) A combination of Russian elites, politicians, and the military are somehow able to depose Putin and come to a reasonable peace with Ukraine.

All the Times columnists assume in their pieces that to one degree or another it’s up to either Putin and the Russians, or to a new post-Putin Russia. 

IT IS NOT. The endgame doesn’t belong to Putin or Russia and it never did, any more than the endgame belonged to the U.S. when we invaded Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq. If we haven’t learned this much after losing three “wars of choice” that we started, we’re never going to learn. It has been proven again and again and again that the people in the countries that have been invaded by a foreign army have the last word. Every. Single. Time. 

Putin’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine, that it was ruled by Nazis and was committing genocide against its ethnically Russian citizens, didn’t hold any more water than the Gulf of Tonkin resolution held in Vietnam, or our pursuit of Saddam’s WMD did in Iraq, or our assertion that we needed to invade and occupy Afghanistan to run Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda out of the country. Hell, we ran the bad guys out of Afghanistan within the first month, no WMD were ever found by UN inspectors or our own forces in Iraq, and North Vietnam never attacked us in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was all bullshit, and so are Putin’s so-called “reasons” for attacking Ukraine.

Putin seems to have taken the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a personal affront. It’s like he’s pissed that by the time he got to be president of Russia, some of his toys had been taken from him. Now he wants the largest of those missing toys, Ukraine, back in his toybox, so he sent in his army and he ordered his ships to steam into the Black Sea, and this morning there are reports that several major cities in Ukraine including its capital, Kyiv, and its second largest city, Kharkiv, and an important port city in the south, Kherson, are under siege. Thousands of civilians have been killed and Russian jets, artillery and rockets are hitting civilian targets in those cities and others indiscriminately.

Putin’s army has stalled in its assault. Russia has been turned into an outlaw country, and its citizens are being treated like pariahs around the world. Russian sports teams have been expelled from important leagues, Russian planes have been banned from the airspace of most of Europe and other Western nations, including the U.S., Russian banks have been removed from the SWIFT payment system, Russian assets including real estate holdings of oligarchs and others are being seized, and multiple Western oil companies have stopped doing business in Russia hurting its oil and gas markets.

The “endgame,” such as it is, won’t be determined in Moscow. It will be determined on the streets of Ukraine and in the capitals of Europe and the United States. Not a single bullet has been fired into Russia, but a war between Russia and the West is raging everywhere else, including but not limited to Ukraine. You’ve heard of Putin’s hubris? Now you’re going to be witness to Putin’s humiliation. It’s not going to take the 10 years we spent losing the war in Vietnam or the 20 years we wasted in Afghanistan or the seven years we blew on Iraq. Nobody waged economic war on us while we were killing people in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, so we had the luxury of pissing away our trillions of dollars without outside interference in our economy. NOT SO WITH RUSSIA. They haven’t got trillions to waste. They’re already running out of money at the same time their army is low on fuel and food in Ukraine.

The clock is ticking, and it’s not a Russian clock. It belongs to Ukraine and the West. All the words you’ve read and heard about Putin are true:

His arrogance, how he miscalculated and underestimated Ukraine, that he’s isolated and unbalanced. Terrifying new words are coming: That he is weak and he is losing, because there is no way for him to win his war against Ukraine and the West.

Putin is being ushered off the world stage:

NO more Davos, NO more G20, NO more summits with democratically elected presidents, NO more Olympics, NO more soccer, NO more Bolshoi, NO more French Riviera, NO more Gucci, NO more Prada, NO more Mercedes sedans, NO more Boeing or Airbus planes, NO more billions of dollars to fill his coffers and those of his oligarch pals, NO more state dinners in foreign capitals, NO more anything.

HERE IS THE ENDGAME: Russia is now a gigantic gulag for its citizens and its president and will remain that way until he is gone.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/03/2022 at 1:17 am

    UPDATE:

    Russia announced that 498 of its soldiers had been killed in the war against Ukraine and 1,597 had been wounded. Ukraine has claimed killing far more Russians than its military has acknowledged.

    RUSSIAN COMBAT DEATHS WORK OUT TO ABOUT 100 PER DAY, and its rate of wounded is more than 300 per day. It is known that the Russian military often understates its casualty figures. The Russian Defense Ministry said that 572 of its soldiers had been captured.

    THESE ARE VERY, VERY HIGH CASUALTIES.

    THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF CASUALTIES THE U.S. ARMY SUFFERED IN IRAQ THAT I COULD FIND WAS 37 KILLED ON ONE DAY IN JANUARY 2005.

    Thirty-one of those were killed in the crash of a Super Stallion helicopter outside of the desert town of Rutbah. Six other American soldiers were killed in other action that day. The cause of the crash of the helicopter was unknown. The highest number of casualties previous to that day was 28 killed on March 23, 2003 during the initial invasion of Iraq.

    There have been unconfirmed reports of Russian soldiers laying down their arms and surrendering, telling Ukrainian soldiers that they had been misled by their leaders who told them they were on a training mission. Some Russian soldiers were said to not understand at least initially that they were in Ukraine and not Russia.

    The war is not going well for the Russian army. They have yet to move significantly into any major Ukrainian cities where urban fighting would be expected to cause even higher casualties.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/03/2022 at 6:41 am

    NO Country on earth has ever reverted to its former status after independence.

    Putin is looking to install a puppet in Ukraine and have it revert to its former Soviet status so that he could renegotiate the end of the cold war.

    In 1991, given a referendum on the subject, about 92-Percent of Ukraine voted for independence from the USSR.

    Putin now wants a start-over – This has NEVER happened!!

    Example:

    CZECHOSLOVAKIA, OR CZECHO-SLOVAKIA, was a sovereign state in Central Europe, created in October 1918, when it declared its independence from Austria-Hungary.

    On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia separated peacefully into two new countries, the CZECH REPUBLIC and SLOVAKIA.

    British Guiana and Guyana ….. No country has ever gone back to suckling under the thumb of a colonial master.

    Putin is looking to be the first to do duh!!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/03/2022 at 3:34 pm

    When Vladimir Putin Escalates His War, The World Must Meet Him

    Muttering nuclear threats, Russia’s president vows to prevail in Ukraine whatever it takes

    The Economist

    MARVEL AT THE HEROISM AND RESILIENCE OF UKRAINE. In the first days of war, the armoured might of Vladimir Putin shrivelled before the courage of the nation he had attacked. In the face of Mr Putin’s invasion, the Ukrainian people have discovered they are ready to die for the idea that they should choose their own destiny. To a cynical dictator that must be incomprehensible. To the rest of humanity, it is an inspiration.

    IF ONLY THIS WEEK’S BRAVERY WERE ENOUGH TO BRING THE FIGHTING TO AN END. Alas, Russia’s president will not withdraw so easily. From the start, Mr Putin has made clear that this is a war of escalation — a hygienic word for a dirty and potentially catastrophic reality. At its most brutal, escalation means that, whatever the world does, Mr Putin threatens to be more violent and more destructive even, he growls, if that means resorting to a nuclear weapon. And so he insists that the world back off while he sharpens his knife and sets about his slaughter.

    ESCALATION IS A NARCOTIC. Such a retreat must not happen. Not only because to abandon Ukraine to its fate would be wrong, but also because Mr Putin will not stop there. If Mr Putin prevails today, his next fix will be in Georgia, Moldova or the Baltic states. PUTIN WILL NOT STOP UNTIL HE IS STOPPED.

    ESCALATION IS AT THE HEART OF THIS WAR BECAUSE IT IS HOW PUTIN TRIES TO TURN DEFEAT INTO VICTORY. The first wave of his invasion proved as rotten as the cabal who planned it — just like his earlier efforts to suborn Ukraine. Mr Putin seems to have believed his own propaganda that the territory he has invaded is NOT a real country. The initial assault, which led with botched helicopter strikes and raids by lightly armed units, was conceived for an adversary that would implode. Instead, Ukrainian spirits have flourished under fire. The president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been transformed into a war leader who embodies his people’s courage and defiance.

    THE OPTIMISM OF THE WARMONGER MADE MR PUTIN LAZY. He was so sure Ukraine would fall rapidly that he did not prepare his people for it. Some troops have been told they are on exercises, or that they will be welcomed as liberators. Citizens are not ready for a fratricidal conflict with their fellow Slavs. Having been assured that there would be no war, much of the elite feels humiliated. They are horrified at Mr Putin’s recklessness.

    And Russia’s president believed that the decadent West would always accommodate him. In fact, Ukraine’s example has inspired marches through the capital cities of Europe. Western governments, having listened, have imposed severe sanctions. Germany, which only a week ago drew the line at sending anything more lethal than helmets, is dispatching anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, overturning decades of policy based on taming Russia by engaging with it.

    FACED WITH THESE REVERSES, MR PUTIN IS ESCALATING. In Ukraine he is moving to besiege the main cities and calling up his heavy armour to wantonly kill their civilian inhabitants — a war crime. At home he is bringing Russians to heel by redoubling his lies and subjecting his people to the harshest state terror since Stalin. To the West he is issuing threats of nuclear war.

    THE WORLD MUST STAND UP TO PUTIN, and to be credible it must demonstrate that it is willing to bleed his regime of the resources that enable him to wage war and abuse his own people even if that imposes costs on Western economies. The sanctions devised after Mr Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 were riddled with loopholes and compromises. Instead of being deterred, the Kremlin concluded that it could act with impunity. By contrast, the latest sanctions, imposed on February 28th, have crumpled the rouble and promise to cripple Russia’s financial system. THE SANCTIONS ARE EFFECTIVE BECAUSE THEY ARE DESTRUCTIVE.

    THE DANGER OF ESCALATION IS THAT THIS CAN EASILY BECOME A TEST OF WHO IS MOST WILLING AND ABLE TO GO TO EXTREMES. Recent wars have been asymmetric. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State would commit any atrocity, but their power was limited. America could destroy the planet, but against foes like the Taliban in Afghanistan, nobody imagined it was willing. The invasion of Ukraine is different, because Mr Putin can charge all the way to Armageddon and he wants the world to believe he is ready to do so.

    SOME WILL SAY THERE IS NO POINT IN SAVING UKRAINE ONLY TO TRIGGER A SPIRAL THAT MAY DESTROY CIVILISATION. But that is a false choice. Mr Putin says he wants to drive NATO out of the former Warsaw Pact countries and America out of Europe. If escalation serves him, the next confrontation will be even more dangerous because he will be less ready to believe that, for once, the West will stand its ground.

    OTHERS MAY CONCLUDE THAT MR PUTIN IS INSANE AND DETERRENCE IS HOPELESS. True, his goals are abhorrent, as are his means of achieving them. Neither does he have Russia’s true interests at heart. But he nonetheless has an understanding of power and how to keep it. No doubt he is alive to the language of threats.

    BY CONTRAST, STILL OTHERS WILL WANT TO SHORT-CIRCUIT ESCALATION, SAYING THAT MR PUTIN MUST BE STOPPED BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. As images of suffering emerge from the ruins of Ukraine’s cities, calls are going up for NATO to do something, such as to create a no-fly zone. However, enforcing one requires shooting down Russian aircraft and destroying Russian air-defences. Instead, NATO needs to preserve a clear line between attacking Russia and backing Ukraine, while leaving no doubt that it will defend its members. That is the best brake on escalation.

    DIPLOMACY MATTERS, TOO. At peace talks in Belarus this week Russia still made outrageous demands, but negotiations should continue because they could help avert a war of attrition. The European Union has done well to open its arms to Ukrainian refugees, who already exceed 1m. A haven can strengthen the hand of the Ukrainian negotiators, as would a path to EU membership. China and India have so far refused to condemn Mr Putin. As he escalates, they may be sufficiently alarmed to be willing to try to talk him down.

    AND THERE IS WORK TO DO IN RUSSIA. Military commanders should know they will be prosecuted for war crimes using the evidence generated by innumerable smartphones. So should Mr Putin’s entourage. His enforcers signed up to line their pockets in a kleptocracy, not for a ticket to The Hague. The West can discreetly assure them that, if they remove Russia’s president from power, Russia will get a fresh start. However nauseating, the West should give Mr Putin a route into retirement and obscurity — just as it should give asylum to those fleeing his terror.

    A PALACE COUP MAY COME TO SEEM MORE PLAUSIBLE AS THE HORROR OF WHAT MR PUTIN HAS DONE SINKS IN. The economy faces disaster. Russian military casualties are growing. Russians’ Ukrainian kin are being massacred in a conflict unleashed to satisfy one man. Even now brave Russians are taking to the streets to protest against a crime that stains their country. In a deep sense, Mr Putin’s NEEDLESS WAR IS ONE THAT NEITHER HE NOR RUSSIA CAN WIN. ■

  • geoffburrowes  On 03/05/2022 at 11:20 am

    The Leaders of Canada, the US and Europe between them need to grow a backbone! Putin will only be stopped by a show of force, backed up by resolute action! What’s wrong with the wimps in power in the West? The lessons of history are lost on them! They need a Chuchill a Rooseveldt a Stalin a Kennedy or a Reagan – our own leadership here in Canada makes me ashamed!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: