Vladimir Putin made the worst geopolitical blunder of the 21st century. The Russian President thought he could go to Ukraine and the country would simply collapse or welcome the Russians as liberators.
For now, Russia claims it will be content to consolidate the territories it has Try to see if Ukraine will accept a deal. The gist of this is that Russia will be recognized as the Lord Supreme of Crimea and Donbass and Ukraine will be disarmed and not given a chance to join the European Union or NATO.
Translation: Ukraine becomes a larger version of Belarus. Next up for Putin would be Moldova, then the Baltics, then wherever there are Russian speakers he can say he needs to “liberate.”
The idea that Putin is serious about this nonsense – that Ukraine will formally give up Donbass and Crimea and not join NATO – is ridiculous. He knows these terms are unacceptable and only offers them to maintain a semblance of rationality. Even if Ukraine were willing to accept this, Putin would change the terms.
But we should be clear: there is no chance that Ukraine will accept that. Would Winston Churchill have given in to Hitler in October 1940? Would the British people, staring down Nazi tyranny, really have swallowed such a deal?
No, and you can bet that our modern Ukrainian Churchill – yes, I drank the Kool-Aid – Volodymyr Zelensky, will never agree to such a deal. I also don’t see the West or NATO pushing him to take it.
While Zelenskyy will not like the fact that NATO will not implement a no-fly zone or get involved more directly, Washington, Kyiv and Brussels agree that Putin’s Russia is in no position to dictate any terms as its forces have performed poorly – for now. They might even suspect that if they put enough pressure on Moscow, they can even get Russia to withdraw.
Brace yourself for bombs
So what does this mean for Russia’s strategy? What will Putin do when he knows that a negotiated solution on his terms cannot be accepted by either Ukraine or the West?
Bomb and bomb Ukraine back to the Stone Age.
The rationale is simple. Putin’s economy will shrink by 35% this year alone, and his foreign exchange is worthless as a shield to save the Russian ruble. Taken together, this means that Putin’s war in Ukraine has already cost his country at least $1 trillion on paper.
Putin needs to show the Russian people that he got at least something for such immense amounts of blood and treasure – and that means his air force will soon take to the skies. This means that his armies will soon be bombing the Ukrainian cities until they are just a bombed out cinder block. Do you think the images on TV and social media are terrible now? Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Putin has done this on several occasions. He wiped Grozny off the map in 1999-2000, killing thousands in the process. Then he turned Georgia into a rump state in 2008, using any piece of military hardware he wanted to further his goals.
Echoes of Syria
But his recent intervention in Syria deserves special attention. There, Putin showed what billions of dollars in oil revenues can do when you invest them in your military. Though not nearly as advanced as the US Air Force and lacking in precision, Russia wiped out large swathes of Syria’s metropolitan areas over four years and literally won Syria’s civil war out of the sky. Have you noticed how Putin has turned refugees into weapons in Ukraine? He learned this trick in Syria.
And this is where it gets ugly. In Syria, Putin showed a particular zeal for bombing schools, hospitals, sewage treatment plants, roads, bridges – anything where he could make innocent people suffer. We are already seeing this happening in Ukraine and I fear it is just the beginning as Putin hopes he can persuade Ukraine to accept peace on his terms.
But, as history always proves, arming genocide has the ultimate price. As Putin applies increasing pressure and turns Ukraine into a graveyard about the size of Texas, every time he drops another bomb, commits another war crime, or vacuum-bombs another neighborhood, he will face increasing pressure.
Putin is betting he can step up the ante and force a deal faster than NATO and Ukraine. My feeling is that his strategy will only backfire and put Putin in an even worse position. At this point there is no telling what Vlad will do next. But you can be sure of one thing: he will hit back at the West for its failures in Ukraine.
What happens when a nuclear-armed dictator with the ability to literally destroy civilization in 30 minutes is backed into a corner with no way out? Pray to God we don’t have to find out.
Harry J. Kazianis is Senior Director of the Center for the National Interest. Twitter: @Grecianformula
https://nypost.com/2022/03/07/putin-up-against-a-wall-and-ready-to-lash-out/ Putin against a wall – and ready to thrash about