You know, I’m starting to get whiplash from watching Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelinsky. He has spent months being the cool badass. Russians on the border, so what? What next, Belgians in the Congo? And he’s right. Ukraine has been at war with Russia since 2014, when Putin invaded and annexed Crimea. And Putin backed Ukrainian Russian separatists started trying to create little homogeneous zones in Ukraine. Ukraine has suffered more than 14,000 deaths in the last 8 years.
And his attitude has hit a chord that plays well with the Ukrainian people. For the most part, they are just going about their daily lives, but finding time to take first aid training, weapon safety classes, and techniques for evacuating the wounded. And Zelinsky has even gotten a wee snippy with the guy who’s giving him hundreds of millions in defensive weaponry. He has chided President Biden for actually escalating tensions in the region with his doom and gloom predictions, asking him to take a more neutral tone.
So why, all of a sudden today, did Zelinksy take to the government Facebook page to call for day after tomorrow to be a national day of unity, because the Russians were coming in on February 16th? Where did he get this information from? Nobody else in NATO or the US seems to have nailed down any such confirmation. And worse yet, he’s making the announcement when it’s too late for his military to take preventative steps, like moving forward to lay landmines and erect tank traps to slow the Russians doen. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it.
Look, straight up. Nobody knows what the fuck is going on. I don’t, you don’t, the media doesn’t, the militaries and the intelligence agencies don’t, for one simple reason. Because whatever happens next all boils down to the final decision of one man, who, when you strip him to his core, is nothing more or less than a Donald Trump who talks with a funny accent. A less than intelligent egomaniac with God complex. And with that particular stew, all bets are off.
Retired former US 4 star General Barry McCaffrey, now a MSNBC military analyst said something that struck me. To paraphrase, he said in all his years, he had never seen such a total cluster fuck, but at the same time, he didn’t see how Biden and Zelinsky could have played it any better, or Putin have played it any worse. From the start, Biden and Zelinsky have held their ground against the bully, showing no fear whatsoever. Not only did they not show fear, they constantly hammered home the severe repercussions to Putin and Russia if he invaded. McCaffrey worries that
Biden might be risking sources and assets by sharing intelligence in almost real time, but understands that it was to deny Russia a jury rigged provocation to invade. And Putin has wasted every opportunity he had to strike while the iron is hot.
Just ask yourself this one simple question. What is Putin’s ultimate end game here? Nobody knows. At this point I don’t think even Putin knows. He massed troops on the border, and stood in front of Zelinsky like some schoolyard bully, demanding his lunch money. But then, around the corner comes the kid’s big brother, along with half of the high school wrestling team, and now the bully has a cocked fist, and a severe ass kicking on the near horizon. But how does he back down without losing face?
What is Putin’s ultimate end game? My guess is that Putin planned to use military might pressure to weaken the hold of the government in Kiev, and install a more pro Russian government that had no interest in joining NATO. That makes sense. But he’s 4 years too late! Putin should have pulled this stunt in 2018 or 2019, Trump would have handed him the keys to Kiev. Biden has restated the United States support for Ukraine, and put his money where his mouth is, and Biden has repaired many of the rifts in NATO that Trump created. There is a new, unified Sheriff’s office in town.
See, here’s the bottom line. Putin can invade the Ukraine any time he wants, but he can’t hold it! Trust me on this. From age 11, I immersed myself in Avalon-Hill tactical battle simulation games. As real as it gets without the smell of cordite. The board was an accurate topographical map of the battle site, the pieces accurate representations of the units that actually took part. If you got into it as much as a tactical geek like me did, you even had to worry about lines of supply for your frontline troops. War is incredibly complex.
With 130,000 troops, Putin can invade Ukraine any time he wants. He can even get to Kiev, most likely within 48 hours. But then, how do they hold it? Securing Kiev would mean literal house-to-house fighting, which will bring massive Russian casualties. But once you clear the city, you have to have another whole army to secure it, and to create a new city government and police force to replace the old ones. And Putin doesn’t have those kinds of numbers on the ground, not when you look at the rest of the country he has to pacify. And the Ukraine population is swearing that they will fight. Putin will end up with the 21st century version of francs-tireurs, the French partisans that bedeviled the Germans in France in WWII.
Putin miscalculated badly, and now he’s on the edge of a cliff, with the sound of rocks falling all around him. But he’s also as unstable as hell, and nothing is more dangerous than a cornered animal. Watch the news closely, but take every prediction you hear with a cow lick sized grain of salt. Because one man, and one man only has the ultimate decision, and until he makes it, the rest of us are just hostages.