I’m not the biggest fan of the British blonde headed Prime Minister with the Moe Howard haircut, Boris Johnson. But he showed me a little something today, and he also got me thinking.
All of a sudden today, literally out of nowhere, since it was a state secret, Prime Minister Boris Johnson popped out in Kyiv like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhogs Day. And like a Greek, he came bearing gifts. He came with more military aid, including 132 armored transport vehicles, as well as a battery of anti ship missiles, in case Putin tries to get cute around Odessa. But the one that got my febrile mind churning was he also brought London backed loan guarantees of a half a billion dollars to help Ukraine to start to rebuild once this is over.
Now that ain’t chump change, but in reality it’s a drop in the bucket. The Mayor of Mariupol has said that his city has suffered approximately $4 billion in damage. Other places aren’t much better off. But I gotta figure that the US, the EU, NATO, and the world will queue up to chip in. Shit, if the world came together to oversubscribe the fund to rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral, they’ll pony up. After all, Ukraine is a real life geopolitical Rocky.
But that started me thinking. It’s going to take tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions to rebuild Ukraine after Vlad the Imp is back in his cage and neutered. It’s going to take a united global effort, which I have no doubt Ukraine will get, and it will take years, if not more than a decade to get them back up and running again. Which begs a simple question.
What the fuck is/was Vladimir Putin thinking?! Clearly Putin didn’t invade the Ukraine just to retake the Donbas region, he could have done that in less than a week. He came in on multiple fronts, some hundreds of miles from the Donbas region. His goal was to conquer Ukraine quickly, subjugate the population, and install a puppet government friendly to him. Then he’d withdraw.
Putin fucked up. He came in spread too far out, at the start of the spring thaw so that his armor bogged down, with substandard supply lines, and most of all totally underestimated the Ukrainian will to fight for their country and freedom.
Look, there are only two real reasons I know of to invade another, non threatening country. Either a) you want to take over a fully functional country with a stable economy and business base, and fold it into your own. Or b) you want to drive everybody in the country out, turning them into refugees, and move your own people in instead. This is the excuse Hitler used in 1939, Lebensraum, living room for his growing population. But either way, the object is to end up with basically a functional country to plunder.
But Putin’s invasion stalled, almost as soon as it started. And then his temper and his little swinging took over. He started a campaign of wanton destruction. But it was far from indiscriminate. He targeted power stations, natural gas stations and lines, water and sewer stations, and phone lines. Then he went after schools, hospitals, government buildings, factories, food warehouses, fuel depots, and residential apartment buildings. From where I’m sitting, by week three of the campaign, Putin made a conscious decision that if he couldn’t have the Ukraine, he’d leave nothing for the Ukrainians to have. The two year old is taking his ball and going home.
Which is economically insane, and totally self destructive. Remember what I said above, whether you want to overrun a country and pacify it to enjoy the benefits, or you want to empty out the country and repopulate it with your own people, Either one requires a functional government, infrastructure, and economic base.
And right now Putin has neither! Let’s say he wins, he clears the vast majority of Ukrainians out, turning them into refugees. What self respecting Russian wants to move into a landscape that looks like it came from a Mad Max movie, with no running water, electricity, phones, sewers, water, cable, and nowhere to go to work, other than sweeping up rocks and glass from the streets? And if he wins, and installs a puppet government, what good does it do him? He inherits a bleeding broken land which can hardly feed itself, much less return a profit to Putin.
If Ukraine wins, and especially if Putin is fettered, or even better, removed by his own people, the world will jump in with both money as well as physical resources to help Ukraine to rebuild. And if Putin wins? What does he inherit? A post apocalyptic landscape that will take years and tens of billions to rehab, while he remains under crushing global sanctions. How does he even start with something like that?
But here’s the McGuffin. If Putin wins, he accidentally creates his own worst security nightmare internally. If he wins, he pushes Russia’s border with NATO back to the edge of Ukraine. But how does he defend it? There’s no electricity in major chunks of Ukraine, nor water and sewer service. How does he set up outposts and bases, especially when he’s stony broke. What Putin ends up with is a barren, largely uninhabitable landscape which, should Putin ever get feisty, the US and NATO could roll through in less than 24 hours, and be on the southwestern border of Russia itself. Stand up and take a bow, fool.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was nothing more or less than his overriding desire to recreate the glories of the former Soviet Union before he checks out. But instead, he made a total cock up out of it, and now he has no winning exit strategy, no matter what happens.