Dr. Dele Sobowale
“Men make history, but not just as they please.”
Karl Marx, 1803-1882, VBQ, VBQ p 93.
PUTIN’S QUEST FOR EMPIRE ENDS IN GRIEF
Karl Marx was the father of the Communist/Socialist Movement globally. His COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, which was required reading in my Junior Year in the university in 1967, while taking an elective course on the subject was, for a brief period the most important book to read on political-economy.
Marx made history; but not as he wanted. He predicted communist revolutions in advanced capitalistcountries. But, the first communist revolution occurred in largely rural Russia; followed by relatively backward China and Cuba among other nations. Furthermore, Marx was certain that once it occurred the dictatorship of the proletariat would be irreversible. Russia today shows clearly how wrong one of the greatest men in history was. Russia under Putting is now a capitalist nation and a one-man dictatorship in which a few oligarchs, like the former Chelsea owner, own splendid yachts while millions live on slim salaries.
President Vladimir Putin is one of the few extremely wealthy; and he is making a literally bloody history. But, it is unlikely to bring him the sort of glory which conquerors in the past received for murdering hundreds of thousand, and even millions, in cold blood. The war is still on in Ukraine; so it is too early to obtain the ultimate body count of those who lost their lives in combat action as well as those who were deleted as collateral damage. It is likely that when it is all over close to 200,000 would have died needlessly on account of one man’s ambition for an empire. All those who in history contributed to establishing empires in the past were mass murderers who were glorified by their own people. Fortunately, for the weaker peoples worldwide, the Age of Empire building ended in the last century. Apparently, nobody told Putin. His idea of creating subservient nations around Russia is merely a replay of the days of empire; which had expired in the twentieth century. Now that dream is turning into a nightmare in the lingering war in Ukraine.
RECAP OF THE WAR SO FAR
“From the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one step.”
Thomas Paine, 1737-1809.
In the very first article in the series titled,PANDEMIC PUTIN’S POWER PLAY, written just as the first Russian tanks were moving into Ukraine, Putin was reminded of Russia’s own history when more powerful nations – France under Napoleon and Germany under Hitler invaded the country. On the two occasions the invaders were confident of a quick victory. Their unhappy experiences were similar in two ways. First, the war lasted longer than expected. Second, they failed to achieve their set objectives in the end.
For weeks before the invasion actually started, Putin had held the entire world in suspense regarding his intentions. Russian armed forces on land, sea and air had encircled Ukraine. The intention was to intimidate the government of Ukraine, led by Mr Zelensky, to surrender, abdicate and allow Putin to install a puppet regime, totally under Russian control, in its place without a fight. The show of strength was presumed to be sufficient to achieve the result.
Several weeks of negotiations went on with various world leaders aimed at persuading Putin not to go to war. Meanwhile, his Foreign Affairs Minister, like all ambassadors, went around the world telling lies about Russia’s real intentions. He was still lying a week after Russian tanks moved into Ukraine that his country had not invaded. For the Russian President and Minister, truth was the first casualty. But, like all liars, they have discovered, since the war started in the February 2022, that they need more false narratives to cover the truths about a war which is not going as intended.
Contrary to what Putin and most people, including military experts expected, Ukraine did not surrender; Russia failed to achieve the quick triumph anticipated; the attempt to enter and seize the Ukrainian capital was repelled; the chain of encirclement was broken and the Russians are now fighting to gain control of the East and South of the country and create a landlocked nation. That portends a longer war of attrition than Putin and his generals envisaged; because even if that objective is achieved, Russian troops will still have to be stationed there indefinitely to exercise control. The Unkrainians meanwhile have vowed never to surrender an inch of their country. Russia has failed so far to register a clear victory – despite the destructions and the war crimes committed by its soldiers. It will need to kill more children to win a battle.
MAY 9, 2022 AND RUSSIAN HOLLOW VICTORY PARADE
“If you think your enemy has two courses open to him, be sure he would choose the third. Helmut von Moltke, 1848-1916, German Military strategist.
May 9 is an annual public holiday in Russia. It is celebrated as Victory Day, in remembrance of the victory over Germany in the famous Battle of Stalingrad during World War II. Certainly, Putin must have assumed that this year’s Victory Day parade address to the Russian people and the world would include references to the war in Ukraine just successfully concluded. Instead, he was grumbling about how the war was forced on Russia by the US, NATO and Nazis in Ukraine. How Ukrainian President, a Jew, whose people were the major victims of the Holocaust, could be called a Nazi reveals to what extent aggressors, like Putin, would go to weaponize propaganda and falsehood when faced with results different from what they expected. The fact is, on May 9, 2022, Putin had no victory to declare. Russia is still fighting a war he assumed would have been over by April. The question is why?
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES CAN DESTROY A PLAN
“Wisdom in people [especially leaders] consists in the anticipation of consequences.” Norman Cousins.
As Moltke warned, from the painful experience of the German defeat in World War I, Putin must have made some assumptions. Among these are the following:
• The United States immediately after its defeat in Afghanistan would not want to intervene.
• The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would not act without the US.
• None of the countries surrounding Ukraine would come to their aid.
• The war would be over within a matter of days and Ukraine would have ceased to exist – just as Putin claimed shortly before the invasion.
• The US and the European Union would impose their usually ineffective sanctions; but Russia would have annexed Ukraine all the same.
• Realising all these, Ukraine would have no other choice but surrender.
• Despite threats of economic sanctions, with the war over so quickly, there will be little disruption of trade worldwide.
A quick glance at those assumptions would demonstrate how they have turned out to be faulty and how each of them has helped to create the current military, economic and diplomatic quagmire for Russia. Putin has no success to flaunt before the world, there is no fait accompli; he cannot tell the world “take it or leave it, Ukraine is under my control” and he cannot go home without a trophy. The man is stuck and desperate. That makes him dangerous.
Perhaps the outcome might have been different if Putin had gone ahead and invaded right away. But, like those funny American wrestlers who strut around after stunning their opponents, instead of finishing the job, he wanted the world and Ukrainians to know how mighty the Russian military power is. By so doing, he provided Ukraine the time needed to determine the third course. The country would neither surrender nor engage in a direct confrontation with the Russian juggernaut. Instead, they mounted a dynamic and indirect defence which consisted of small units, well armed, spread across wide areas to attack and destroy Russian troops. They have effectively blunted the Russian superiority in arms and have inflicted heavy losses of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and weapons on Russian troops. Even the pride of the Russian nation, a battle ship costing about $2 billion was lost. This was the last thing Putin expected.
America was indeed still reeling from the hasty exit from Afghanistan, but, its top military command still regards Russia as their number one adversary. Furthermore, there is an abiding fear of the domino effect of allowing Russia to subjugate Ukraine. It might be Poland next and other Eastern European nations who might be bullied into submission. The US had no choice other than to fight a proxy war by providing three critical resources – sophisticated weapons, satellite information about Russian troop movements and money. NATO and other European nations soon followed. Russia is now at war with over twenty countries. It lacks the resources to fight a war of attrition with the West.
Economic sanctions had traditionally been very light and ineffective because they were not meant to permanently weaken the nation on which they were imposed. The set of sanctions now imposed on Russia are designed to have far-reaching effects. Russia ranked eleventh on Gross Domestic Product, GDP,table at the beginning of the war. The totality of the impacts of the economic embargoes will drive it out of the top 20 countries (G-20). Previous economic and trade punishments have not asked global companies established in the country to close shop. This is the first time hundreds of giant multi-nationals are being asked to leave a country. Russia is a major exporter of wheat and maize, gas and oil, as well as, solid minerals; all these commodities are now under attack.The US and Western alliance are forcing nations around the world to stop trading with Russia; to stop bilateral financial ties or face sanctions themselves. Although the result is less dramatic than military warfare, the lasting effect might be more destructive for Russia. Already, the nation’s unemployment rate has gone up; its Stock Exchange is experiencing sell-offs. A serious scramble for exit from Russia is underway. Few will return any time soon; some never again.
A worldwide economic recession might turn out to be one of the unintended consequences. The US Federal Reserve Bank recently announced increase in interest rates – the negative impact of which will be felt by everybody on earth.
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT
On May 9, Putin exhibited all the reactions of people, particularly leaders, who were surprised by unintended consequences. Among other outcomes, he had united several nations in the determination to defeat him in Ukraine. It has probably now dawned on him that he might carve a small area, but, he will not have all of Ukraine under his control. Even that part will be in contention for years to come. He will end the war with a more hostile and better armedUkraine as neighbour. A few European nations which had hitherto stayed out of NATO are now considering joining the organisation as a form of insurance against future Russia invasion. Instead of rolling back the expansion of NATO, he would end by expanding its reach.
Russia is losing the propaganda war. Both sides in this conflict had deployed half-truths and outright lies in fighting this war. Unfortunately for Russia, this is a world in which media is dominated by CNN, BBC, Facebook, Twitter, etc – all controlled by his adversaries. They have been employed with devastating effect in portraying Russian soldiers as barbaric beasts. Globally, the Russian has become some to be avoided at all costs. That will remain the national image years after this war is over.
Still Putin needs a “victory” to save his face and get him to withdraw his troops. Otherwise, with different faces of defeat starring at him, he might go for escalation of the war in order not to accept defeat in Ukraine. That is what the US, Europe and Ukraine must work on now. Without that, the world might as well get ready for a wider war which will savage the economy and claim more lives than we are experiencing now.