This news has been dominating the headlines for weeks. The question that no one has asked, is why now? What brought him out of hibernation during the pandemic to instigate such as rash decision? Putin didn’t seem to be under a particular threat in domestic politics, and his goal of restoring the Soviet Union has been simmering for decades. Some have commented that he already got everything he wanted from Trump, so he had no need to go adventuring.
Everyone has been speculating that his mindset seems to have suddenly evolved into a more emotional state rather than his usual calculating and rational approach. While no one can read his mind, he obviously miscalculated. But so did Biden. Whereas Biden’s generals had convinced him that Afghanistan might survive for as long as six months, apparently, they told him that Ukraine was a lost cause and would fold within days. Their intelligence was wrong in both cases. Because of their negative assessment of Ukraine’s military capabilities, they provided only token military equipment and supplies. They may have been afraid it only would fall into Russian hands.
We fought proxy wars in the Middle East without success, where we were the aggressor. There also was the long history of the resentment of centuries of colonialism that factored into the hatred of the US and the West. Now we have a proxy war in Europe, where with the support of NATO and the EU, we may have a chance to severely damage the status of Russia as a competitor in world politics.
Some would say that Putin brought it upon himself. The philosophical question of a grand struggle between democracy and autocracy seems over simplified. We have some very autocratic countries in NATO. We applaud the open-door policy of Poland in accepting Ukrainian refugees, but we forget that they turned away Muslim Afghan refugees only a few months ago.
We should have learned our lesson in Vietnam that when people are defending their own country, they have the passion and commitment that outsiders lack. Military might is not the only ingredient in winning a war. In the first place, the military always is fighting wars with outdated strategies from previous wars that no long apply. For example, the impact of cyberwarfare has yet to be played out in the Ukraine. The threat of the use of tactical nuclear weapons rings hollow. Putin can’t be that crazy.
Russia may ultimately over run the defensive forces of Ukraine. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out like Syria. But they will face a long and bitter battle of insurgency and a drain on their economy and military forces. The weapons war in the 80’s bankrupted The Soviet Union and ultimately led to its collapse. The current conflict will only further weaken a third-rate nation in spite of their nuclear stockpiles. Let’s hope that it will hasten Putin’s departure.