This is how I see the battle for Ukraine, from the comfort of rich, bumbling America.
Vladimir Putin is Dictator of Russia, a miserable place to live.
To Putin, the people of Russia are pathetic pawns in a narcissistic lust for power. The power game is his life and passion. He is a planner. Unlike American Presidents, he does not worry about elections or popularity. He sees their preoccupation with winning elections as weakness and silliness. He uses guile and corruption, backed by terror, to advance his almost maniacal lust for power and recognition on the world stage, using Russia as his vehicle. This makes him a dangerous foe because he doesn’t have to worry much about criticism from within the country. If dissenters get too much traction he just has one of his well-trained goons kill them.
Putin has been planning to take over Ukraine since the Soviet Union disintegrated. The key to taking Ukraine was weakening NATO and neutralizing Germany.
Germany is the richest and most economically powerful country by far in Western Europe. Putin was a KGB operative stationed in East Germany when the wall came down.
He saw how Germany prospered afterward, and it must have galled him. But he also saw the country’s huge weaknesses that he believed he ultimately could cultivate and use to take over Ukraine and Belarus, and reassemble the rest of the Soviet Union without the cost of a big shooting war.
The horrors of World War II made Germany and the rest of Western Europe quite pacifistic. Germans paid an incredible price for Hitler’s war and would do almost anything to avoid another military conflict.
Germany joined NATO, but they saw their role as funding it and having others do the military stuff.
Putin understood this fear of war and planned on exploiting it, even if it took decades. To Putin, NATO was essentially American military strength with Europe paying as little of the bill as it could get away with.
When Ukraine allied itself with NATO and sought to join it, Putin was enraged. So he waited for the United States to take Europe for granted and look more and more inward while developing its economic relationship with China.
Unfortunately for Putin, Russia became increasingly impoverished, alcoholic, and shrunken in population. It had only three strengths: military power, fossil fuels, and Vladimir Putin’s brilliance at keeping power and pushing his goals.
Putin believed that if Russia could weaken Germany, he could gobble up Ukraine, unravel NATO, and be America’s equal. His problem was corrupting and entangling Germany in his web without war.
His key to the puzzle was the Greens in Europe and especially Germany. It would take decades, but he knew the weakness of politicians and the power of money.
Putin was a fitness buff. He was tough, and fossil fuels were his spear and net to capture Germany.
A subtle long-term promotion of the idea that coal was dirty, nuclear was too dangerous, and wind and solar could ultimately fuel the continent, was sold to a sleeping European population. While the new green energy infrastructure was being built, Russia would provide the least awful fossil fuel, natural gas, through huge safe pipelines under the sea.
Angela Merkel bought the idea and saw it as her vehicle to gain and maintain power. Meanwhile, her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, was artfully corrupted. As soon as he left power he became head of Nordstream AG and later Nordstream 2, the gas pipeline of which Russian oil Giant Gazprom is sole shareholder. Earlier this month he was nominated for Gazprom’s board.
Putin’s huge headache was American fracking, which kept the world oil prices down and could reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian gas. Clever entrepreneurs developed liquid natural gas which could float all over the world in huge tankers.
But in 2020 Joe Biden became the American president. He thought he owed his election to the Greens and Progressives and shut down much of American fracking. The stars aligned for a 69-year-old Putin. COVID had reduced oil and gas demand worldwide. Prices fell, and frackers dependent on big borrowing were economically fragile.
If there was ever a moment to move on Ukraine this was it. Biden was weak, America had COVID, Germany had a new leader. European countries were uninterested and almost totally militarily dependent on an inward looking USA.
A ruthless, fit, dedicated Vladimir Putin now has 150,000 troops facing Kiev. Biden could probably stop the implementation of Nordstream 2. He could stimulate fracking production in the US, which would reduce demand for Russian gas and slow inflation.
Does Biden have the guts to do it, or will Putin get his dream of reassembling the Soviet Union with minimal losses?
Question: Will Putin’s gamble in Ukraine lead to his downfall?