All Putin had to do was stay calm. The West was divided on what to do about Ukraine’s future with respect to European Union and NATO membership. The economic priorities of key NATO countries made them hesitant to break relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin’s temper has thrown it all away.
In the middle of the night, in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, the network media and social media began to explode as Russian ballistic missiles and cruise missiles began to rain down on Ukrainian military infrastructure. The explosions softened up the Ukrainian defenses, attacking airbases as well as command and control facilities.
As morning came to Ukraine, tanks began crossing the border from Belarus, seen around the world in real time social media livestream footage. World leaders scrambled on phones conferring with each other. Statements began to pop up on social media. By the morning, commuter buses began to appear in the streets of Kyiv, the country was under martial law, cars were beginning to stream westward toward the Polish border, and air raid sirens could be heard blaring as TV reporters did rooftop talking head reports live feeds.
Like many other observers of this moment, I think that Valdimir Putin has gone insane. Two days ago, he delivered an angry speech when he announced he was recognizing the independence of the Donbas separatists. Overnight, he framed his decision to invade Ukraine as a fanciful mission of denazification of the former Soviet republic. He also made a “mad man” level nuclear threat against the US and NATO in his 5:00am Moscow time speech announcing the beginning of hostilities.
The aging Soviet strongman did his country a terrible disservice. It will eventually see the already poor country fall to a new level of systemic collapse. Putin has doomed his county to become an economic pariah. Its oil and mineral potential will be shunned. The Russian people will suffer. It won’t end until they replace him with a new leader. It may take a major war with terrible loss of life to repair the damage his delusion has begotten.
Putin has always been too much of a prideful man. He has never handled feeling like he is being cornered gracefully. It’s always been important to handle him by creating ways to channel him into deciding it’s not the right time to lash out. In this instance, that path to diplomatic stability was closed off by rising rhetoric.
But then again, it is probable that no amount of diplomacy could have stopped this. Given the precision of how the pattern of attack and even the specificity of the timing has turned out, one does have to admit the US administration called it pretty much on the mark.
As I have admitted to RedState commenters, I did not properly factor Putin’s descent to madness in my calculations. I was shocked when I read his speech two days ago. It was bone chilling. And his invasion speech was even more disturbing. I honestly have never felt this degree of raw anger in a world leader’s statements. I don’t ever recall feeling it from the leadership of the USSR during the Cold War.
Putin’s methods and motivation remind me more of the insane tyranny of the Axis. His invasion of Ukraine is his own version Adolph Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa. Militarily, the Ukrainians are no match for the might of Russia’s military, and Mr. Putin will have Kyiv in his hands shortly. I expect the capital to be under attack, even as this piece is released on the morning of the 24th of February.
But there’s no guarantee the Ukrainians will lay down and let him have their county passively. Putin knows this and I expect Putin will act ruthlessly, purging Ukraine in ways that haven’t been seen since Joseph Stalin tinkered with the Soviet Union’s population to “engineer” them to his liking.
The chilling fact that Mr, Putin refers to Ukrainians who do not love Russia as Nazis is a foreboding sign that he sees his enemies in Ukraine as sub-human.
If the Ukrainians do somehow manage to endure and keep fighting, in the long run, it will weaken Russia. I still believe the long game of trying to restore Russia to the glory of the former Soviet Union is one that Putin cannot win. Indeed, because of his brazen blunder, we will see not only Ukraine breaking free of Russia, but it will be followed by Georgia, Chechnya, other former republics, and possibly even a collapse of the Russian Federation itself.
If Mr. Putin remains in power as the events he has set into motion unfold, it will be one of the most dangerous periods in human history.
This is a rapidly breaking situation. By the end of the day, the world will be well underway to galvanizing resistance to Mr. Putin’s adventurism. How united the G7 nations will be is unknown. How the front between Russia and NATO turns into a new “wall” and how the balance of forces on each side of that wall will evolve also remains to be seen. How much re-arming of Europe will be sparked by these events is yet a third unanswered question. But all of it will begin to happen in the next 24 hours and, because of Vladimir Putin, there is no going back to the world order that was only three days ago.
For the United States, I believe Mr. Biden must now step beyond giving lip service to trying to prevent a war in Europe to preparing the American people to help Europe survive Mr. Putin’s ambitions. It’s going to be an interesting State of the Union address next week.
The fact is that the Sarajevo moment the world was trying to avoid has happened. The existential specter of World War III now hangs like a dark cloud over mankind.
Can President Biden become a Ronald Reagan who gets Russia to come to the table and abandon dreams of hegemony? Can Joe Biden be a Franklin Roosevelt who architects an arsenal of democracy to, as Winston Churchill once said, bring the New World across the Atlantic to save the Old?
Regardless, Biden won’t be able to pull this off in a deeply divided America. In that sense, while the most politically jaded among us may want to thumb our noses at each other over the petty issues of dysfunctional America, Mr. Putin may have done America the favor of forcing us to find common ground out of necessity.
Mr. Biden has his work cut out for him. It’s been thrust upon him the same way 9/11 was thrust upon President George W. Bush. What Joseph Biden says when he gives his prepared remarks on the afternoon of the 24th of February will be one of the most important statements from a President of the United States to planet Earth since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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