“Pick your Poison” The world is on the brink of the cliff in so many harrowing and numbifying ways. Clearly climate disasters are worldwide, frequent and more costly; while inflation effects augmented by worldwide debt-level risks continue to threaten the foundations of economic stability; and there is the many lingering and lurking Pandemic problems like long Covid, mutating base viruses, new vector contagions, mental health consequences, etc.. But perhaps the biggest danger at the edge of the cliff is an act of stupid vanity by Vladimir Putin in attempting to revive and recreate the Soviet Union. Read how Tom Friedman of the New Times described the misadventure:
I have not written much about the war in Ukraine lately because so little has changed strategically since the first few months of this conflict, when three overarching facts pretty much drove everything — and still do. Fact No. 1: As I wrote at the outset, when a war of this magnitude begins, the key question you ask yourself as a foreign affairs columnist is very simple: Where should I be? Should I be in Kyiv, the Donbas, Crimea, Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Brussels or Washington?
And from the start of this war, there has been only one place to be to understand its timing and direction — and that’s in Vladimir Putin’s head. Unfortunately, Putin doesn’t grant visas to his brain.
That’s a real problem because this war emerged entirely from there — with, we now know, almost no input from his cabinet or military commanders — and certainly with no mass urging from the Russian people. So Russia will be stopped in Ukraine, whether it’s winning or losing, only when Putin decides to stop.
Which leads to fact No. 2: Putin never had a Plan B. It’s now obvious that he thought he was going to waltz into Kyiv, seize it in a week, install a lackey as president, tuck Ukraine into his pocket and put an end to any further European Union, NATO or Western cultural expansion toward Russia. He would then cast his shadow across all of Europe.
This leads to fact No. 3: Putin has put himself in a situation where he can’t win, can’t lose and can’t stop. There’s no way he can seize control of all of Ukraine anymore. But at the same time, he can’t afford to be defeated, after all the Russian lives and treasure he has expended. So he can’t stop.
Eugene Rumer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace confirms the verdict:
A year into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, Russia has suffered a major strategic defeat, Ukraine has achieved a major strategic victory, and the West has demonstrated a combination of resolve, unity, and cohesion that few had expected. This, however, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.
The war continues with no end in sight. Neither side is ready to negotiate. Both are preparing to launch major offensives in the near future. Neither side has achieved a major breakthrough in recent months that would change the course of the war. Whereas Russia’s failure to win in a blitzkrieg prompted many predictions of Ukraine’s imminent victory, lately the commentary has been about a stalemate.
Ukrainians, having tasted victory on the battlefield and united in their desire for justice and revenge, cannot accept a land-for-peace compromise. For Putin, whose war it is primarily, compromise is not an option after the humiliation of the failed campaign in pursuit of his maximalist objectives. This war was not existential for him when he began it, but it is now. He has staked his entire presidency on it and must win it. He is preparing for a long war. Ukrainians, having tasted victory on the battlefield and united in their desire for justice and revenge, cannot accept a land-for-peace compromise. For Putin, whose war it is primarily, compromise is not an option after the humiliation of the failed campaign in pursuit of his maximalist objectives. This war was not existential for him when he began it, but it is now. He has staked his entire presidency on it and must win it. He is preparing for a long war.
So the World has to endure another hair-trigger at the brink…and that’s without considering the machinations of Kim Jongun in Korea and XI Jingping’s ambitions for Taiwan and all of Southeast Asia.