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Nearly everyone thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was playing chess while former US President Barack Obama was playing checkers. We were wrong. They were both playing the stupid child’s game of patty-cake, along with their corrupt friends, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. There was no need for Putin to play a sophisticated game like chess until Trump was elected. And, as it turned out, he was not so good at it.
And that’s the most important insight you need to have as the rest of this story plays out. Putin’s mind is still that of a KGB Lt. Colonel thug who became Russia’s President, then its dictator, and now its Czar, and the head of a massive criminal enterprise known as the government of Russia. And there are no boundaries to the savagery of Putin or his colleagues.
Recently, we read Rich Kozlovich’s book review of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder about corruption in Putin’s Russia. This article is based on that review and subsequent communication with foreign relations expert Kozlovich.
For years we all assumed that the only thing stopping the Russians from rushing down the north European Plain all the way to France was American military power. But, we are coming to realize that Russia is far weaker than we thought. The problem is that Russia is not a financial generating nation because its entire economy still operates as a communist central planning nation with corruption so rampant it’s impossible for it to face the upcoming economic disaster that will soon hit them. They are breeding themselves out of existence, with the vital 15 to 50 age group in their demographic pyramid being small, sick with drug-resistant TB and AIDS, and alcohol, thereby impeding any progress.
Russia has many defensive problems with the manpower to defend only some of them. They are facing serious problems internally. Their leaders still think they can push everyone around without consequence. But, clearly, that’s not happening. In the future, their bully boy tactics will come back to haunt them because they’re broke and getting broker by the hour. They cannot fix their problems because Putin and his allies refuse to give up control of the economy and allow private ownership of property.
There has been an attempt by Putin to modernize their current military equipment and systems, which were based on 25-year-old technology. But that takes money, a lot of money, which they simply don’t have.
In addition, once you scratch the surface of Russia’s military, you will find poor workmanship and equipment that doesn’t work as planned. Their special forces are top-notch, but their military overall is ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-motivated, undermanned, and a demographic pyramid that’s all out of whack. Putin’s plan to reconquer Ukraine was extraordinarily foolish, and not surprisingly, it is failing miserably. Of course, he is blaming everyone except himself.
He’s now convinced that his military leaders misled him. But he’s surrounded himself with people who are afraid to tell him the truth, and for good reason. In Putin’s efforts to become all-powerful, he methodically got rid of anyone who questioned him, much like Stalin, and surrounded himself with yes-men, sycophants, and flunkies. He demanded loyalty, not truth, and he got what he wanted: loyalty first, competence second, truth in a far distant third place. So practically, no one dared question his vision of conquering Ukraine, which has been a dismal failure so far.
In his Foreign Affairs article, Putin Unbound, How Repression at Home Presaged Belligerence Abroad, Daniel Treisman writes:
“Before he started massing troops, few expected Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, and even once he did, few expected him to behave the way he has. In a shocking act of aggression, the Russian leader sent troops to bomb cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol and to attack schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings throughout the country, killing hundreds—if not thousands—of civilians. His extreme demands—calling for Ukraine to disarm, formally recognize the loss of Crimea, give up large swaths of territory in the eastern part of the country, and renounce any intention to join NATO—have stunned the world, as has his repeated nuclear saber-rattling. Instead of winning over the Ukrainians, Putin has quickly turned the population irrevocably against him. And he has grossly overestimated the strength and speed of his military, which stumbled badly in the early weeks of the war. How could a leader regularly hailed as a skilled tactician, if not a strategic genius, make so many rash and seemingly counterproductive moves?”
We now know that Putin is not the chess master we all thought. His military isn’t the tiger he worked to create either, so it’s clear he would be incapable of successfully marching down the North European Plain even if the US did not defend Europe. And now, all his scheming is backfiring on him internationally, economically, and strategically.
Putin claims this invasion was predicated on his concern over NATO expansion. But he knows NATO wasn’t formed as an aggressive organization. It is a defensive one, and that was to defend Europe from Soviet aggression, which was a constant threat. And just as there were excusers of Stalinist aggression, we saw it for a while for Putin. The only thing he feared about NATO was that they might interfere with his aggression.
But the invasion of Ukraine was poorly planned with no end game. Putin doesn’t have the manpower to occupy such a large area. How could he not know that? It was because his generals lied to him, and so in his mind, it’s not his fault. That’s what happens when you surround yourself was yes-men, sycophants, and flunkies.
We now know that a few did tell Putin, but he just didn’t listen. We only recently learned that a retired Russian army colonel and now a well-known military analyst, Mikhail Khodaryonok, wrote three weeks before the invasion, warning this was not going to be as easy as they believed because “Ukrainian morale is high, their conscripts are motivated, and well-armed thanks to the west, and Russia’s international isolation is unsustainable.” Khodaryonok, who is also a defense columnist for the gazeta.ru newspaper and a graduate of one of Russia’s elite military academies, was certainly correct.
On May 16, Khodaryonok gave an important and frank assessment of the situation on the “60 Minutes” talk show on the state-controlled Rossiya-1 TV program. “The situation, frankly speaking, will get worse for us,” he told the astonished program host.”
In a video clip that was viewed more than 6 million times in the three days that followed, Khodaryonok said:
“You should not swallow informational tranquilizers.
“The desire to defend one’s motherland in the sense that it exists in Ukraine — it really does exist there, and they intend to fight to the last…We need to treat this million Ukrainian soldiers as a reality in the nearest future.
“The main deficiency of our military-political position is that we are in full geopolitical solitude and — however, we don’t want to admit it — practically the whole world is against us … and we need to get out of this situation.
“The main thing in our business is to have a sense of military-political realism: if you go beyond that, then the reality of history will hit you so hard that you will not know what hit you.”
Watch Khodaryonok’s exceptional comments here.
But someone must have given the retired Lt. Colonel a serious talking to because, two days later, he was back on air giving a rosier picture of Putin’s war:
“Regarding the actions of our supreme commander, there is every reason to believe that the implementation of these plans will in the very near future give Ukraine an unpleasant surprise.”
Watch his mea culpa here.
One wonders if Mikhail Khodaryonok will now simply be disappeared.
To learn more about what’s really happening with Vladimir Putin, tune in to THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY at 11 am and 8 pm Eastern time Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, when foreign affairs expert Rich Kozlovich, who runs the blog, “Paradigms and Demographics, will be our guest.
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