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Putin’s Motives in Ukraine Reveal How Russia and China Play the West Like a Fiddle
Understanding Russia’s motivation in Ukraine means understanding Russia’s geographic pressures, its economic interests, its demographic situation, and its propaganda. Anyone that understands those separate areas will also understand why Putin is doing what he is doing, as well as why he is doing it now.
Putin is not crazy or deranged. He is, simply put, Russian.
Russian history is a history of strong leaders trying to expand Russia’s borders, but this is driven by geography. Russia does not have defensible borders, but is instead surrounded by nine gaps, all of which are perfect for offensive operations.
Anyone that grew up in the Cold War knows what the Fulda Gap is – it is an open plain between Poland and Germany that would have been the primary route of Soviet invasion from Poland into Western Europe.
On the East of Poland is the Polish Gap, linking Poland with Belarus. North of the Polish Gap is the Baltic Gap, between Russia and the Baltic Sea. South of the Polish Gap (on the other side of the Carpathian Mountains) is the Bessarabian Gap through Ukraine, and South of that is the Crimean Gap, linking Russia to the Crimean ports on the Black Sea.
All of the above gaps are into or out of Europe.
Turkey has historically used the Northern Caucasus Gap to invade Russia. The Persians used to use the Southern Caucasus Gap to invade Russia.
The Central Asian Corridor connects Russia to Afghanistan, and is the route the Mongols used to attack (and defeat) Russia.
The Tien-Altay Gap connects Russia to China through Kazakhstan, and the White Sea Gap separates Russia from Finland and the Arctic Sea.
Russia has been invaded more than 50 times in its history, and all of those invasions have come through these nine gaps, all of which are perfect for offensive military operations.
How bad is Russia’s geography for national defense? Katherine the Great once said that Russia could only defend itself through expansion.
Katherine the Great was actually downplaying the problem ⏤ most of the gaps connecting Russia to the world also connect to other gaps, such that should Russia conquer Poland, while Russia would control the Polish Gap, the West could easily invade Poland through the Fulda Gap. Because of this, controlling the gaps into Russia just buys buffer zones.
The Soviets controlled all nine gaps, making Russia the most secure, from a purely geographic perspective, it has ever been during the Soviet era.
After the Soviet Empire collapsed, Russia controlled only one gap, and Russia under Putin has been aggressively working to control more of them.
The war with Georgia gave Russia control over the Southern Caucasus Approach. Support for Assad keeps the Northern Caucasus Approach closed (and seals Europe off from access to natural gas from the United Arab Emirates, as we will discuss later). Chechnya helps to protect Russia from the Baltic Gap (but fails to control it).
Invading and annexing the Crimea closed the Crimean Gap (and secured Russian access to Russia’s only year-round ports – all of their other ports freeze over in the Winter).
Aligning with China closes the Central Asian Corridor and also takes care of the Tien-Altay Gap.
Invading the rest of Ukraine will close the Bessarabian Gap, even if Russia only takes (and holds) Eastern Ukraine.
Every war Russia has been in under Putin, and every alliance Russia has made, has been in relation to the nine gaps. Ukraine closes Gap four (the Crimean Gap) and five (the Bessarabian Gap).
Should Ukraine fall, all eyes will turn to the Polish Gap.
Russia’s economic interests relate to energy. Russia wants to maintain control over Europe’s access to Natural Gas, and through that, to electricity. This is another reason Russia backs Assad: in addition to closing a gap, UAE natural gas cannot be piped into Turkey (and Europe) without going through Syria.
Russia has another economic interest: fertilizer. There are only three primary sources of fertilizer in the world. One is nitrogen, which is a byproduct of oil refining. As the world moves away from its reliance on oil, nitrogen begins to become scarce as a fertilizer.
Most phosphate fertilizers come from China, and China recently shut off all exports of phosphate fertilizers.
The third source of fertilizer is potash. Russia is the 2nd largest producer of potash in the world. Belarus is the 4th largest.
Between what the West is doing to cut back on oil refining, what China did with phosphate fertilizer, and what Russia is threatening to do with potash, all three of the world’s primary sources of fertilizer are becoming constrained.
The United States, Mexico, and Canada are lucky. We produce enough fertilizer ourselves to take care of ourselves. The rest of the world will be in real trouble. Food will become expensive in the United States – it will become unavailable in much of the rest of the world. China and Russia can starve most of the world. Whether or not they will do so – they will use the threat of doing so for maximum political effect.
The next factor is demographics. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, the average Russian family had seven children. This kept Russia supplied with virtually unlimited numbers of military-age men to tap into to expand borders and/or to defend territory.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, so too did Russian birth rates. Today Russian families average just 1.4 children ⏤ not enough to maintain the population. Today Russia still has enough military-age men to field an offensive Army, but Russia will not be able to do so in just a few more years.
If Russia is ever going to secure more gaps it has to do so now. Throw in a weak Joe Biden and complete European reliance on Russia for energy, and Putin’s invasion of Crimea makes all the sense in the world.
Immoral? Yes, but also rational. Putin is not crazy; he is Machiavellian.
China’s demographics are even worse. Not only doesn’t China have high enough birth rates to maintain its population, but China’s one-child policy ensured that most of the children it does have are male. China’s population will not recover anytime in the foreseeable future.
It is no surprise Russia and China are choking the world’s supply of fertilizer. Without enough military-age men to project power, they are positioning themselves to be able to use access to fertilizer (and through it, food) as a political weapon. The message is clear – let us do what we want, or starve to death.
The one country these economic games cannot work on is the United States, but Russia and China have propaganda campaigns in America and Western Europe to help.
Western Europe actually has ample Natural Gas. What they lack is a willingness to drill for it. Why? Because radical environmentalism spread and financed largely by and with Russian propaganda.
The Soviets had a massive propaganda campaign in the United States. When the Soviets collapsed, China picked up the pieces. Today both Russia and China finance huge radical environmentalist campaigns in the United States and Canada to encourage us to stop drilling for oil and natural gas.
China and Russia cannot make us energy-dependent, but our own people can. China and Russia are doing all they can to assist the dumbest Americans in shutting down American energy sources.
And the only viable alternative – nuclear – is a non-starter, again thanks to Russian and Chinese propaganda spread by American environmentalists.
How about the gay and trans movements?
I am a libertarian. I believe people should be allowed to live their lives as they want. All I care about is consent (and note that a minor cannot provide consent). If someone wants to marry a baked potato, if they can show consent (which would admittedly be difficult with a baked potato), I’m all for their right to marry as they see fit.
It does not affect me…
If people are gay or trans, as long as trans treatments are only performed with consent (which children cannot provide), I consider it none of my business. Whatever makes people happy!
At the same time, our nation is doing everything it can to encourage children to be trans, gay, or both, to the degree that in younger generations as many as 25% of children and young adults now do.
What will that do to our birth rates?
Who does it help to have the United States artificially reduce its birth rates? You guessed it ⏤ China and Russia.
China and Russia cannot create geographic gaps into the United States, but they can and are encouraging us to destroy our own border. There’s a lot of Russian and Chinese money behind these anti-border groups.
And now the propagandists are running the country, with control over the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate ⏤ at least until after this next election.
Putin is not crazy. He is a pragmatist facing a tight timetable who suddenly had a neutered Western Europe, and is facing arguably the weakest American President in American history.
You’ll notice that he did nothing under Trump.
Projecting strength promotes peace, but there will always be an appetite for war among some of our adversaries. As soon as we project weakness, they pounce.
This is why we should never project weakness.
Putin is not crazy. We are. Western Europe is. Putin is a Machiavellian pragmatist encouraging and taking advantage of our mistakes. And he is working with China.
At the end of the day, we will win, whether we want to or not. Demographics, geography, and economics demand that we win. But we can do a lot of damage to our own country and to the rest of the world before all of these other factors force us to win in spite of some of the dumbest decision-making in American history.
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