The World and Russia After Putin
Even if Russia were to still “win” the war, it will lose the peace. Regime change in Russia is not on the official agenda of the Western Alliance, but it seems a likely result.
- While regime change in Russia is not on the official agenda of the Western Alliance, it seems like a likely consequence of Putin’s gigantic political miscalculation.
- Mr. Putin may use as many cluster bombs in Ukraine as he wants, it will still lead to an iconic defeat for Putin and Mother Russia. The last vestiges of Russian respectability are being blown to smithereens.
- Ironically, Putin’s craving to bring back the old Soviet Union will end like the Soviet Union itself did. After all, the USSR was eventually brought down by the enormous economic costs of a ten-year military adventure in Afghanistan.
- Whatever Putin’s exit may look like, it will be up to the West to not repeat its own mistake of espousing triumphalism at Russia’s defeat.
- After Putin’s departure, it will be up to the West to find a better way to allow the new Russian government and the Russian people a soft landing.
Until quite recently, it was widely assumed that the overwhelming military power of Putin’s gang of thugs that invaded Ukraine would quickly and brutally overthrow the democratic government of the country.
Putin’s ruthlessness would not stop at killing Ukraine’s legitimate president and replace him and his government with Putin puppets.
Russia’s massive own goal
But even then, it was not difficult to predict that Russia’s presumable victory on the battlefield would be followed by its ultimate political defeat.
Mr. Putin may use as many cluster bombs as he wants, it will still lead to an iconic defeat for Putin and Mother Russia.
Putin’s craving to bring back the old Soviet Union will end like the Soviet Union itself did. After all, the USSR was eventually brought down by the enormous economic costs of a ten-year military adventure in Afghanistan.
Who comes next?
Like then, a man or woman far wiser than Putin will admit defeat either after Putin’s removal or (premature?) death.
Social media are already featuring jokes about the long distance Putin keeps even to his own staffers at his gargantuan conference table. He is supposedly afraid they could leave their briefcases too close to his chair – a fate that Hitler, unfortunately, narrowly escaped.
Ending Russian adventurism, at least for a while
The difference between the end of the USSR driven by the 10-year suffering during the Afghanistan adventure is that Putin’s end following his Ukraine disaster will come much sooner than 10 years from now.
If the Russian people ever had a reason to muster their collective courage and have the guts to stand up to a despot, that moment is now.
Russia’s not-so-splendid isolation
Russia’s economic hardship will begin right away. It is cut off from international trade and it will find few buyers for the very few things of value that it has to sell.
Its coffers, presumably full of hard currency, turned out to be rather empty as soon as Western sanctions took hold.
Public cowardice begets declining living standards
Russia’s isolation will further deepen the economic and social decline of the country. From technology to know-how to foods and medicines, everything will become scarce.
Meanwhile, Russians will grow uneasy over the cost of the war and the unnecessary hardship they have to bear for the delusions of a crazy and largely unpopular president.
Beyond the young and the civic-minded?
Now, impressively, some Russians are rising as we speak. This shows great courage.
Predictably, Putin’s simple mind has only one response to dissent, murderous oppression. But as the numbers of Russian dissenters rise and the body bags of Russian soldiers returning the attempted raid of Ukraine pile up, the numbers of their respective aggrieved friends and relatives will grow exponentially. It’s a numbers game.
For whom the bell will toll
Eventually, Putin’s final hour will ring. While regime change in Russia is not on the official agenda of the Western Alliance, it seems like an unavoidable consequence of Putin’s gigantic political miscalculation.
Putin’s exit will be abrupt and violent. It will come from within the Kremlin should Putin opt to push his luck even further.
Making the NATO alliance fit for action
True, inebriated by his dreamed-up, quick conquest of Ukraine, supposedly without any Western military response, he might just be tempted to try his luck in the Baltics.
While it was somewhat doubtful until now, whether the NATO alliance would hold if tiny Lithuania were invaded by Russian troops, the gambling rather than chess-playing Vladimir Putin would be taught very quickly that NATO with 100% certainty would now invoke Article 5 of NATO’s agreement and consider an attack on its member state Lithuania by Russia an attack on all.
Putin would be playing the ultimate Russian roulette with all chambers of the revolver held to his temple fully loaded.
What about a nuclear exchange?
A nuclear exchange might be a real possibility at that point and World War III would be a certainty. Unlike Germany’s Hitler, one must assume that it is not the entire Russian power apparatus that has become positively sycophantic.
Russia’s Putin would likely be removed from currently friendly forces (or by military officials) inside the Kremlin walls. Already, it is clear from the excellent and detailed advance knowledge of all of Putin’s steps that his enemy comes from within.
The change that’s guaranteed
One thing is for sure, and that will drive Russia react to this near-miss of complete and deadly collision with the West.
Putin’s moves have forfeited any prospect for Russia to have a viable future as an energy partner for Europe for anything other than spot market round-out purchases.
Most likely, this lack of confidence in Russian liability will outlast Putin. And yet, this could be a net positive for the Russian people.
This is because the Russian leadership, whoever they might be, must wean themselves off their dependency on energy exports and develop a modern economy that puts value on human development and a non-fascist, participatory political system.
No more triumphalism
Whatever Putin’s exit may look like, it will be up to the West to not repeat its own mistake of espousing triumphalism at Russia’s defeat.
It will be up to the West to find a better way to allow the new Russian government and the Russian people a soft landing.