Why is Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine?

For those of you who can't wrap your heads around it...

I invite you to recall the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 by the US and its allies.

While artfully justified to Western audiences at the time, they have both been subjected to intense criticism and questions of legitimacy since. In the case of Iraq, if I am not mistaken, the war was an operation to disarm a country of weapons of mass destruction that it apparently didn't possess.

In the case of Afghanistan, the invasion occurred because, again if I am not mistaken, the US was not extended an invitation to come into their country and retaliate against al-Quaeda, a military organisation responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the US. So the US was forced to invite themselves.

While I'm not going to get into the criticisms of the US and its allies for these occurrences right now, I would just like to point out that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not all that different — in fact, it's actually more fruitful for Putin than the West's military ventures.

Putin stands to lose very little in this act. Anyone currently dealing with Russia is unlikely to be deterred by this episode for long, regardless of the cost to human lives. How many stopped dealing with the US when citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq were being killed?

Sanctions are also likely to do very little. As I understand it, Russia was already under some sanctions, what will a few more do? SWIFT access revocation has to be agreed by all members, and even if that happened, things like that are why cryptocurrencies didn't evaporate 12 years ago, but have instead (with a degree of volatility) flourished.

In terms of credibility in his own country, I suspect Putin's entire career as his country's president has been characterised by his outspoken belief that the USSR lives on and that he wants Russia to assert itself and its strength.

It is likely this narrative, combined with his tight state control, relationships with oligarchs, and exports of oil and gas to countries who don't really fancy digging it up for themselves, that has kept him in power and popular with sizeable proportion of the Russian people. Many of whom probably do yearn for a return to the halcyon days.

So invading a post-Soviet state with a good deal of embedded Russian culture probably only strengthens him in the view of his supporters, and his critics he can just arrest as debauched youths and traitors, I suppose.

My point is that he will likely face little effective opposition to a literal land-grab on the home front.

So what about aid coming to Ukraine from the West? Well, I've read a lot of people saying Putin is insane and irrational and could just hit the nuke button any time and his Western peers wouldn't have the stomach to do the same — for someone who wanted to face as little opposition as possible, that's pretty much the perfect impression to give off.

And all it takes is a psychotic-sounding speech or two that Western media outlets — who were in dire need of a new attention-gripping story to maximise ad revenue now that the pandemic's not interesting — can whip into a firestorm with nuclear weapon mentions, Hitler comparisons, military strength assessments...

Provided that you don't mind blowing up Ukrainian civilians — and I'm guessing Putin probably doesn't lose much sleep over it, much like Bush and Blair probably didn't think too much about Basra's residents — then this move gets you:

+ Ukraine, its strategically important location, infrastructure, its commodities, etc.

+ media exposure to flex your muscles to domestic and foreign audiences, consolidating your home political position, expanding your influence abroad, and cementing your legacy for years to come

+ a war with the odds firmly in your favour to train your military and test your weapons

+ a chance to antagonise already weak relations between the West and China

+ a chance to improve your own relations with China who'd love to have a relatively-ignored precedent upon which to rationalise a brief holiday to Taiwan

+ confirmation that no one in the West will fight you when you decide you look at the next non-NATO land-grab

- Boris Johnson will use the opportunity to pretend he's Winston Churchill... call for SWIFT revocation that he knows will never happen... in order to pull himself out of his own hot mess

- Joe Biden will babble on TV about something that is supposed to disguise the fact that he will never engage Russia in open war

- the EU will have a meeting

- NATO will have a meeting

- a few bored professionals will insult you on the internet

So, I suspect Putin probably did think the situation over, figured that if Ukraine joined NATO it would become impractical to attack, kind of a "now or never" moment for a leader who doesn't want to lose face entering what may be his last decade of his premiership before he decides to retire somewhere and write a best-selling guide to dealing with an alliance of 30 countries.

Don't get me wrong, what Putin is doing is of course horrific and my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people. I honestly didn't think he would do it, but I see why he has invaded — because he has dared to do it, people will believe he'd do anything now, and he can do whatever he wants. Maybe he'll try a small ex-Soviet NATO country next. I wonder if anyone will pipe up then.

I just felt the need to express how I am seeing these events unfold, because I believe that there is very little understanding of this situation in the West (perhaps I am also guilty of this, but if so, I hope to be corrected so I may learn) and I think that's probably half the reason why no one is actually doing anything other than stopping trade with a nation that is probably quite capable of weathering a bit of economic turbulence.


Post a Comment

Say whatever you want.