Vladimir Putin Has Already Won, but Nobody Wants to Admit It
I get it now.
Nothing made sense until today, when Germany announced that it plans to keep buying oil and natural gas from Russia, even as Vladimir Putin continues committing every war crime on the books. China also recently came out in support of Russia, refusing to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and calling them a chief “strategic partner.”
Now, everything makes sense.
The German Chancellor’s remarks remind me of 2008, back when Americans were asked to bail out the very banks and predatory lenders that crashed the economy. Those CEOs used our money to reward themselves with huge bonuses and buy back stocks, even while they hiked up prices and laid off workers. None of them saw a single day of justice. They went right back to doing all the same things that are about to collapse the economy again. We asked why. We were told these banks were simply “too big to fail.” In other words, we relied on our enemy.
It’s a bad situation to be in.
And yet, here we are.
Putin knows exactly what he’s doing.
You might call me disingenuous, a pessimist. Well, I think it’s disingenuous to keep paying lip service to human rights and democracy, when the unspoken truth is that much of the so-called “free world” has painted itself into a deadly corner, where it’s largely unable to act to save lives. We can’t do much of anything about Ukraine and all the future Ukraines until we stop pretending we pose a threat to Russia, economically or otherwise, and start acknowledging how badly we’ve fucked up. Hence my writing…
There’s been a steady stream of very confident opinion pieces this month talking about the “big mistake” Putin made invading Ukraine. They speak in a tone that sounds cavalier, even arrogant. These are the same columnists who keep predicting the end of the pandemic.
They say Putin overplayed his hand.
They say Putin underestimated NATO, that he underestimated western resilience and resolve. They say he’s unhinged, that he’s spent too much time alone in isolation from the world.
Maybe we’re wrong.
Maybe we’re the ones who don’t understand Putin’s plan, because we’re not looking at the bigger picture.
Maybe we don’t get it.
Putin is taking extreme, calculated risks.
Time and again, westerners and Americans in particular fail to understand the minds of men like Trump and Putin. A lot of Americans are lazy, arrogant, entitled, and selfish — but they’re not psychopaths.
Psychopaths aren’t unhinged…
They have a logic that works on levels most of us can’t grasp. Consider for a minute that shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar was entirely intentional, and not just random, thoughtless violence. If anything, it dramatically underscored the message that Putin’s been sending the entire world. He’ll unleash absolute devastation on anyone who gets in his way. He’ll burn down the entire continent. Looking and acting like you don’t give a fuck puts you in a pretty powerful position.
In short, it was a mind game.
It was an act of terror.
The same strategy applies to the peace talks and humanitarian aid. They keep dangling peace and evacuation routes, then bombing civilians as they try to flee. One route was even peppered with land mines.
This feels intentional.
It all feels like a very cruel form of psychological warfare, designed to inflict the maximum amount of suffering.
As for the arguments that the Russian military hasn’t taken over Ukraine “fast enough” and that it’s a sign of Putin’s clumsy strategy, consider America’s track record. The initial American invasion of Iraq in 2003 lasted more than a month. We spent another 17 years there as an occupying force, and accomplished almost nothing.
America spends trillions of dollars on its military, and we can’t do much except blow shit up, either. If you ask me, we’re not exactly qualified to judge another world leader’s military prowess.
Putin has divided us all.
Republicans are doing some interesting things lately.
On the one hand, some of them are publicly shouting for Putin’s assassination. Some of them are demanding we “do more” to help Ukraine, while simultaneously whining about gas prices. Some of them are blaming Putin’s invasion on woke pronouns.
It doesn’t make sense…
It looks dumb.
Nothing Republicans have said or done make any sense at all until you slide in the missing puzzle peace. These assholes are still on Putin’s payroll, and they’re intentionally sowing division.
Stay with me for a minute.
Imagine you’re a Republican with ties to Russian money. If nothing else, you’re still obligated to help the enemy, because they can still expose you, along with whatever blackmail they have. Putin’s not going to get in trouble for buying American politicians.
So if you want to help Russia while looking like an American patriot, then you have to make a spectacle of yourself. You have to make a ton of noise, while offering no actionable plan whatsoever. You get bonus points if you can distract everyone from Putin, and make the conversation about something else, like gas prices or pronouns.
See, it makes sense now.
Putin doesn’t need to conquer Europe.
The past week, I’ve mulled over Putin’s end game. It didn’t make sense until I put on my psychopath hat for a minute.
We’ve been debating whether or not Putin would invade other countries next. That doesn’t make sense.
Here’s what does:
Putin doesn’t have to invade other countries. He doesn’t even really need to capture Ukraine’s government.
He just needs to make an example out of them.
This war already feels like it’s been going for years. In fact, it hasn’t even been two weeks yet. Putin knows this. He knows the world is strained and exhausted from the pandemic. He actually helped exacerbate and prolong it by facilitating the spread of anti-vaxxer propaganda.
Putin also knows the world is running short on vital supplies, largely because we’re depleting our resources.
Russia is a top exporter of:
Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff the world can’t do without. Compare that to the top U.S. exports, like beverages, planes, and cars. You can’t make beverages without aluminum, bro. You can’t make plastic bottles without oil. You can’t drive cars or fly planes without it, either.
Western countries have thumped their chest about sanctions. Pundits have said Putin overplayed his hand. You know what?
I think we did.
The world is slowly sobering up to the brutal fact that we rely on Russia for a lot of our raw resources. We had a solid ten years to double down on renewable energy sources. Turns out, that wasn’t just a good thing for the planet. It was a necessary strategic move, too. We waited too long.
Welcome to the climate wars.
Russia is engaging in a different kind of war now. All the pundits out there keep leaving climate change out of the conversation.
It’s actually the most crucial part.
Putin has touched off the climate wars, a series of conflicts that experts have been predicting for a solid decade now. Ukraine is just the beginning. The societies that control the natural resources will enjoy the most power. The ones that rely on imports will lose their power. Without a sustainable energy plan, the biggest loser is the planet, and our future.
Putin has won so far, at the expense of all life.
He understands the new world economy far better than westerners think. He understands that even if his own citizens suffer, his country controls the raw, natural resources we need.
His ally, China, controls the rest.
Remember that China still considers Russia its chief ally, despite its atrocious and extremely visible violations of human rights. If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will. Between Russia and China, American hubris is sadly outmatched. We’re trying to relive our WWII glory days. Those days are long gone.
Our days of dominance are over.
Putin knows this, too.
Companies like Apple can brag about suspending the sale of their smartphones. It won’t be long before they come crawling back for those rare earth elements they need to make them.
The harsh truth is that Russia is too big to fail. We made it that way. If we want to win, eventually, then we have to make the actual sacrifices we keep claiming we’re ready for. We have to make Putin irrelevant. That means a drastic change in our values, and our economy.
Otherwise, we’ll keep losing.
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