21 February 2022

Video of the day -- democracy vs fascism (updated)

Deutsche Welle interviews US historian Anne Applebaum about the Ukraine crisis and Putin's objectives.  Ultimately this isn't about NATO expansion or rebuilding the Soviet empire -- it's about democracy, and Putin's fear that its appeal might spread into Russia and undermine his kleptocratic gangster-regime.  If Ukraine, which is so culturally similar to Russia, can establish a stable free society, it will show Russians that they themselves could do the same.

The emerging consensus in the West is that if Russia invades, Western countries will not send troops to fight the Russians, but will impose economic sanctions and send Ukraine weapons.  It's the latter measure that will be the most important.  Putin is unlikely to be impressed by threats of sanctions, but he has very good reason to fear large-scale casualties among his forces.  Ukraine is more capable of fighting back than most Westerners think -- it has a tough and professional army, and while Russia looms huge on the map, its advantage in population over Ukraine is only about three-to-one.  Large-scale assistance in the form of Western weapons (which is already under way) could turn Putin's hoped-for quick conquest into a long-drawn-out meat-grinder for the Russian army, as Afghanistan was for the Soviets.  The Russian people already seem to have little enthusiasm for a war in Ukraine; a steady flow of body bags back home from such a war would do more to stoke mass anger and destabilize Putin's regime than any other strategy we could use.

Update (9:10 PM):  No, sending troops into a couple of fake separatist "republics", which have been under de facto Russian control for years anyway, does not constitute an invasion.  Extending them diplomatic recognition, too, is not changing the actual situation on the ground -- it's empty symbolism, like the Beijing regime's claim that Taiwan is part of China or some governments' diplomatic fiction that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.  The West is right to condemn these actions and impose some sanctions, but this is not the real invasion everyone has been worrying about.  If Putin goes no further, these moves should be seen as a face-saving measure by which he backs down from an actual invasion while still being able to claim domestically that he asserted Russia's power and gained something.

Many observers have been baffled by Biden's repeated statements that an invasion has already been ordered and is imminent.  Electoral-Vote takes a shot at explaining what he might be doing.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Super interesting video.
And I agree: Vlad wants to make sure no hint of democracy is perceived as advantageous. The little troll wants to stay in power forever and democracy so close to home is tricky.
While the Orange Walrus was in power, he was doing Vlad's bidding (I so hope there's a Pee Tape!) so Vlad did not think the US would send weapons to Ukraine. But right now, it's a totally different song.
I hope Ukraine shows Vlad they can respond and that the Russians react by blaming Vlad. It would be awesome to watch him squirm.


21 February, 2022 13:36  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

All of this has made a nervous wreck out of me.

22 February, 2022 17:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Applebaum specializes in eastern Europe, and appears to know what she's talking about. Putin's regime is monstrously corrupt; Russia's people are relatively educated and have a better idea what the outside world is like than do, say, people in China or North Korea. Putin has every reason to fear popular discontent.

Ricko: It's very concerning. But so far Putin has done nothing but send troops into parts of Ukraine which are under Russian control anyway, and declare recognition of their "independence", a symbolic move with no practical effect. It has all the appearances of trying to save face while backing down. The West so far is responding only with meaningless economic sanctions -- the one measure that would have a real deterrent effect (increasing the flow of weapons to Ukraine) is being held in abeyance for use if there's a real invasion. If it doesn't go any farther than this, we can consider the crisis successfully defused.

I'm not saying, of course, that Putin won't go any farther than this. But so far he hasn't.

22 February, 2022 18:53  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I think Biden should declare a breakaway republic in Siberia.

22 February, 2022 21:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Or maybe renew the US claim to Wrangel island?

22 February, 2022 23:24  

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