March 9, 2022

Russia and Ukraine

“Police detained more than 4,300 people on Sunday at Russia-wide protests against President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine… Thousands of protesters chanted ‘No to war!’ and ‘Shame on you!’, according to videos posted on social media by opposition activists and bloggers.” Reuters

Both sides argue that Russia’s lack of military success and economic isolation will become an increasing liability for Putin, and worry about the long-term repercussions:

“There was a time when analysts were concerned about Putin steamrolling the Baltics. In 2016, the Rand Corporation ran a war game that ended with an ominous conclusion: the Russian military could reach the Estonian and Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga in at most 60 hours. It’s tough to see this conclusion holding up based on Moscow’s military performance in Ukraine thus far…

“The war has exposed Putin as a reckless gambler who was either ignorant of the consequences associated with an invasion or arrogant about Russia’s ability to contain the fallout. Even if Russia does eventually succeed in wearing down the Ukrainian army through attrition, Russia’s geopolitical position will take a beating. It already has. Putin may come out of this conflict leading a country whose overall power is weaker than when he began it.”
Daniel DePetris, Spectator World

The Russian national tradition is unforgiving of military setbacks. Virtually every major defeat has resulted in radical change. The Crimean War (1853-1856) precipitated Emperor Alexander II’s liberal revolution from above. The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) brought about the First Russian Revolution. The catastrophe of World War I resulted in Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication and the Bolshevik Revolution. And the war in Afghanistan became a key factor in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms…

“It’s also worth noting that the current regime is uniquely vulnerable on this account. More than any other Russian ruler, Putin has made war, or the threat of war, the foundation of his popular support… The ‘West’ is at war with Russia. An undeclared, mean, constant war. But the Motherland has nothing to worry about so long as Putin is in charge. Not only will he protect Russia, but he will also restore it to at least some of the victorious glory of the Soviet superpower status… Every day that Ukraine holds out erodes Putin’s regime. The consequences could be far-reaching.”
Leon Aron, Washington Post

“Either [Putin] cuts his losses now and eats crow — and hopefully for him escapes enough sanctions to revive the Russian economy and hold onto power — or faces a forever war against Ukraine and much of the world, which will slowly sap Russia’s strength and collapse its infrastructure…

“As he seems hellbent on the latter, I am terrified. Because there is only one thing worse than a strong Russia under Putin — and that’s a weak, humiliated, disorderly Russia that could fracture or be in a prolonged internal leadership turmoil, with different factions wrestling for power and with all of those nuclear warheads, cybercriminals and oil and gas wells lying around. Putin’s Russia is not too big to fail. It is, however, too big to fail in a way that won’t shake the whole rest of the world.”
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

“Never in modern history has an economy of Russia’s scale been subjected to such extraordinary ostracism. The ruble’s value swiftly plummeted. According to analysts at JPMorgan Chase, the Russian economy is now poised to shrink by 7 percent this year. Other forecasters paint an even darker picture, with The Institute of International Finance projecting a 15 percent contraction in Russia’s GDP. Putin’s regime owes much of its popular legitimacy to the fact that it managed to steer Russia back to economic stability and modest growth after its 1998 debt crisis. That year, the Russian economy shrank by 5.3 percent…

“Thus, Putin’s war of conquest is poised to inaugurate not only a new geopolitical era — one in which the European Union spends much more on defense and NATO enjoys a new sense of purpose — but also a new economic one, in which global commerce is increasingly divided between adversarial blocs. These two developments could interact in dangerous ways. As Russia and the West become less economically interconnected, relations between the world’s two largest nuclear powers could become even more tense and tenuous than they were before the present crisis… In drafting its sanctions, the West set out to wreck the Russian economy. At the moment, it appears to be succeeding beyond it’s wildest hopes (and/or fears).”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Right

From the Left

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.