William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WHAT WILL PUTIN DO? – OVERNIGHT:  COMRADE PUTIN'S DRIVE INTO UKRAINE ISN'T GOING AS SMOOTHLY AS HE'D PLANNED.  THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE ARE FIGHTING, AND DYING, FOR THEIR FREEDOM.  WHAT DOES PUTIN DO NOW?  WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, ONE OF THE BEST POLITICAL ANALYSTS WRITING TODAY, GIVES US HIS INSIGHT.  A MUST READ, FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: 

Vladimir Putin is beginning to understand the immense difficulty of the war he cavalierly launched in Ukraine. He knows now that his corrupt and time-serving generals lied to him about the effectiveness of the military machine they had built. He knows that the flattering “experts” who reinforced his prejudices about the weakness of Ukrainian national identity were talking through their hats. He knows that even German fecklessness has limits and that Americans still know how to fight cold wars. He has no illusions now about the power of Western economic sanctions, and he knows that families all over Russia will soon be mourning their sons as the death toll mounts in Ukraine.

He is no doubt dismayed by the cascade of bad news but appears determined to fight on. This should not surprise us. Mr. Putin also knows that his future in power, his freedom and quite possibly his life depend on the outcome of this war.

And there is something else he knows, or thinks he knows, that many in the West discount. Westerners and especially Americans believe that freedom always wins in the end. That implies Mr. Putin will fail in Ukraine and Putinism will ultimately fail in Russia because that is the way history works.

From where Mr. Putin sits in the Kremlin, however, history seems to teach a different lesson. The empire of the czars was not built on freedom, nor did freedom result when it fell. The Soviet Union that rose from the ruins of Romanov power was not based on the idea of human freedom. Stalin wasn’t deposed by Russians hungry for freedom; he died in bed. The feeble liberals who tried to introduce Western-style democracy into post-Soviet Russia were soon sidelined in the power struggles of the Yeltsin era. Mr. Putin simply does not think that “freedom always wins” and his likely reaction to the failure of his initial strategy for the absorption of Ukraine into his domain will be to double down on repression.

We should not underestimate the power of his belief in the efficacy of the iron fist. He has seen it work in Tibet, Xinjiang and, most recently, Hong Kong. Mr. Putin knows how ugly and effective the process of restoring Bashar al-Assad’s rule across most of Syria has been. He notes that Nicolás Maduro still rules Venezuela, that the Castroite state retains its hold on Cuba, and that North Korea has defied decades of American sanctions. He recalls last year’s democratic rising in Belarus, and he remembers how easy it was for Alexander Lukashenko to crush it. Mr. Putin is unlikely to give up his ambitions in Ukraine, much less his power in Moscow, without giving repression every chance to succeed.

COMMENT:  Obviously, a very serious warning from a knowledgeable observer.  We like quick solutions in the United States, but Putin plays the long game.  He knows we will probably lose interest in his war, leaving him to suppress the Ukranians as we turn to more important pursuits, like woke studies. 

March 8, 2022