The Kremlin Has Destroyed Russia’s Military Reputation
The most unfortunate aspect of the Kremlin’s go-slow, limited, under-committed, under-manned military operation in Ukraine has been the destruction of the Russian military’s reputation, a destruction underlined by Ukraine’s success in pushing back Russian forces in areas that are now, after the reunifications, part of Russia herself.
That Russia has lost Russian territory to Ukraine is likely to further embolden the West and, thereby, further widen the war.
US General and former CIA Director David Patraeus has threatened the Kremlin with the destruction of Russia’s troops and Black Sea fleet.
Bob Seely writing in the UK Telegraph says “Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian territory . . . is evidence not of offensive success, but of defensive fear. . . . His actions are the sign of a desperate man fearing military humiliation.” Putin, Seely claims, “is becoming more dangerous” judging by Russia’s sabotage of its own gas pipelines and Putin’s threats to widen his war. Nevertheless, Seely assures us, “Putin’s geopolitical fantasies to create a greater Russian state incorporating Ukraine, to shatter NATO and to establish Russia as the global counterweight to the US lie in tatters.” Seely adds that the victory of UK trained Ukrainian troops over the Russian military in the Kharkiv area shows that Ukrainian victory over Russia’s poorly led and low morale troops is achievable.
The dismal picture of a defeated Russia drawn by Seely is reinforced by Putin calling for negotiations with Zelensky in the same speech that he welcomes the provinces back into Russia. Normally it is not the winning side that calls for negotiations.
Seely’s account and Patraeus’ threats are nonsense. But what matters is that this is the way the West perceives it, and it is this perception that will further widen the war. That this would be the consequence was obvious from the beginning. Putin waited eight years while the West built and equipped an army for Ukraine and established the propaganda narrative, and when Putin belatedly acted he did so in a way guaranteed to widen the war. Did no one tell Putin that wars cannot be fought on a shoe-string in a limited manner?
Putin’s go-slow limited intervention has given Washington seven months in which to convince Western peoples that Russia is the aggressor, supply weapons to Ukraine, train Ukrainian soldiers in their use, and establish communications systems for Washington to provide targeting information to Ukraine’s forces. It is impossible to imagine the Kremlin conducting a war in a way less likely to succeed.
What the Kremlin has done is to justify Washington’s belief in its omnipotence, which will lead to more provocations. Washington had no fear of stealing Russia’s foreign exchange reserves and other assets, arming Ukraine, and blowing up Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines. Each step along the way Washington has gotten bolder and the threats to Russia have become stronger.
It is Putin’s effort to contain war that is bringing him a wider one. As he continues his policy of half-measures Armageddon creeps ever closer.