The Wheels Come Off In Russia - Putin Lost
Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine with a clear vision. Russian troops would stage their own version of American “shock and awe.” Kyiv would fall within days. Ukraine would become a client state. By the time the lazy, fat Americans and their European lackeys woke up it would all be over.
It was not to be. The Red Army no longer exists. What passes for it is small, devoid of meaningful logistical capability, and armed with a lot of poorly maintained weapons and equipment. The Ukrainians held. The war turned into a slog, not a blitzkrieg.
It has gotten worse since. The Ukrainians have gone on the offensive in places. Russia has lost ground.
In desperation, Putin has announced he is calling up conscripts. That has only made the situation worse. The Russian people do not support this war. Russian men do not want to serve in it. They are saying so in the clearest possible manner.
Military-age Russian men are fleeing the country by the tens of thousands. They are heading for every border Russian shares with a neighboring country in a desperate bid to get out and avoid being sent to Ukraine. News reports suggest Russia may be forced to close its borders within days to stop the exodus.
In particular, there has been a flood of individuals crossing into countries like Georgia which do not require a visa for entry by Russians. Tuesday morning the Moscow Times reported that Russian authorities would begin to serve draft notices on men at the border. Some reports suggest over 100,000 Russian men may have entered Georgia alone in the last few days.
“Many people decided to abandon their cars, they have no water, no fuel, nothing,” a Russian man at the Russian-Georgian border who wished to stay anonymous told The Moscow Times on Monday.
According to the media outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe, 260,000 Russian men have left the country already. “It took me only 30 minutes to make the decision to fly out of the country,” said one 30-year-old Muscovite, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
“I don’t want to die for nothing.”
There is an entire channel on the messaging app Telegram dedicated to disseminating information to those fleeing. There are now over 100,000 subscribers to that channel. Direct flights from Russia to countries that do not require visas sold out last week. Those tickets are now being resold at many times their original purchase price.
Press reports suggest that the initial call-up of 300,000 men may be expanded to 1,000,000. That information is simply fueling the desire of many to get out of the country as quickly as possible.
“I think they will call up everyone,” said Anton, 34, who declined to give his surname and said he took a plane to Tajikistan at the weekend.
Putin’s action has not just spurred men to leave the country. It has led to protests all across the county. Monday there was a report of a shooting at an enlistment office in Siberia. Information suggests that a young man being conscripted shot a Russian military officer. In that attack in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk, 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin walked into the enlistment office saying "no one will go to fight" and "we will all go home now," according to local media.
Arson attacks and protests have been reported all across Russia. At least 2000 people have been arrested.
Putin has lost this war. His dream of reconstituting the Soviet Union is dead. He has been exposed as an imposter, and every nation in the world has seen that the Russian military is a shadow of its former self.
In Washington, the Biden administration, which seems focused primarily on how many billions of dollars it can funnel to giant defense contractors under the pretext of “saving Western civilization” seems to be ignoring all of this. It continues to double down on tough talk, and administration members who never heard a shot fired in anger now talk openly about nuclear exchanges.
Regime change may still sound enticing to those with no experience in how it usually plays out. It is not. Putin is a thug, but right now Russia is relatively stable and intact. That means among other things that its thousands of nuclear warheads remain under the control of a central authority.
We do not want a power vacuum in the heart of Eurasia. We do not want to play out our Libyan adventure on this much grander, much more dangerous scale. We want to end this war.
Ukraine has lost Crimea. Ukraine has lost strips of territory on its border with Russia. Putin has lost his bid to turn Ukraine into a client state. Ukraine will continue its slow-motion drift toward Western Europe and out of Moscow’s orbit. All the rest of the former Soviet republics will take note and act accordingly. Vlad will remain in power but greatly diminished. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will ultimately be viewed as the final act in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Recognizing all of this and drafting an agreement that stops the fighting should not be that hard. The United States retains the capacity to make Ukraine negotiate any time it wants simply by slowing the flow of arms, money, and equipment. Putin may bluster, but he too will negotiate if given the chance. He can see for himself what is happening.
The wheels are coming off in Russia. Putin lost.