What is Putin’s Perspective on Ukraine?


Commentary

There’s been much written recently about “Mad Vlad”—referring, of course, to President Vladimir Putin—being reckless, unhinged, unsophisticated, and over his head in Ukraine. None of this seems to accurately reflect what seems to be occurring in Ukraine. Indeed, it appears the Russians are approaching a victory of the sort Putin envisioned from the outset. Contemplating the invasion of Ukraine, it’s likely Putin and his advisers concluded they could meet their intended objectives without the Western nations intervening in a meaningful manner.  In short, they decided the balance of power with the West was in Russia’s favor and that Russia would prevail in Ukraine. How did they calculate this?

First, the Russian military is not the dilapidated Soviet army that emerged from the Cold War. It’s a force Putin built and exercised in Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014), and Ukraine (2014). Furthermore, Russia, unlike Ukraine, has nuclear weapons, which have affected every strategic military decision since the Korean War. Lacking conventional military equipment possessed by Western powers, the Russians believe they are capable of outdoing the Ukrainians without direct intervention, and they are willing to apply the threat of nuclear weapons.

Second, it’s likely Putin never believed any Western nations would intervene with force in Ukraine. Greenlighted by U.S. President Joe Biden’s ‘minor incursion’ statements, Putin can argue he is doing just that. Even without such a statement, Putin calculated no Western nation would engage Russia in a standup fight. He watched the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (2011), and the NATO-backed war in Libya (2014), during which the Obama administration flabbergasted everyone when it announced the United States was ‘leading from behind,’ and left behind a black hole in Libya. Most recently, Russia was emboldened by the ignominious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The tacit takeaway for Putin and his advisers is that the West is war-weary and will blunder if it does intervene. After all, the leading member of NATO, the United States, with the minor exceptions of Panama and Grenada, has lost or fallen short of winning every war it’s fought since World War II. It’s hard for the United States to strike fear in the enemy when it lacks significant wins in the victory column. Putin likely knows his history and recognizes a losing tally sheet when he sees one.

Third, the Russians intended to exploit divisions among the Ukrainians as well as those amongst Western alliances. Certain western Ukrainian provinces have historical ties to Russia just as the Crimea does. And, true or not, it’s perceived by Russians that most of Ukraine collaborated with the Germans during WWII and would gladly do so again as the West spreads the economic tentacles of Globalism towards Russia.  Regarding the West’s unity, there is little agreement on which Western nation besides the U.S. could lead a combat mission to assist Ukraine.  If it’s not the U.S. leading, then it’s nobody. Except for possibly the French and British, one can’t imagine any Western country fielding forces and leading a coalition capable of coming head-to-head with the Russian forces in Ukraine.

Fourth, there is no doubt the Russians heavily weighed the economic impact of going to war with the West in Ukraine. From sanctions to loss of oil revenue, the Russians know the impact can be painful, but the pain cuts both ways. Sanctions generally end up being relatively temporary, anyhow. As for loss of oil revenue, Germany, for one, is dependent on Russian oil and gas. Where do they turn? If Western companies leave Russia, others from China, India, and elsewhere can likely fill the void.

Furthermore, Russia’s primary military opponent, the United States, is suffering economically. The foolish overplaying of the COVID hand by the federal and state bureaucrats and many U.S. companies helped fuel unemployment and lit a bonfire of inflation. On top of that, the Biden administration purposely crippled U.S. energy independence, taking action against the interests of its own people. As the United States derides Putin for his actions in Ukraine, the United States imports oil from Russia and curtails its own drilling. By Putin’s calculations, Russia can economically sustain a war long enough to gain concessions from Ukraine to eschew NATO and cede eastern provinces; talks are underway right now.

Finally, the personalities and experience of those making military and diplomatic decisions was likely weighed by the Russians. It is doubtful Putin envisioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emerging as a folk hero. However, for most Russians, regardless of how the West vilifies him, Putin has successfully cast himself as a statesman and doing what he thinks is best for the Russian people, protecting his western flank, typically the highway for the West to invade Russia.

It’s difficult for the West to imagine that Russians are still suspicious of Western nations such as Germany, Italy, and Romania (Pan European Forces of WWII). Even if the threat of military incursion from such nations seems implausible, the Globalist threat from the West is real. Putin has assured the Russian people, for better or worse, that he has their best interest in mind. As for the West, Putin calculated, in the case of the United States, it is led by a cognitively declined politician masquerading as a statesman who has no taste or competence for a general war on the ground in Ukraine with Russian forces.  

So, as they weighed the scale of to do or not to do, the Russians looked at the relative military strengths of the potential combatants, the possibility of intervention, the cohesiveness of the enemy, the global economic situation, and the character of his own and his enemy’s leadership and decided February 2022 was the time to do. He bet the scales had turned in his favor and he pounced. Time will tell how well he evaluated the situation. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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Richardson is the former Assistant Secretary for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) at the Department of Homeland Security, appointed by President Donald Trump. Prior to leading CWMD, Richardson worked in industry leadership at CWMD, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, and Transportation Security Administration overseeing acquisitions, strategic planning, and requirements development processes.



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