ISSN 2330-717X

Putin’s Strategic Mistakes In Ukraine Have Devastating Consequences For Russia – OpEd

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Vladimir Putin made five strategic mistakes that led him to his broadening of his invasion of Ukraine, mistakes that collectively will have five devastating consequences for the Russian Federation for decades to come, according to London-based Russian analyst Vladimir Pastukhov.

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The mistakes are easily listed:

First, Putin had a mistaken notion about the military-political situation in Ukraine. He thought the Ukrainian regime would collapse like a house of cards because he failed to understand “the nature of the Ukrainian revolution, its anti-colonial and national liberation character” (echo.msk.ru/blog/pastuhov_v/2988207-echo/).

Second, Pastukhov continues, Putin had a mistaken idea about the military potential of the Ukrainian army. Like most Western experts, he assumed it would be defeated in two to four days. But the Ukrainian army is still fighting and fighting well. Putin’s easy victory in Crimea eight years ago has played a dirty trick on him.

Third, Putin had an unrealistic assessment of the military capabilities of the Russian army. He assumed that the cartoons he liked to show about super weapons described its reality when in fact those weapons either aren’t part of the armament of his army or don’t work as well as he thought and its officers and men are less capable than he had convinced himself.

Fourth, Putin underrated the power and unity of the international reaction. Almost everyone turned against him and his war. “Even China has shown that its relations with the US were a priority” compared to those with Russia. Putin thus finds himself in a position like North Korea and not one like that of the former USSR.

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And fifth, the Kremlin leader overrated the effectiveness of nuclear blackmail. Putin has always assumed that because he has a nuclear shield, he can act with impunity. But what he has done is reduce the reputation of Russia today to that of Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs.” Everyone knows he is a threat but they will do what is necessary not to live under him.

These strategic miscalculations, the London-based Russian analyst says, led Putin to invade; and that in turn has “serious and irreversible consequences for Russia in the next several decades:  

·       First, from now on, Putin, the Kremlin, Russia and Russians “in the eyes of international public opinion” are equivalents. “No one is going to divide sanctions anymore between those against the Kremlin and those against Russia.”

·       Second, Putin’s actions have reduced Russia to the status of “the most tabooed regimes of the 20th century.” Reversing that will require “decades.”

Third, the Kremlin leader is on his way to establishing “a theocratic totalitarian regime without any pretense of post-modern liberality.” He is making Russia into a place like those described in all the classical anti-utopias of the 20th century.

Fourth, his isolation of Russia will leave it with little chance to recover to the level of the Soviet Union but rather push it down to that of North Korea, a country with nuclear weapons but without an effective economy.

And fifth, because Putin can be counted on to try to use nuclear weapons to blackmail the West into letting Russia reenter the world, the danger of nuclear war will be “a constant nightmare for several generations” not only over the rest of the world but of Russia too.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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