14 February 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
So many organizational, financial, and emotional resources have been invested in the preparations for aggression against Ukraine that the Russian regime might find disavowing their intention an unjustified waste. On the other hand, today’s regime has never been known for its particular thrift. For them, a billion or two budgetary rubles down the drain is chicken feed.
More than likely, the decision to invade Ukraine depends not on any assessment of possible economic losses but on the anticipated political result: how likely military success is, how much the West will distance itself from the conflict, and how much Russia’s role in resolving international problems will grow. The idea of greatness – personal for President Putin and as a state for Russia – is the chief idea determining the Kremlin’s militaristic plans.
THERE IS ALWAYS ONE NUANCE
Apparently, the part of the unbalanced adolescent acting up in order to attract attention from the people around them has been played to perfection. Putin is again at the centre of attention, Russia again arouses concern in everyone, and Western leaders have been to Moscow and are seeking meetings with their Russian colleagues on any and every international platform. What more does self-assertion need? You’d think the goal had been reached.
But there is one nuance. For authoritarian leaders, self-assertion is valuable not as an opportunity to achieve something. It is valuable in and of itself, as a process, as a demonstration of their superiority over others. That’s why there can be be no end point. This process will go on as long as the authoritarian system lives.
Inevitably, self-assertion will take different forms. They’ll toss out the ones they’ve used too many times. Friendly meetings, tough negotiations, the language of ultimatums, and out-and-out boorishness are receding into the past. Come to replace them are military threats, and ahead looms war. Local at best, global at worst.
It’s relatively easy to deal with authoritarian scum at the start of an authoritarian regime’s existence. The longer it lasts, the harder that gets. Today only the real threat of an effective military response can halt the aggressor, and that threat is not as fantastic as flag-waving Russian patriots, used to considering Ukraine a weak and hastily cobbled together embryo state, think it is. The Ukrainian army today is not at all what it was in 2014, and most important, added to their arms are their awareness that they’re in the right and their hatred for their oppressors.
THE THREAT OF INVASION IS PUTTING EVEN GREAT POWER NATIONALISTS ON GUARD
Many politicians from Putin’s inner circle and the military sphere understand this. Retired Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, formerly a highly placed officer in the Defence Ministry, came out with an open appeal to Putin, warning that war with Ukraine would be a geopolitical catastrophe for Russia. Colonel Mikhail Khodarenok, a former officer on the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, also openly warns that the present-day Ukrainian army has been largely created according to NATO standards and there will be no easy victory over it.
Meanwhile, neither is any kind of liberal. They are true advocates of a strong state in the Soviet mold. The threat of a serious military response is also putting nationalistically inclined great power nationalists still grieving over the Soviet empire on their guard. Lately, even Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has not been appearing on television screens with victorious communiqués on the army’s total battle readiness and his confidence in victory over a possible enemy. This retreat into the shadows says something. This is all testimony to the fact that military cooperation between the democratic countries and Ukraine is the correct path toward preserving the peace.
In the last month, the United States has sent Ukraine at least 15 transport planes with ammunition, Javelin anti-tank missile systems, and other military equipment. Great Britain has supplied Ukraine with NLAW anti-tank weapons, armoured vests, and helmets. Latvia and Lithuania have decided to transfer their Stinger man-portable air defence systems to Kyiv. A few days ago, the Czech Republic declared its readiness to supply Ukraine with 4,000 artillery shells.
Naturally, international military support for Ukraine will not heal the Kremlin leadership of its imperialist illness, but it might sober up enthusiasts of military adventures. Actually, there’s no certainty about this. Imperialist blindness and the thirst for world supremacy can easily eclipse reason. History has proved that.
Translated by Marian Schwartz