How long can Putin stay in power?
Above photo: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in better times.
THE RUSSIAN INVASION of Ukraine is now on its second stage: the bombardment of Ukraine. Without a no-fly zone over the Ukrainian sky, the Russian Air Force is now poised to launch all-out air strikes against Ukraine. But Russian President Vladimir Putin warned any attempt by NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be viewed as “participation in the armed conflict.”
Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called President Joe Biden and his NATO allies “weak” for not agreeing to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He said that the “lack of a no-fly zone was putting blood in the hands of the West.”
In a bitter speech, he renewed his call, telling NATO that “all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.” He also criticized Biden for not imposing severe sanctions against Russia and for not stopping buying Russian oil, which makes one wonder: Why? Why? Why?
While Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone all-out on his barbaric and illegal assault on the brave Ukrainian people, Biden seemed to have cocooned himself in Washington DC issuing warnings to Putin that he’ll fight for every inch of NATO territory. How about a NATO partner’s territory, Mr. President? Aren’t you going to help a reliable and valuable ally from being slaughtered by Putin? Don’t you believe in the saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”? Or do you consider Ukraine a “fair weather friend” who is now fighting for her dear life? Do you treat Ukraine as a second-class ally to be used at your convenience but wouldn’t lift a finger to save her from annihilation?
Putin smells blood
But Putin, who must have sensed Biden’s rigid stand against helping Ukraine – after all, he vowed never to go to war against Russia over Ukraine – is having the best time of his life. He issued two ultimatums to Biden and NATO: (1) Sanctions against Russia will be considered a “declaration of war,” and (2) Sending weapons to Ukraine will be an “act of war.”
Is Biden going to withdraw from Europe and surrender Ukraine to Putin? That’s what Putin’s ultimatums come down to. Is Biden going the easy way out by following Putin’s dictate?
While withdrawing from Afghanistan had caused a geopolitical ripple, withdrawing from Ukraine would be tantamount to a “geopolitical catastrophe” far worse than what Putin said in 2005 when he lamented, “The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” It would be the end of Pax Americana and the beginning of Pax Russica.
It would seem then that Putin is playing his end game with ultimatums. But Biden’s retinue of retired generals and admirals would probably advise him not to heed Putin’s threats to withdraw or else suffer the consequences of a nuclear war.
A nuclear war? Heck, the specter of a nuclear war scares the hell out of Biden. Putin is very much aware of MAD; that is, Mutually Assured Destruction. But the question is: Does Putin have the courage to end his own life by pressing the Doomsday Button that would fire Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, enough to blow planet Earth to billions of radioactive meteorites?
Let’s analyze this very carefully. Putin may be crazy but he’s not stupid. He is a narcissistic megalomaniac whose self-love strips him of any compassion for people. Like Hitler, he delights in the suffering of people. He reminds me of the movie, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
But make no mistake; he loves his money. Actually, he’s rumored to have stashed $200 billion someplace. Anybody who has accumulated that kind of moolah wouldn’t want to leave it on Earth. But knowing that he is just a mortal being who lives on borrowed time, it must have stricken him to the core. So he’s got one option left; that is, to immortalize his legacy. But he has a problem; he won’t be in the company of the world’s great men and women. He’d be in the company of the world’s villains. He’ll be next to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the Rogues’ Gallery. But that’s his choice. He did it on his own volition.
Path to greatness
He could have taken a path used by such great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Peter the Great. Some were men of peace and some were men of war. But none of them had been branded as war criminals.
But Putin has been branded as a war criminal for the illegal invasion of Ukraine, which unfortunately killed innocent civilians. It has also displaced more than 1.5 million Ukrainians in the first ten days of the Russian invasion, dispersing them in the neighboring countries of Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and other European countries. It is expected that the number would increase to four to five million refugees, mostly women, children, and the elderly. Men between 18 and 60 years old were not allowed to leave and were encouraged to stay to fight for their freedom.
Call to volunteers
Volunteers have also started coming to Ukraine to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. It is a volunteer foreign legion military unit created by the Government of Ukraine on the request of President Zelenskyy to fight in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To date, more than 16,000 volunteers have arrived in Ukraine from Finland, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, and other countries from all over the world as far away as Japan. Incidentally, as Ukrainians are returning to their country to fight, the Russians are leaving theirs so they won’t have to. Somehow in those dark days we see who is David and who is Goliath.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian freedom fighters have been successful in downing Russian jets and helicopters. So far, they have downed 44 Russian planes and 44 helicopters in 10 days of all-out war. On March 5 alone, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Air Command shot down five aircraft and four helicopters including one Su-25 fighter jet, two Su-34 fighter-bombers, and two Su-30 SM plane.
As the war progresses into the coming days, the heroism of the Ukrainian freedom fighters is beyond my wildest dream. Armed with Stinger surface-to-air rockets and Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, which lock on the target before launch, thereby ensuring accuracy. Between the Stingers and the Javelins, the Ukrainian freedom fighters are having a field day downing airplanes and knocking out Russian tanks. This has caused demoralization among the Russian soldiers who are short on fuel and food, the two most important items in a ground war.
Meanwhile, Biden is faced with ultimatums that could determine the outcome of the Ukraine War. I hope that he would reject the ultimatums and continue sending weapons to the Ukrainian freedom fighters and impose severe sanctions including banning oil import from Russia. The reason Putin issued the ultimatums is because weapons provided by the U.S. and her NATO allies are defeating the Russian troops. The Russian oligarchs are hurting, losing 30% of their billions’ worth. And with the ruble now valued a penny to the U.S. dollar, it’s on the brink of collapsing, which would make the ruble worthless. And with the sanctions imposed on the Russian banks, Russia’s central bank would be forced to dig into its hard currency reserves in order to bail out the banks and keep them afloat. It would cripple the Russian economy so it can no longer be able to fund her war machine.
And if Putin doesn’t withdraw his forces from Ukraine, the Russian generals might be tempted to remove him from power, which makes one wonder: How long can Putin stay in power?