Wednesday 2 March 2022

What Is Putin Thinking?

It's exactly a week since Ukraine got into this needless conflict with Russia. It's remarkable to have even lasted so many days given the sheer size of the Russian army that could have easily outmuscled the Ukrainians through air, sea and land bombardment. Therein lies the worrisome part. If Putin so decides, the full firepower may be unleased to force a surrender. I think what's impeded the Russian advance was a gross miscalculation of the space they had to cover, unfamiliarity with directions, ground resistance and internal reluctance within the ranks. These can be overcome with time, therefore dragging out the fight.

But I can see why Putin is trying so hard to ensure success. On the pretext of border assurance and historical claim, he is obviously not stupid to know these are just lame reasons. Even with multiple sanctions to target the Russian economy, Putin will stand firm. Why? My feel is, he wants to leave a legacy. It doesn't matter that his name will be tarnished in the historical books because age is already catching up, even if this ends and the UN puts him on trial and finds him guilty. So what? He can't be jailed or hanged since he won't attend this at a neutral court venue. At most, he becomes an international outcast who's confined to his homeland for the rest of his life. And that's probably fine with him since he would have ensured the second largest piece of European land that Ukraine is, have come under his control in his lifetime. The rest of the world have shown they are not willing to go into direct military confrontation, so by extension, they would stay the same even when Russia has successfully taken over.

The clean up phase after this will bring the toughest time. Restarting the Ukraine economy is of course difficult but once the world has reconciled with this fact, aid will start coming in to alleviate the plight of the innocent civilians. My guess is, it will become a special administrative region with its elected candidates, under the watching Russian eye. This ties in with Putin's rhetoric that he's not out to occupy the country but to cleanse it. 

What about the Russian economy? It will definitely be worse and Putin must be hoping the internal resources can prop them up in the short term. With China's expected support once the invasion is over and a sizable foreign reserve, I suspect all they need is to tide over two years of pain, then things will start to normalize. During this period, the world will put in restrictions and lift them gradually. It's a tacit acknowledgement that Russia's energy export remain crucial, precious minerals are highly sought after and its military cannot be agitated. This last mentioned point is important. Further support will come from countries such as Estonia to Moldova and perhaps the "Stan" countries (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgy etc). They know they would be next in line due to proximity and Putin has shown he needs no invitation to unleash his fury with a mighty armed forces that only US can match but too far to reach the theatre of operations. A nuclear armed Russia is also an enough deterrent.

According to World Bank's statistics, the average Russian life expectancy is 73 years. It should be just nice for Putin (who is 70) to reflect over his achievements while the argument continues. We can only hope that longevity is not in his DNA. Now, the above tactical dissection is a blueprint that Taiwan should be thinking about. A certain fellow must be watching with interest.

Tip: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2020, pear, grass and herb, easygoing

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