Putin's Ukraine Fiasco; 6 Ways It's Undermined Russian Power & Prestige
Things really couldn't have gone any worse for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and it's no wonder that he has resorted to hiring food tasters to prevent an assassination. He has made a lot of powerful Russians very unhappy and is about to drive the Russian economy over a cliff. He misjudged the situation badly and has backed himself into a corner from which there is no easy or face-saving escape. Let us count the ways.
1. NATO revitalized. As we have written before, Putin's invasion was exactly the tonic NATO needed to regain its vitality.
Illuminate: "After years of trying to undermine unity in NATO and the European Union [EU], Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have inadvertently bolstered both at a time when they were struggling to remain relevant. Putin may have believed that his threats to invade Ukraine would divide the EU and prove that NATO was nothing more than a paper tiger, unable or unwilling to coalesce around a strategy to oppose Russian aggression. Instead, however, it's reminded Europe why they need NATO and reestablished US leadership within the alliance."
The Hill: "There is, however, one major consequence already evident which few — particularly Putin — could have foreseen: the extent to which his attack on Ukraine has united the Western democracies after years of fracture and indecision within NATO and the European Union (EU)." ...
"Condemnation of Putin is universal throughout Europe. Massive amounts of defensive weapons from all NATO nations are being supplied to Ukraine, at record speed. Unprecedented sanctions are draining Russia’s resources and seizing the stolen riches of its Putin-allied oligarchs."
2. The Failure of Russia's Intelligence Services. US President Joe Biden was able to telegraph every Russian move prior to the invasion as if he was reading Russian intelligence documents. He successfully countered Russian disinformation in real-time. It's possible that the US has a highly placed mole in Russia's intelligence services, or someone in Putin's inner circle wanted to derail the invasion.
Additionally, Putin was caught off guard by Ukraine's will to resist and its military capabilities. Given that Russia has been fighting a low-intensity war with Ukraine in the Donbas region for nearly a decade, both are unforgivable. The fallout has already begun.
The Wall Street Journal: “Recriminations and finger-pointing have begun within Russia’s spy and defense agencies, as the campaign that Moscow expected to culminate in a lightning seizure of Ukraine’s capital has instead turned into a costly and embarrassing morass.”
3. The Russian Military is Really, Really Bad. There is literally not one military expert in the world that predicted that the Russian military would fight this poorly. Putin invested billions in upgrading Russia's armed forces after they performed dreadfully in the First Chechen War. but little has changed.
European Council on Foreign Relations: "So far, the war has been characterised not least by the unexpectedly poor performance of the Russian armed forces. This can be partly explained by inadequate operational plans based on wishful political thinking and an underestimation of Ukrainians’ determination to resist. Even after its initial failure to take Kyiv, the Russian military is displaying serious problems in logistics and the coordination of different branches of its forces."
To make matters worse, the morale of Russian soldiers is abysmal with many Russian soldiers surrendering or simply abandoning vehicles and equipment and leaving the fight.
Many experts say the problems stem from the legendary corruption within the Russian armed forces.
Politico: "On the operational level, the corruption in defense procurement has also likely undermined logistics, manifesting in soldiers receiving inadequate equipment and supplies on the ground. Poor logistics slows down the advancement of troops, undermines their morale and hinders military effectiveness."
Russia may still prevail by bombing and starving Ukraine into submission, but everyone watching Putin's Ukrainian debacle now understands the limitations of his conventional armed forces. It's a second-tier military force, at best.
4. Putin has Awoken Europe's Sleeping Military Giant. Among all the things that the Russian President misjudged, Germany's reaction might be the most consequential in the long run. As the result of the Russian invasion, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced the most sweeping upgrade of his nation's military since the end of the Cold War.
World Politics Review: "To underpin this intention, he announced three key decisions. First, Berlin will allocate a one-time special budget of 100 billion euros to finance the key, large-scale and long-term procurement projects—like a new fighter jet and air defense systems—that have been postponed time and time again over the years. This special budget will be enshrined in the constitution to make sure the money is not used for other purposes."
"Second, the defense budget, long Germany’s Achilles’ heel in terms of its credibility among its NATO allies, will increase to more than 2 percent of GDP—beginning immediately. For the fiscal year of 2022 to 2023, that will mean an increase from the current 47 billion euros to about 75 billion euros, making it the largest defense budget in Europe."
"Third, Scholz has seemingly managed to resolve a long-standing conundrum in Germany’s defense planning when it comes to weapons procurement: how to modernize its air force. He did so by taking a triple decision: to rapidly procure the U.S.-produced F-35 aircraft to allow Germany to play its role in NATO’s nuclear-sharing policy, thereby underlining the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship and firmly anchoring Germany in NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture; to further develop Airbus’ Eurofighter for electronic warfare, in order to support the development of European-led systems; and to continue Germany’s participation in the Future Combat Air System, a joint fighter jet project with France and Spain, to demonstrate Germany’s commitment to defense cooperation with France and its other European partners."
By the time Germany has completed Scholz's plan, Russia will again have a major military competitor in Europe, one not reliant on US support for its defense.
5. The Destruction of the Russian Economy. You can not overestimate the impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy. According to economists, Putin's war may set back Russia's economy by 30 years, destroying many of the gains since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The country's financial system and currency are collapsing, forcing the Kremlin to close the stock market and artificially prop up the ruble inside its borders.
University of Penn.org: "The ruble is now worth less than a penny and the economy is teetering, with Russia expected to default on billions of dollars in foreign debt. Multinational companies across all sectors are pulling out of the country, taking their products, services, and jobs with them."
Russia is about to face a devastating depression that will wipe out the jobs, savings, and hopes of the Russian people.
NY Mag: "According to analysts at JPMorgan Chase, the Russian economy is now poised to shrink by 7 percent this year. Other forecasters paint an even darker picture, with The Institute of International Finance projecting a 15 percent contraction in Russia’s GDP."
6. Putin has Encouraged a Russian Peace & Democracy Movement. Putin's invasion of Ukraine was just the spark that Russia's peace and democracy movement needed. Russians have taken to the streets and as many as 14,000 have already been arrested protesting the war. As soldiers start to return in caskets, prices skyrocket, jobs disappear, average Russians face shortages, and the deep economic depression drags on, expect those numbers to increase quickly.
Putin's information blockade, disinformation campaign, and harsh treatment of dissidents may slow the formation of a viable opposition, but it will come. Once average Russians realize that their President lied about why he took them into this bloody and unnecessary war, destroying their economic futures, more will take to the streets demanding some accountability in the Kremlin.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content