Down with Putin
The "catastrophic consequences" of delay.
Since he came to power in 1999, and especially in the last eight years, Vladimir Putin has been directly or indirectly responsible for much of the woe in the Western world. In Syria, his support of Bashar al-Assad exacerbated the civil war. In Iran, his allegiance with Khamenei has strengthened hardliners there. Same with Lukashenko in Belarus. In Georgia, in Kazakhstan, in Azerbaijan, in Chechnya, and now in Armenia, he has destabilized democratic movements, corrupted governments, or propped up right-wing strongmen—as he did in Ukraine during the Yanukovych years. As a vocal opponent of democracy, he supports dictators all over the world; his intelligence services use their malign influence to help far-right candidates like Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and now Giorgia Meloni in Italy. Win or lose, they are always a threat to democracy.
Knowing that a unified West is his worst nightmare, Putin unleashed BREXIT on Great Britain. The Russian op worked to perfection. The U.K.’s divorce from the European Union has been an unmitigated disaster. There is a labor shortage. The pound is in free-fall. The British finally managed to remove Boris Johnson, the mendacious windbag with obvious ties to Russian oligarchs, only to replace him with someone even less competent. In her three weeks as Prime Minister, Liz Truss has presided over the death of both the queen and the economy. Talk about inauspicious beginnings! In six short years, Putin has reduced the United Kingdom to the shriveled rump state he fears Russia will one day become.
In America, Putin’s goal of disintegrating the United States may well come true. That was the ultimate purpose in installing Donald John Trump as president: to destroy us. FPOTUS happily obliged. He took a flame-thrower to our hallowed institutions. He appointed venal, amoral hacks to Cabinet posts. He gutted the State Department. He corrupted the Secret Service, the Treasury Department, and the DOJ. His four-year pyromania spree almost burned the country, and NATO, to the ground. Fortunately, we were able to kick him out before all was lost. But he remains a flammable force in U.S. politics—unindicted, a free man, still just as much a puppet of Putin as he was in 2016, when Hillary Clinton called him out.
Less obvious is Putin’s elevation of organized crime. The fragrant aftershave of being the leader of a large nation cannot quite dispel the mobster stink emanating from the guy. As LB pointed out in a thread yesterday, Putin is “a glorified bagman…also installed by a crime syndicate. He then went about looting and terrorizing for his their piracy—until he rose higher than the gangsters who used him. They became his lieutenants, or they were chucked out a window.” Mobsters are glorified and glamorized in our popular culture, but make no mistake: they profit off human misery. Hard drugs, sex trafficking, arms dealing, illegal gambling, slavery, stock market manipulation, defrauding taxpayer money, nuclear proliferation, espionage, pandemic profiteering, money laundering (which is a fancy term for making the cash they make from all this horror usable in polite society)—that’s what Putin and his ilk trade in. He is one of the world’s richest individuals because he is a criminal.
Putin has ruled Russia with an iron fist, jailing dissidents, executing journalists, throwing enemies out of high windows, brazenly assassinating lawmen who recognize his corruption. A significant percentage of the country does not have indoor plumbing, but he fancies himself some great savior. He originally took power by killing 300 people in Moscow and blaming it on the Chechens. He has zero compunction about sacrificing the lives of Russian citizens for his purposes—as this new, horrific “mobilization” makes clear.
And then there is Ukraine. A few weeks before the invasion, I made a (rather compelling) argument that Putin was operating from Hitler’s playbook. Since then, Putin has only doubled down. Internally, he played on themes of motherland and nationalism—Russia Über Alles. He articulated, early and often, a genocidal policy of wiping Ukrainians from the face of the earth—again, very Hitler-like. And he invaded the sovereign nation next door, just as Hitler invaded Poland.
The difference is that in 1939, the Nazi army was a formidable fighting force led by professional generals. Putin’s invaders are a bunch of ill-trained, unmotivated, shit-faced cowards. The Germans had the blitzkrieg; the Russians are just blitzed. An invasion that was supposed to last three days is about to enter its eighth month, and there is little doubt that the Ukrainians—smarter, braver, more disciplined, better equipped, and led by a president who inspires emotions other than fear and loathing—will prevail.
Also like Hitler, Putin has committed, and continues to commit, horrifying war crimes. There is the deliberate destruction of cities, of churches and hospitals and schools, for no reason other than to terrorize the population. There is the systematic rape of Ukrainian women and girls. There is the castration of Ukrainian men. There are mass grave sites in the freed regions of the East. As the Ukrainians liberate more of the Donbas region, we will continue to hear stories of Russian atrocities that will make us sick to our stomachs.
Today’s Putin is the Berlin-in-1945 Hitler. Morale is in the toilet. Powerful forces inside Russia are turning against him. Holed up in his kleptocratic Führerbunker, he demands “mobilization,” and will send one last wave of very young and very old Russians to certain death, to stave off further humiliation. He is also rounding up ethnic Tatars in Crimea to fight his ridiculous war—not because he thinks they will win, but because he wants them exterminated:
But there is no escape hatch for him. There is no country on earth that would take him in now. The international order will demand a war crimes tribunal if he survives the war. He’s afraid of his own people, hence the ridiculous long table and the retreat to the bunker. And the longer he stays in power, the more desperate he will become.
Fortunately, President Biden has not Neville Chamberlain’d the situation in Ukraine. He reunited a NATO that Trump had spent four years trying to destroy. He coordinated a response to Russia that has devastated the economy there. He pushed to arm the Ukrainian defense forces. And he provided support in terms of intelligence gathering and coordination; the recent counteroffensive, when the Russians were deceived into thinking the attack was coming from elsewhere, was greatly aided by U.S. intelligence.
But we can, and should, do more. This, right now, is a golden opportunity for the forces of good—the democratic, law-abiding nations of the world—to rid ourselves of this evil creature, once and for all. The only thing stopping us is fear of nuclear weapons. Given his disregard for human life, and his long and odious C.V., we should assume that Putin would use them, if he felt he had to. (We should also assume, for sake of argument, that the Russian nukes actually work—although, in light of the shit performance by other facets of their suck-ass military, that is hardly a given.) There has been plenty of nuclear sabre-rattling by the likes of Sergei Lavrov these last few months, in case we missed the point. Putin himself said he “isn’t bluffing.”
Biden has said the right things, making clear that “any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.” Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, warned several times of “catastrophic consequences,” if Putin tapped into his nuclear arsenal.
As Putin well knows, the United States is not going to use its nuclear weapons on Russia. So, like, what might those “catastrophic consequences” be? And, more importantly, what the fuck are we waiting for? Odesa to be completely destroyed? More women to be raped? Russian intelligence to sabotage yet another U.S. election? How much bad shit does this motherfucker have to do before we respond appropriately? In our discussion a few weeks ago on the PREVAIL podcast, Ukraine expert Victor Rud pointed out that the problem with the U.S. policy of containment vis-à-vis communism is that it forced us to play defense. On the global chessboard, we were always black. We were in reactive mode. We let the Soviets call the shots. And we are still doing this with Putin. With an adversary this noxious, and this evil, it’s really okay to take the offensive.
Nuclear weapons were developed eighty years ago—before the internet, before GPS, before cellphones, before computers. The eight decades since the end of the Second World War comprise the fastest period of technological acceleration in the history of human endeavor, by far. The mind reels when contemplating the secret weapons the Defense Department has cooked up since the Manhattan Project. From what we’ve observed, modern weapons have become “smarter”—more accurate, more precise, causing less collateral damage. We rightly mocked her, but for all we know, Marjorie Taylor Greene blathered about “Jewish space lasers” because she was given access to very real information on advanced weapons systems. For all we know, some Zoomers at a gaming console in Nebraska can turn Putin into a pillar of salt with the push of a button, like they’re playing Call of Duty. The DoD budget is over $700 billion this year alone. Do we really not have better, safer, more accurate weapons than the bomb Oppenheimer built eighty years ago? If we can blow up a small asteroid a gajillion miles away, I’m sure we can hit a much closer target.
If we are uncomfortable waxing a single genocidal mobster from space to save the lives of millions of people—something any hero in any movie ever made would do, but whatever—here’s a less radical idea: NATO peacekeeping forces could secure Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, especially Zaporizhzhia (ZNPP). Putin is clearly trying to intentionally damage the plants, hoping for a second Chernobyl. He wants the catastrophic destruction of a nuclear event without having to launch a nuke. As Zarina Zabrisky writes in the Byline Times:
As stated by the State Inspection of Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine, a catastrophe at the ZNPP would be comparable to the second most severe nuclear accident at Fukushima, which was caused by an earthquake in Japan in 2011.
The wind would carry a radioactive cloud to Europe, Russia and Belarus, and could lead to the radioactive contamination of large areas of land and pollution of the Dnipro river and the Black Sea—which, in turn, would lead to a humanitarian and environmental crisis.
Why are we standing around waiting for Putin to do this? It is in the best interests of every living creature on the planet that there is not a nuclear meltdown. What would Russia do, if peacekeeping forces went there? What could it do?
No one wants war. But Putin has been warring with the West for most of his reign. It’s time to recognize that fact, take the initiative, and defeat the cause of so much of the world’s problems. For once, we have to stop deferring to Moscow. We have to make the first move. Whatever the “catastrophic consequences” Sullivan warned of might be, Putin has done more than enough to deserve them already. Bring it on! There will be catastrophic consequences for us if we delay.
Photo credit: The Kremlin via Twitter.