Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
The King Must Die
Ukraine: A play in five acts.
Once upon a time there was a king and a queen. Their marriage united two countries, making theirs the largest kingdom in the world.
The king loved the queen’s land—the bustling cities, the rich natural resources, the arable land, the many miles of coastline. He knew that without the queen, he would not be as powerful. His lands might have been vaster, but hers were more valuable.
It was an arranged marriage, and loveless. The queen hated the king. The king was drunk, abusive, violent, and cruel. (Once, decades ago, he sabotaged the food supply in the queen’s land, causing four million of her people to die of starvation.) For years she tolerated his abuses, having no choice, but at the first opportunity, she sued for divorce and won. Now her lands were once again hers and only hers. Now the king held sway no longer.
The king could not stand this. How dare she leave! It drove him mad. He resolved to reunite the kingdom—whether she wanted to or not. He would do anything in his considerable power to get what he wanted. And he was evil, and he was bloodthirsty, and he would happily sacrifice millions of innocent lives to get his way.
The king is Russia. The queen is Ukraine.
This is their story.
I: The Puppet
The king’s trolls were masters of deception. No one better plied those dark arts. Deception was the method he used in his first attempt to reclaim the queen’s land.
The plan was to install his own underling, a puppet, as the head of state of the queen’s newly-independent country. The map might indicate that the two nations were separate, but in actuality, the king would control both with an iron fist.
The puppet was a loutish man called Viktor Yanukovytch. He hailed from the eastern part of the queen’s land, Donetsk Oblast, where there was more sympathy for the king than in the western part of her dominion.
The puppet was corrupt to the bone, and would do anything for money and power—a perfect choice for the job. But he was rough around the edges, uncouth, a brute. He needed a makeover, so the queen’s people might see him differently.
There was a makeover artist, an American, who specialized in this sort of thing—polishing up brutes, making them palatable to the electorate. No one was better at this than the American. His name was Paul Manafort.
So the king’s courtiers brought in Paul Manafort, who transformed the puppet into a viable candidate. Under the American’s expert tutelage, the puppet won the election of 2010. He was the president of the queen’s country for four years.
But there were two problems.
First, despite the makeover, the puppet remained a bandit at heart. He was spectacularly corrupt. He looted the queen’s coffers, building himself a Versailles-like presidential palace and stealing untold millions of federal dollars. He may have won an election, but he was neither popular nor successful. The people would not be fooled twice.
Second, the queen’s subjects wanted to ally themselves with the West—with the European Union, and with the United States. This, the king could not allow. For the king knew that once the queen’s subjects tasted true democracy, they would never willingly return to him. He would lose the queen’s country forever if that happened.
Things came to a head in November of 2013. The puppet refused to sign an alliance with the West, in defiance of popular wishes. Also, he was a scoundrel and a brazen thief. So the people stood up. There was a series of protests in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti—Independence Square—in the queen’s capital city of Kyiv. These protests were called Euromaidan.
The queen’s people had realized that Viktor was a puppet, and would not support him further. The puppet was ousted on February 22, 2014—whisked away to the king’s country for his own safety.
The king was distraught. Plan A had not worked. It was on to Plan B: the gradual invasion and occupation of the queen’s country.
II. The Crimea
The best place to start the invasion, the king decided, was in the self-contained territory that the Tatars called Qirim—the Crimea. There were more of the king’s supporters there than anywhere else in the queen’s country, and the place had both strategic importance and lovely vacation sites. No sooner had the puppet been deposed then pro-king/anti-queen protests began in the Crimea.
The real problem was with the West. The Americans and their allies would not allow the king to invade and occupy a sovereign nation. Saddam Hussein had tried this in 1991, and Allied forces joined together to thwart him. The king feared the same result.
But the king had an ace up his sleeve. The man in charge of military intelligence for the United States, Mike Flynn, was both an admirer of the king and a critic of the American president, Obama. Flynn had visited the king’s own intelligence headquarters, and was on collegial terms with the king’s own spymaster. Perhaps he could be fed bad information, which might at least delay an Allied response?
On February 28, 2014, the king’s chief spymaster was scheduled to visit Mike Flynn in Washington. The visit never happened. The night before, soldiers loyal to the king, but not wearing his royal insignia, captured a series of strategic sites across the Crimea, including the Supreme Council. A Crimean puppet of the king was installed there.
Two weeks later, a referendum was held. An overwhelming majority supported independence for the Crimea—which in practice meant annexation by the king. (The vote, needless to say, was rigged.)
The king braced for a response from the West. There were some sanctions—irritating, to be sure, but hardly the end of the world. And that was it. He had won. The king had marched right in and occupied land belonging to the queen—and the world just let it happen.
(Six weeks after the stealth invasion of Crimea, Mike Flynn was removed from his post by President Obama. The reason is still cloaked in secrecy. But in December of 2015, Flynn found himself in the king’s palace, a guest of honor, seated next to him at a formal dinner. Was this perhaps a reward for a job well done?)
But the king was not one to rest on his laurels. The Crimea did not satisfy him. He wanted all of the queen’s lands. And he would not stop until he had achieved this objective.
III: The Criminal
The next president of the queen’s country was an oligarch named Petro Poroshenko, “The Chocolate King.” He was rich beyond measure—not as corrupt as the puppet, but unable to stop the rampant corruption in the government.
The king bided his time. He sent special forces and spies to infiltrate the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. When the moment was right, he would have those provinces declare independence, as Crimea had, and annex them.
In the meantime, he turned his attention to the West. If he could exert some control over the leaders of the Western nations, sow dissent and break up their alliances, the king could have his way with the queen’s lands.
One way to weaken the Western alliances, the king determined, was to have Great Britain remove itself from the European Union. Many billons of stolen dollars from the king’s kingdom—vast fortunes—wound up in the City of London. Thus, the king had great sway there. He used his enormous influence to lobby for Britain to LEAVE. And lo, in a referendum on 23 June 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU.
This was excellent for the king, but bad for the Western alliances and catastrophic for Great Britain. It was like felling a helicopter with a pistol. An entire once-mighty nation, careering out of control, was so preoccupied with saving itself that it had to ignore external events. Once the greatest empire the world had even known, Britain was now sidelined. (Even today, its rumpled prime minister remains an apologist for the king.)
Also in 2016, makeover artist Paul Manafort was tapped to pretty up another loutish criminal who was running for president, this time in America. The king knew this criminal well. This criminal worked for the king’s mob bosses for decades, laundering their dirty money. There was no question he would play ball. Another of the king’s associates, Mike Flynn, also worked on the criminal’s campaign. For a time, Flynn was being considered as the criminal’s running mate!
The criminal was named Donald John Trump. He was the bankrupt host of a canceled reality TV show—a blowhard and a nebbish. The king’s spymasters had been cultivating him for many years. The king would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect yes-man to install in the White House.
The criminal was running as a Republican, a party that shared many of the values espoused by the king: white supremacy, patriarchy, Christianity, authoritarianism, and so forth. The king’s spies hacked into the server used by the Republicans, collecting incriminating information—what the king called “kompromat.” The leaders of the Republican party knew what the king was up to in the queen’s country—there was even a recording that confirmed this—but they didn’t care. To win the election, to maintain power, to get what they wanted, they were happy to take the king’s side—although some of them had no choice. At the behest of the criminal, the Republican party even changed its platform, to weaken its support for the queen’s country.
The king used every means at his disposal to help the criminal win. The king despised the criminal’s opponent, the woman, because she recognized him for what he was: weak, insecure, damaged, crooked—an imposter, a cosplayer, a troll. That, and she reminded him of the queen.
With the king’s help, the criminal won the election. And once the yes-man was installed, the king leaned on the criminal to help him. In Finland, another country the king had long coveted, he met the criminal at a summit. The criminal prostrated himself before the king and kissed the ring.
In 2019, looking ahead to the election the next year, the king worried that Joe Biden, who as President Obama’s vice president had shown contempt for the king, would run against the criminal. So in the last days of the oligarch’s administration, the king had the corrupt prosecutor general in the queen’s country make all kinds of wild and false assertions:
LIE #1: It was the queen, not the king, who had interfered in the 2016 election. The king’s involvement was a hoax!
LIE #2: The American ambassador to the queen’s country, Maria Yovanovitch, was a bad actor.
LIE #3: Biden pressured the oligarch to fire the prosecutor in order to protect his son, Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company in the queen’s country.
These lies circulated widely in the United States, disseminated by American scribblers in league with the king. The criminal yes-man took action, recalling the ambassador from the queen’s country for no good reason. Hunter Biden became famous.
Looking ahead to 2020, the king did not fear most of the criminal’s potential opponents. Two of them—the hoary scold from Vermont and the pretty cult member from Hawaii—he rather fancied.
But there were two candidates that the king wanted to prevent from taking power: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The king feared what would happen if either one of them were to succeed the criminal as president. He knew that those two saw him for what he really was.
So he had his purveyors of deceit craft disinformation campaigns against them, attacking Biden for being senile, and Harris for being a slut. He knew Americans were gullible and would fall for it.
IV. The Jester
Back in the queen’s lands, the oligarch’s administration was corrupt, which suited the king’s purposes just fine. The oligarch was up for re-election in 2019. His opponent was a comedian—a jester. On a popular TV show, the jester had played the president of the queen’s country. Life mirrored art! In April of 2019, this jester, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was elected president.
The jester was not perfect. He was a political outsider. Corruption was still rampant, and it was hard to combat it. And the king kept up the attacks in the eastern provinces, which the jester could not stop.
The jester wanted the queen’s country to join forces with the West. He wanted to be part of those alliances. The king did not want this—not at all.
The king thought the jester was a weakling. He was a jester, after all! The jester knew he needed military aid, so he could defend the queen’s lands when the king invaded. The jester also knew the Americans had pledged to send over military equipment, to bolster the queen’s army.
On his second call with the criminal—the first was a quick congratulations—the jester asked about the status of the aid he was supposed to have already received. The criminal told him there were now conditions attached to the release of the aid. “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” the criminal told the jester.
The jester must investigate, or announce an investigation, into the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the queen’s country.
The jester must push the narrative that the queen, and not the king, had interfered in the 2016 election.
The jester must meet with the criminal’s representatives on these matters: the criminal’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr.
This was not what Congress had approved, and the jester knew it. The criminal, the jester realized, was trying to strongarm him!
The next day, two of the criminal’s envoys, Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, visited the jester, to try and get him to play ball.
But the jester did not play ball. So in July of 2019, the criminal told the Office of Management and Budget to suspend all U.S. security assistance to the queen’s country. No money or arms for the queen’s country! This was, of course, exactly what the king wanted—the West to pull out of the queen’s lands, leaving them vulnerable to invasion.
This extortion attempt came to light in August of 2019, in a report by a whistleblower. It led to the criminal’s first impeachment in January 2020. Although he was clearly guilty, the Senate, a majority of whom were Republicans loyal to both the criminal and the king, voted to acquit him.
The king was still powerful. But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get the criminal elected again. Two months after the criminal’s defeat at the polls, the king stood back and watched as besiegers stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021—spurred to action by the criminal and by his associate Mike Flynn. But the insurrection failed.
The incoming American president and vice president were the two candidates the king most feared: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
V. The Endgame
By the winter of 2022, it was clear that the tide had turned against the king. Under the leadership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the free world—fractured by the king’s meddling during the criminal’s term of office—reassembled. Although the West had no intention of attacking his kingdom, the king perceived this as a threat. He wrongly believed that all leaders were cruel and bloodthirsty, like he was.
The king mobilized his troops and lined them up on the border of the queen’s country. There were over 100,000 men, more than had assembled in Europe since the Second World War. His plan was simple: he would kill some of his own troops, blame it on the queen’s defense forces, and use that as a pretext to invade.
But Joe Biden knew this, because American spies knew exactly what the king was doing. And Joe Biden told the whole world what the king’s plan was, before it could be enacted. The king was livid. How had the senile old man found out? Who told him? Who were the spies in his midst? So it was back to the drawing board.
Ultimately, the king decided that he’d waited long enough. He wanted to take the queen’s land—all of it. He wanted to subdue her once and for all! So he had two more puppets in the eastern provinces declare the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk, and his kingdom recognized these new nations. Then, claiming he was defending his own people in those new republics from the queen’s Nazi stormtroopers—a tall tale no one beyond his kingdom believed—he invaded.
The king’s plan was for a blitzkrieg—a quick strike, over and done in 48 hours. He thought the queen’s people would greet him as a liberator. He thought the jester would turn tail and run, like the president of Afghanistan had after the American forces withdrew. He did not. They did not. They resisted. They resist still.
Every day the jester remains alive, hope for the queen’s country intensifies. And if the jester is killed, he will be hailed the world over as a martyr. The jester has made his place in history as a hero, while the king will now be regarded as a madman and a failure. This, too, the king knows.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has united the entire free world to the cause. What the criminal spent four years undermining at the king’s behest was built back better by the president and his diplomats in a matter of days.
In a few short weeks, the king destroyed his economy, his hold on power, and his legacy—and needlessly slaughtered many thousands of people, including children and hospital patients, and reduced to rubble beautiful towns and cities.
The king has failed, utterly and completely. It will take years for his kingdom to recover from the damage he wrought. There is no way out now, no way to save face. He must go down with the ship.
The king is isolated, alone. His kingdom is a pariah on the world stage, backed only by the world’s other pariahs. Once-reliable allies have not rushed to his aid. Even neutral nations took the queen’s side.
Even in his palace, the king must be vigilant. The surest way this ends is with his assassination—and he knows it. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
So the king sits at a long table, twenty feet from the closest underling. He takes his meetings remotely. He thinks twice before sipping his tea.
Who will play Brutus to the king’s Caesar? His chef and most trusted friend, who runs the mercenaries and the trolls? The gas company head known as Darth Vader? The jackal of a foreign minister, who once yukked it up with the criminal in the Oval Office, with his yacht and his daughter in the posh London neighborhood? The simpleton head of the army, with his ridiculous ribbons and medals? The sniveling spokesman with the pedophile mustache? Probably it will be Patrushev, the spymaster—he has the invisible poisons at his disposal and the courage to use them.
And so the king rants and raves, and sacks some or other general, and makes increasingly unhinged public statements. The free world fears his nuclear weapons, but if he orders a nuclear strike, would anyone even listen at this point? Will the missiles even launch? The king is not sure enough to put it to the test.
And so his head swells, and his leg twitches, and his hands tremble, and he keeps up the wholesale slaughter of innocents in the queen’s country—as he did in Syria and in Chechnya, because the king is a ruthless butcher—and he waits to see which of his minions will rise against him and end his reign of terror.
The word tsar, the king knows, derives from caesar.
Beware the Ides of March.