April 11, 2022
Putin is Putin and a Snake is a Snake
They say a leopard can’t change its spots, and Santayana, the 19th century Harvard historian and philosopher said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Both of the above is true. How did we miss it, what can we learn from it, and finally, what can we do now to prevent it from getting worse?
Adolph Hitler, one of the three worse mass murderers of the 20th century, Mao Tse Tung of China, and Joseph Stalin of Russia being the other two, several times told his people the following. “Had the English stood up to me at Munich, I would have backed down.” It’s shocking but at the time of Munich, the French army and the English army were far superior to the German army and far larger. Hitler knew it, but Hitler had the will and French and English did not.
Hitler had the firmness of belief on his side and saw disunity in the eyes of his enemies. It can certainly seem far easier for some to roll over, play dead and surrender, especially in the face of a resolute and frightening enemy. At some point however you must bite the dust and fight, because as Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “If not us, who? If not now, then when?” We are experiencing such a moment now 20 years into the 21st century and nobody saw it coming.
The politicians all thought or maybe just hoped that the Russian leader would not do what everyone dreaded him doing. We believe that Putin has not changed contrary to what many Western politicians were saying. It was far easier to believe and verbalize what you wanted to believe rather than let the facts speak for themselves. It was far easier to say, that the leopard has changed his spots, or the snake is no longer deadly. Putin is what he is, and is what he has always been.
He is the proud son of the Soviet Union that buried Hitler in Germany a generation before, but he heard the stories from his parents and his relatives. He knew the war had left perhaps as many as 30 million Soviet citizens dead. So what did Russia doing after vanquishing Germany and Berlin? They took every country east of Berlin and made it a satellite of the Soviet Union and then successfully helped half the world go Communist in the 1950’s and 60’s. It looked like for a while that the whole world could go their way. President Reagan in the 1980s thought it was possible. There were three principal reasons why it didn’t. They were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the Polish Pope. And when Soviet communism collapsed in the early 1990s, there was one reason why the USSR did not collapse into Civil War where millions perished and that was Mikhail Gorbachev.
Putin knew all of this and he knows it better than any American or any Westerner and he curses the day when the Empire collapsed. Without question, history has affected him emotionally and intellectually. It has scared him and molded him into the human being he has evolved into. He is in heart and mind, KGB, which for him means NO MERCY. It is the same for every man who has served in the United States Marines, once a Marine, always a Marine. In his case, once KGB, always KGB. Putin cries over what has become of his once-beloved communist empire and he yearns to bring it back, to restore it, no matter what it takes or who it kills in the process.
Do not kid yourself as Western leaders have. He believes in the “strong man” theory of history. That a leader is a strong man and only the leader can make the country go. He believed that about Saddam Hussein, and when Hussein was hung by the neck, Putin watched as Iraq descended into chaos for a generation. Not even the great United States in Putin’s mind could rehabilitate Iraq in spite of hundreds of billions of dollars spent and the finest minds in the American government trying to fix it.
He looked at Afghanistan where once again, Russia lost the war by 1989, and then he saw America invade in 2001, take it over in a month, and then get lost in a quagmire for a generation trying to fix that country but to no avail. We the United States leave Kabul and the country falls in 30 days to the people we vanquished for a generation, the Taliban. We tried to build democracy there and in Iraq and nothing happens. Putin watches this and says only the strong man can govern. This is a man that truly believes that a country especially Russia must be governed by one man. That is why he admires China and allies with it. He looks at Syria and saw it falling into disarray, again Civil War. He goes in with a couple of Russian Battalions and restores Assad to the throne. Once again Putin feels vindicated that the strong man survives and with it his country. He saw Mouammar Kaddafi the strong man of Libya be dragged through the streets of his country and said, this will never happen to me.
So what is Putin’s Resume?
Vladimir Putin has let us all in on his plans. Just look at what he has done. He has over the course of 20 years already invaded Ukraine once. He has invaded Crimea in a separate engagement and annexed it. He has invaded Belarus and taken control of it. These were three separate invasions of sovereign states. Nobody from the West did anything about it. NATO was apparently unconcerned; they didn’t protest. It takes nothing more than common sense to say and think that Putin was EMBOLDENED by these actions that were not challenged. The lack of protest certainly told him he could do it again, and maybe again after that. He has now attempted to take the Ukraine whole and for the moment, he is coming up short.
What the Free World has to realize is that this man Putin, means what he says and there is no need to try to reinterpret it. Putin is an in-your-face kind of guy, and up until now, he has been an excellent poker player. In Las Vegas, he would make out like a bandit. The reason is that poker is as much about bluffing and understanding your opponent as it is about the cards you play in your hand. A great poker player doesn’t need much in the way of cards. He wins with his mind, his strategy, and his ability to ball you over and that’s Putin the leader of Russia.
What this means for the United States and the Free World is that right now it is oh so clear that America has the winning hand. My fear is that we will play the winning hand into a losing result. Putin has the losing hand, and yet he might still win this thing in the end. It is obvious that England and other countries want to go further in backing the Ukraine than the United States does. Why hasn’t Biden released the 29 Mig Jets we control in Poland to the Ukrainians? Biden says he doesn’t want to raise the ante against Putin. So what we have is all-out aggression on Putin’s part and some reticence on Biden’s part and reticence don’t win wars. Or is that Biden doesn’t want to win this thing, he just wants the Ukrainians to do well enough to negotiate an end to this war?
Anything short of the Russians getting completely out of Ukraine will be a terrible defeat for America and a huge victory for Putin and both America and Putin know this. It will embolden him to try again at some point. It will unleash China to start thinking about being more aggressive towards Taiwan and the South China Sea. It will undo so much of the good that has been done by America taking a stand on world matters, because as Reagan said, “If not me, who, if not now, when.
Russia has now forced us all to see the myth of Soviet power. There was no there, there. The tanks don’t work efficiently and they are subject to being destroyed at any moment by anti-tank missiles and other assorted weapons costing 2 to 5% of what a tank cost. The Soviets are not freely flying their planes over Ukraine because the Stingers will shoot them down. A thousand Russian personnel carriers have been destroyed because they have wood bottoms, yes wood bottoms, and were never maintained properly leaving them exposed to easy Ukrainian destruction.
We suspect that as many as 15,000 Russian soldiers have died, with another 20,000 to 30,000 wounded, an unimaginable number that an American President who must be politically elected could never survive with. The military leadership of the Russian army is pathetic and so has been the Russian intelligence handling of the war. Putin knows this and just recently has dismissed 150 agents of his intelligence service for their failure and put the head of the unit under arrest Putin knows every one of these people personally. This is the unit he ran when he was in the KGB. Seven Russian field generals are dead with more to come. It is not a pretty picture, Putin is Putin, and a snake is a snake. It was all there for us to see, but we were blind to it because we wanted to believe something different. Now we must believe the reality of Vladimir Putin and we set this thing right, and do it right now because if we do not then what will happen is this. Putin will violate Article 5 of NATO’s Agreement. If he steps onto NATO soil then the West must retaliate with boots on the ground and Joe Biden will not be able to talk his way out of that one. He will have to walk the walk, and not talk the talk. The same walk that JFK did during the Cuban Missile Crisis and LBJ did in the Viet Nam war, and George Bush in Iraq and George Bush the younger in Afghanistan.
It doesn’t have to come to that. This is why Biden must get in front of this thing. He must not follow. He must lead, for if he doesn’t lead, he will get swept up into having decisions made for him by the momentum of events that he will not control, and that will put us all in danger, the danger of the fog of war and miss-calculations. And escalations take on their own power with their own reactions. Far better to get a grip on the situation now and make Putin back down while the power is all on our side.
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