So it looks like Putin is preparing for a two-pronged strategy. First, he regroups his ravaged forces and focuses them on completely seizing and detaining this small military prize. Second, it redoubles its systematic cruelty – the continuous pounding of Ukrainian cities with rockets and artillery to continue creating as many casualties and refugees and as much economic ruin as possible. He clearly hopes that the former will fracture the Ukrainian military, at least in the east, and the latter will fracture NATO, as its member states are overwhelmed by so many refugees and pressure kyiv to give Putin all he wants for him to stop.
Ukraine and NATO therefore need an effective counter-strategy.
It should have three pillars. The first is to support the Ukrainians with diplomacy if they want to negotiate with Putin – that is their call – but also to support them with the best armaments and training if they want to drive the Russian army out of every square centimeter of their territory. . The second is to broadcast daily and out loud – in every possible way – that the world is at war “with Putin” and “not with the Russian people” – the complete opposite of what Putin is telling them. And the third is for us to redouble our efforts to end our dependence on oil, Putin’s main source of income.
The hope is that the three together would set in motion forces inside Russia that would topple Putin from power.
Yes, this is a high risk, high reward proposition. Putin’s downfall could lead to someone worse at the helm of the Kremlin. It could also lead to prolonged chaos and disintegration.
But if it leads to someone better, someone with just a modicum of decency and an ambition to rebuild Russia’s dignity and spheres of influence on the basis of a new generation of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Sakharov , Dostoyevsky and Sergey Brins – not yacht-owning oligarchs, cyberhackers and polonium -armed assassins – the whole world is better. So many possibilities for healthy collaborations would be resurrected or forged.
Only the Russian people have the right and the ability to change leaders. But it won’t be easy because Putin, a former KGB officer – surrounded by many other ex-intelligence officers indebted to him – is nearly impossible to dislodge.
But here’s a possible scenario: the Russian military is a proud institution, and if it continues to suffer catastrophic defeats in Ukraine, I can imagine a situation where either Putin wants to decapitate the leaders of his army – make them scapegoats for his failure in Ukraine – where the military, knowing it’s coming, first tries to oust Putin. There was never any love lost between the Russian military and the KGB/SVR/FSB security types surrounding Putin.