Thursday, February 05, 2015

Will Putin Be the First President of the Grand Duchy of Moscow?

Remember, I've long written that Russian military power is not as great as they'd like us to believe. They can nuke an enemy and they can use special forces. But between those points of capability, Russia's military power is relatively weak (compared to us, but not to small neighbors).

So when you read that Russia is emphasizing nuclear weapons, this has long been their only response to a serious conventional threat:

At a time of heightened tension with the West, Russia has not been shy about reasserting its status as a nuclear power.

President Vladimir Putin pointedly noted last August that Russia was a leading nuclear power when he advised potential enemies: "It's best not to mess with us."

A report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service last year said Russia "seems to have increased its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security concept".

The Red Army is long gone.

The fact that Russia is still trying to grab a small corner of Ukraine's east from a rag tag collection of outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian defenders should demonstrate why Russia needs nukes to repel an invasion (more likely from China than NATO, despite Russian claims to the contrary).

So arming Ukraine to fill in their capability gaps and helping them put their existing stockpiles into working order is not futile.

Indeed, Putin could be risking a lot if he can't settle this war sooner rather than later:

Russia has fought from the beginning to remove the government in Kiev and prevent Ukraine from acceding to the European Union and NATO. For this purpose rebel control over one-third of the province of Donetsk, with millions of impoverished people and a dysfunctional economy, is clearly insufficient.

The timing of the surge in the fighting, however, in the middle of winter and after weeks of relative calm, is a reflection of a more general situation. The Putin regime needs an end to sanctions not because they are crippling in themselves but because in combination with the growing crisis of the economy and the unpredictable trajectory of the war, they could help lead to the destabilization of Russia.

I've never assumed that Russia was done fragmenting. They lost their eastern European empire. Then lost the non-Russian provinces of the USSR itself. What might Russia lose if the war Putin began to restore Russian glory and empire actually hastens further fragmentation?

Could Putin become the first president of the Grand Duchy of Moscow? 

That would solve that land border problem they have.

The problem for us is that we've escaped nuclear disaster through two fragmentations of the Soviet Union. Can we live through a Russian fragmentation without Putin ordering the use of nukes to maintain their territorial integrity?

Will they see NATO's hand in that fragmentation and turn an internal problem of their own making into what they see as an invasion that justifies use of nuclear weapons?

How rational is Putin? Even by Russian standards, let alone ours?

And are any of the people in his inner circle capable of preventing him from acting on such an irrational belief?

In President Obama's defense, I'll never say the choices and potential outcomes of the Russia-Ukraine War are easy to make or see. I just wish we had a better president to face those decision points.

How's that for making the Iran nuclear issue look like a minor problem?

UPDATE: Holy Hell:

A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger's syndrome, "an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions," according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.

Putin's "neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy," wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal "that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality."

Well that's just effing great. It's bad enough he's paranoid in the Russian tradition. Now this?

On the bright side, maybe everyone who wants to be a leader has neurological abnormalities.

Good grief, I said that might be the "bright" side.

Why I don't drink heavily, I have no idea.