When Finland and Sweden recently announced a deal with Turkey to join NATO, it underscored just how ill-conceived Russia’s war against Ukraine was from the start. Previously, the two Nordic countries had been stalwarts of neutrality, if not somewhat suspicious of the American-led alliance. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine changed everything. The Finns and Swedes became pro-NATO virtually overnight, triggering a stampede from their governments to join as soon as possible. The admission of new members requires the unanimous agreement of all existing member states, which Turkey initially refused to grant. But after Finland and Sweden gave in on a few critical points, the way was clear.
Putin’s war has to be the most outright stupid foreign policy move at least since George W. Bush’s senseless invasion of Iraq.
All of this illustrates that Putin’s war must be the most outright stupid foreign policy move at least since George W. Bush’s senseless invasion of Iraq. Russia’s military is battered, its economy is in shambles, its enemies are united, and its strategic prospects are worse than at any time since the summer of 1942 – and that’s all Putin’s fault. A worse self-inflicted injury is hard to imagine. On its current course, the future of the Russian people looks bleak indeed.
On the military front, Russia’s vaunted reputation was shattered, as a poor country with a quarter of Russia’s population fought it to a standstill. A military alliance it had hated for years, and which was slowly losing its relevance, has been totally revitalized and is gaining two new members, including one just on the Russian border. Warmongering anti-Russian voices around the world have been validated in the most convincing way possible. In the short term, Russian forces appear to be close to exhaustion fierce fighting with Ukraine, and in the medium term, more serious problems await us, from being cut off from the supply of Western-made computer chips and software.
The Russian economy is in ruins. The United States is so rich and powerful that it barely noticed trillions in totally wasted military spending during the War on Terror, but the Russian economy is being torn apart under the weight of military losses. and Western sanctions. Recently, he defaulted on a debt payment for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution. A recent Russian economic report shows a fall in purchases of consumer goods, industrial producer prices and business confidence.
Meanwhile, the war has sparked a helter-skelter rush among customers of Russia’s by far major exports, oil and gas, to get rid of fossil fuels. Across Europe, disaster installations of wind, solar and natural gas import terminals are taking place at full speed. It may take a few years, but the continent has learned the hard way what Putin’s regime funding allows.
It is important to note that it is not just Russia that is suffering. The suffering is far worse in Ukraine. The eastern parts of the country were reduced to rubble by Russian indiscriminate shelling and shelling, and tens of thousands of civilians are believed to have died along with thousands of soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have reportedly been deported to the interior of Russia, in what looks very much like a Stalinist cultural genocide.
The Russian economy is being torn apart under the weight of military losses and Western sanctions.
In the cities taken back from the Russian occupation, the journalists discovered a horrible mass butchery of civilians. Amnesty International recently published a report revealing that Russian forces had deliberately hit a theater full of women and children in Mariupol (“children” had been written in large letters outside the building), killing perhaps 600 people . A few days ago, Russian forces struck a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine, killing at least 18 people.
Elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, Putin’s war has caused food shortages, largely because Ukraine and Russia are among the biggest food exporters. Other victims include many Kurdish activists who had previously taken refuge in Finland and Sweden. Turkey obtained many sinister concessions in return for its support of these countries’ NATO candidacy, and among them were the lifting of an arms embargo on Turkey, the end of Swedish funding of certain Kurdish groups and a promise to consider extraditing Kurdish activists (who Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists are terrorists) to Turkey. (The Biden administration may also sell Turkey F-16 fighter jets.)
But again, the fault lies entirely with Putin. It’s just what tends to happen when great power wars start and smaller countries have to take cover. Finland and Sweden felt they had to come under the nuclear umbrella of NATO, and with a savage dictator on their doorstep, it’s hard to blame them – especially Finland, which has been a colony of Russia for centuries, as has Ukraine.
Despite all this destruction and misery, Putin has achieved…a tenuous occupation of a few thousand square miles of Ukraine that are smoldering ruins because of what he has done. It will cost billions to restore them to anything like functioning communities, let alone thriving communities. Rarely in the history of mankind has a great power gained so little at such a high price. This shows that Putin is not a hardened ‘realist’, but a die-hard imperialist, by his own admission obsessed with the absurd dreams of Peter the Great, and in his declining years he could very well drag his country down with him.