Today is the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russians, of course, thought this would be like Desert Storm. It would take a week or two, they would topple Zelinsky, and then it would be done.
And then what?
What would Russia have gained if they had been able to topple Ukraine within a few weeks?
It’s not like Russia doesn’t have enough land. It’s already the largest single country by land area by quite a bit. (Canada is second, at about 58% of the size of Russia.)
Ukraine is a nice “bread basket,” but it’s not like Russia doesn’t have enough farmable land.
And it’s not like Ukraine has anything that Russia really needs.
If Russia had conquered Ukraine, they would mostly have inherited about 41 million disgruntled citizens, who would have been much harder to govern than Russia’s own 147 million citizens. Under those circumstances, unhappy Ukrainians would have represented about 22% of a combined Russian state. The Russians would not have had the manpower to police a nation of that size.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way.
The Ukrainians turned out to be remarkably tenacious fighters in defense of their own homeland.
The Russians turned out to be far more inept than anyone had imagined.
But it’s not over by a long shot.
- Putin — to no one’s surprise — is “all in” on his war, and has no intention of backing down.
- The NATO allies can barely keep up in supplying the Ukrainians with weapons to defend their homeland.
- NATO still isn’t giving the Ukrainians fighter jets, in order to keep this from turning into WWIII.
- The Iranians have been selling cheap but effective drones to the Russians, and there’s a good chance the Chinese will arm them as well.
- Despite the West’s best efforts, sanctions have (predictably) not collapsed the Russian economy.
- Putin has actually strengthened his position at home, with many people in opposition simply having fled the country.
One might have thought that the enormous number of casualties among the Russian soldiers — some estimates are that they have lost more than four times the number of soldiers in one year than the United States lost in a decade in Viet Nam — would have turned the Russians against the war.
But it hasn’t happened yet.
Hundreds of thousands of young men reportedly fled from Russia after Putin instituted a nation-wide draft. They fled to Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and especially Kazakhstan. (God knows how these countries are going to absorb all these young Russian men.) But it hasn’t caused a major civil uprising in Russia, and probably never will.
And the war crimes that Russia has clearly committed in Ukraine, and which are being documented as much as possible as things go along?
Those will only be punished if Russia is completely defeated, as Germany was in WWII.
That’s not going to happen.
I’ve argued repeatedly in the past that comparing Trump to Hitler is not really an appropriate comparison. But comparing Putin to Hitler really is. Putin is a man who really doesn’t care how many people get killed in the pursuit of his ambitions. It is by now widely known that Putin began his career by (having his minions) plant bombs during the September 1999 Russian apartment bombings — thereby killing his own citizens — as a pretext for invading Chechnya in the Second Chechen War. For all the conspiracy nuts who thought that George W. Bush organized the 9/11 flights into the twin towers, here is a conspiracy theory that actually turns out to be true.
And yet, many conservative Christian Republicans love Vladimir Putin because they think he is on their side in the culture wars.
Putin supposedly “had a devoutly Christian mother and has worn a crucifix around his neck for most of his life,” but he’s no more a Christian than Adolf Hitler, who also professed to believe. Putin has about as much in common with Jesus Christ as a fish has with a bicycle.
But that hasn’t stopped conservative Christians from jumping to his defense.
Long story short, this war is far from over, and the Russians will likely get better at fighting it, and the Ukrainians more depleted and exhausted. The final outcome is anyone’s guess.