Burning bridges

Image courtesy Vera Katkova.

The Ukrainian war is starting to really hurt the Russian government. This is a self-inflicted wound, there was no reason whatsoever for Vladimir Putin to roll the panzers on his neighbor. But he did, and here we are, in the midst of a slow-rolling replay of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Actually, I would go so far as to say this one is worse. Why. Allow me to explain.

Khruschev was a rational actor with real experience of war at its worst. Kennedy was also a man with combat experience. Both were participants in World War Two, and both men knew on a visceral level how everything we had built could be vaporized with a single miscalculation.

Putin has delusions of grandeur and Biden is president because it was his turn. This is not the leadership team I would have wanted at the helm of this crisis.

However, you don’t go to war with the army and leadership you want, you go with what you have.

So, now we have a threatened and possibly unstable KGB agent with thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal, leading Russia. The man leading the United States rose to the top because everyone else disqualified themselves. He was the last man standing.

On these two men rests the fate of our world. Literally. Not exactly the stuff of pleasant dreams.

This is why I have been fairly quiet as of late. But now I think it’s time to write about this.

Vladimir Putin has burned all the bridges upon which his country depends to further his dreams of fire and glory. Economically Russia is totally screwed, their chief exports were hydrocarbons and weapons.

Europe was the primary recipient of Russian oil and gas. Any idiot can now see why dependence on Russia for energy was a bad idea. The Europeans are praying for a soft winter, and I don’t blame them. The acceleration of green resources will take the time they don’t have, and people are going to get cold without cheap Russian gas. The mysterious sabotage of the Nordstream pipeline hasn’t helped, and OPEC isn’t riding to the rescue. Just the opposite is true.

In the short term, the Europeans are going to pay through the nose for energy this winter. In the long term, the OPEC lands are shooting themselves in the foot. No one likes blackmail or watching their mother-in-law freeze in her flat. People remember.

In terms of weapons exports, what country will want to buy Russian arms when those have been comprehensively proven to be vastly inferior to western systems? Russian weapons are not only inferior, but they are also a tremendous waste of money. Who wants to buy tanks that are so readily converted into scrap metal littering the countryside? Who wants artillery that is only a slight improvement upon systems from WW2? Who wants planes that don’t dare to fly over hostile territory because they’ll be shot down readily and immediately?

Putin. He created this terrible situation, and in the short term he might do something desperate.

In the long term, he has thoroughly poisoned the water of his country.

Of course, any bad situation can always get worse.

One has to remember that life is a series of choices. Zeroes and ones. Putin made the choice to invade Ukraine. The Ukrainians made the choice to resist. As a result of these choices, our world is being pushed to the brink of a terrible conflict, one in which a possible use of nuclear weapons can be realistically foreseen.

What, was our lazy and happy world simply not good enough? A disappeared nirvana where the news cycle was driven by inflated outrage and not-stories involving the Kardashians?

No. Instead, we get disease, famine, and death, all rolled up into a lovely hate cigar that we are forced to light up and inhale. What is with these historical monsters who dream of imagined utopias based upon fire and glory? How do we keep getting saddled with these losers? A failed seminarian. A disgruntled corporal. And now, a pissed off secret policeman.


And here in the US, I don’t see a Lincoln or FDR anywhere in sight.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, so it is said.

Well, right now I’m not seeing it. At least not over here. The Ukrainians totally lucked out with Zelensky, who obviously inherited something from his grandpa, a Soviet infantry officer. The Finns have a good one, too, with Sanna Marin.

Ahh. This is why it’s taken me so long to write this. I’m having a lot of trouble seeing a good way out of this situation.

More power to the Ukrainians, who are fighting for their homes. Paradoxically, their success with weapons stamped “Made in the USA” makes the conflict more dangerous and likely to metastasize.

I guess the important thing to realize is where this all started. It wasn’t with NATO, which until very recently was rather content to sit and slumber, to atrophy. It wasn’t “the West,” which was happy to send billions of Euros and dollars to Russia in exchange for methane, raising the living standards for all in that perpetually tormented land. No, this all started in the fevered imaginings of a man who began his career in the torture cellars of East Germany.

This crisis began with him, a man nurtured on the most poisoned fruit possible, the institutional memory of the NKVD/KGB. It may not end with him, for he may be replaced by someone crazier.

Zeroes and ones. Choices. It all comes down to that.

What will Putin choose now that he has burned his bridges? Will he unleash nuclear fire?

If he does, this will be a first. In what sense, you may ask. Didn’t the Americans destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945?

Yes, we did. We destroyed those cities to end a terrible war.

If Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, he will start one.

There’s a difference.

2 thoughts on “Burning bridges

  1. Eloquently described. Best we can hope for is that the Russian nukes are duds like a lot of their conventional weapons. Nice to see the Ukranians like the (few) Bushmasters we sent to them!


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