March 1 Ukraine blog: Does Putin even have a plausible exit that he can “sell” at home?

There have been numerous speculations about Putin’s mental state. I was somewhat surprised to see retired nursing instructor (and textbook author) Dr. John Campbell — who’s done priceless work during the COVID pandemic — jump into that fray in an interview with Vlad Vexler, an expat Russo-Ukrainian philosowho had predicted Putin’s move in an earlier video.

[Dr. Vexler has been on Dr. Campbell’s channel before, but about his struggles with “long COVID” and chronic fatigue syndrome (which appear to be interrelated).] I understand from a Russian immigrant here that within less than 24h, a Russian translation of the video already went

I’ve actually been half-seriously wondering about another possibility: that Putin isn’t so much going mad, but knows he’s living on borrowed time and wants to secure his place in history — for better or worse — before he shuffles off this mortal coil. That he’s getting locked into what another dictator once said: “Ich muss das tun. Nach mir macht keiner das mehr”. (“I’ve gotta do this. After me nobody will [want to] do this anymore.”)

But on the (increasingly dubious) assumption that Putin is still a partially rational actor — remember: one can be utterly amoral or immoral yet still make fully rational calculations — it may be necessary, if utterly distasteful, for the world community to offer him “a way to climb down out of the tree” as the Hebrew expression goes. To give him a chance to walk away without completely losing face at home. Will something like that emerge from the peace negotiations at the border? I’m skeptical. If he tells the Russians: “I have signed an agreement that Ukraine will not join NATO for 40 years” or whatever, will the average Ivan or Olga buy that he’d have to go to war for that?! (This is something he’d likely have been able to achieve without firing one shot.) Then again, are they buying some of the obvious arrant nonsense he’s been spouting, like the need to “denazify” a country with a Jewish president? I realize that what I hear from Russian immigrants here is not representative of the general population, but even among them, Putin has fanboys who at least pretend to believe his talking points. “$RUSSIAN_PROPAGANDA_CHANNEL is right about X, Y, and Z, so why would they lie about A?” Well, as the all-time master of “false flag” disinformation warfare, Sefton Delmer, explained, the key to success is to sandwich the lies between enough verifiably correct (or at least plausible) information.

Or will he be ousted? Remember, even Nikita Krushchev was forced out of office — in the old USSR!

One major complication is what contingency plans Putin himself has for his succession…

There are reports that Putin — normally known for iron self-control — has started lashing out at associates in frustration at the slow progress in Ukraine.

DEVELOPING… stay tuned for updates.

ADDENDUM 1: I’ve commented on Israel’s reluctance to openly antagonize Russia, as Russian troops are next door in Syria and the IDF is loath to disrupt its modus vivendi with them. (I am nauseated by this but enough of a realpolitiker to understand we may have no viable other option.) The Jerusalem Post reports that Arab countries are, for the most part, keeping a low profile as well — except for Syria (already a Russian client state in any case) and Lybia (the regime in Tripoli has turned against Russia, but is facing Russian mercenaries at home anyway).

ADDENDUM 2: commentators like Ace of Spades are calling out the hypocrisy of the transnationalist left for loudly expressing anguish about Ukrainian sovereignty while tirelessly belittling and hollowing out national sovereignty at home. I.e., nationalism is bad except when it suits an agenda. (He and I are in complete agreement that the fecklessness of Abu Hunter, Klueless Kackling Kamala, and their handlers are to blame for the crisis.)

This is perhaps a good place to state my own position on nationalism. It is basically a form of Paracelsus’s Law (the fundamental law of pharmacology, if you like):

“Everything is poison and nothing is without poison. It is only the dose that makes something not be a poison.” [*] There is benign nationalism — the desire of a people to go its own way without being tributaries of some other state or transnational actor — but beyond a certain dose there is malignant nationalism, expansionist abroad and exclusionist (I prefer the more powerful German word, Ausgrenzend — placing outside boundaries) at home. George Orwell, often mistaken for an anti-nationalist, understood this distinction very well: he just used the label “patriotism” to what I just called “benign nationalism”.

I cannot gainsay Ukrainians the right to self-determination in their own country when I’ve been insisting on the same right for my own people essentially all my conscious life. This is quite aside from the fact that Putin’s malignantly nationalist (or just plain unhinged) actions have fundamentally disrupted the geopolitical order, and that leaving them unchallenged would create an incentive structure that would encourage other bullies to play the same game — including the biggest bully of all, Winnie the Flu.

ADDENDUM 3: The Daily Telegraph [paywalled; cached copy] has an overview of the antitank missiles and drones that have been used to good effect by the Ukrainian forces. There are some typos — obviously a 12.5 kg N-LAW missile cannot have a payload of 454 kg, unless somebody forgot to tell me antigravity has been discovered… 😉

ADDENDUM 4: as predictable as it is tiresome: The dishonest attempt to link Ukraine with “the Palestinians”. If anything, they’ve got it backwards, and the “Palestinian resistance” has more in common with the pro-Russian militias in the Donbass than with the Ukrainians.

ADDENDUM 5: The nine main economic resources of Ukraine on a world scale. [paywalled: cached copy]. Chief are:

  • 2nd largest producer of grain, after Russia. [Hence the Soviet collectivization campaign hit Ukraine so hard.]
  • leading exporter of other grains and grain products, including largest producer of sunflower oil
  • 5th largest exporter of iron by volume
  • 4th-largest of titanium
  • 2nd-largest in Europe (after Russia) of uranium

Also, apparently a number of Russians (mostly urban professionals) are trying to leave Russia before foreign airlines shut down.

[*] Today we speak of a drug’s “therapeutic interval” — the distance between the minimal effective dose and the toxic dose.

4 thoughts on “March 1 Ukraine blog: Does Putin even have a plausible exit that he can “sell” at home?

  1. The Arabs are of course extremely nervous about this year’s grain harvest and exports. Russian and Ukraine supply most of the middle east with grain (and sunflower oil and many other bulk agricultural commodities) and if this war is protracted then there’ll almost certainly be a lot less grain to export from Ukraine.

      • I had another comment that the spam bot seems to have swallowed, probably because it was a link to my blog post on the same topic – ombreolivier.liberty[.]me/ putin-trudeau-ukraine-and-truckers/

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