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A Putin puppet government will fail Ukraine will never bow down to a pro-Kremlin stooge


March 4, 2022   4 mins

Southern Ukraine

A week after it launched its attempted blitz across Ukraine, finally the Russian army has taken its first major city: Kherson, a key port city in the south of the country. But the defenders of Kyiv and Kharkiv have held out; elsewhere, Ukrainians have succeeded in repelling the invasion.

Vladimir Putin gambled everything on swiftly dismantling the Ukrainian state — and on that front, he has failed. That the vastly outnumbered Ukrainian air force has yet to be knocked out of the sky is in itself a surreal expression of how terribly Putin underestimated the capacity of the Ukrainian army and population. Simply put: those in Putin’s circle who believe that Ukraine doesn’t exist, that Ukrainians are simply exiled or confused Russians just waiting to be invited back home, have categorically been proved wrong.

Many more innocent people will likely die before this is all over; many more houses will be bombed. Bridges will be demolished by retreating Ukrainian forces. Already, several thousand civilians are reported to have been killed, while millions of others have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries. And yet the country has so far survived a massive assault by a numerically and technologically superior foe. Across Ukraine, the Russian army has failed to achieve any of its strategic or tactical goals.

President Zelenskyy has not yet fled or been executed, and it is now obvious that Russia’s troops will not be able to hold onto Kyiv if they capture it. It remains unclear why the electricity, heating, water and internet have not been knocked out in any part of the country (with the partial exception of Mariupol)  — though the answer must surely lie in the incompetence, logistical failures and lack of preparation that have underscored the Kremlin’s offensive.

While it is possible that the Ukrainian government could still capitulate, this does not seem likely, and would require a drastic escalation of force from the Russian army, up to and including leveling Kyiv to the ground. Whether Moscow can countenance such a level of violence is another question: it is unlikely to support such drastic measures if it wants to integrate Ukraine into a wider project, rather than simply massacre its citizens and plant a flag in the ruins of their capital.

The Kremlin may not have committed enough manpower to conquer a country the size of Ukraine when much of the population is willing to resist so valiantly. However, a week into the war, we do have an idea of what Putin had intended if his troops were successful. According to a recent article in the Russian-state tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, he intended to conquer the country and split it into four regions: Crimea, New Russia, Little Russia, and West Ukraine.

While the Russian/Ukraine expert community has spent the past week debating what a post-war settlement might look like, it now seems that the partitioning of the Ukrainian state was always Putin’s intended strategy. After all, the alternative — imposing a Moscow-controlled proxy puppet government — was always going to be impossible. Blowing up Ukrainian cities is not a constructive way to entice Ukrainians to your political cause. Even among the most rabidly pro-Kremlin politicians and media figures in Ukraine, the Russian attack has elicited tremendous disgust and embarrassment.

As for the pro-Russian political proxies within the Ukrainian parliament — who make up roughly 10% of its representatives — most fled the country in the days leading up to the invasion. There are, as a result, quite simply not enough serious pro-Kremlin politicians left in the country to form a puppet government. Meanwhile, those who had fled will now look tarnished if they return to a ruined Ukrainian capital to be established as quislings.

The idea of a symbolic restoration of Yanukovych/Azarov cabinet, which had been quietly floated by the Kremlin, is also a non-starter. Even the most pro-Yanukovych sympathisers in the Donbas now view him as a cowardly weakling, after he fled for Russia at the end of the Maidan revolution. Eight years later, there is simply no appetite for a restoration of his people or regime.

In the lead up to the war, when the Americans and the British tried to dissuade Moscow from invading by leaking both real intelligence and what may have been unverified information, the Western allies identified various local proxies as potential leaders of a puppet regime. The UK Foreign Office in particular suggested that Yevheniy Murayev, the leader of an insignificant pro-Russian faction in the Ukrainian parliament, would lead the new government.

Of course, Murayev denied the entire plot and swiftly went underground. But the names of other minor politicians were soon circulated, and then ridiculed — by both local and Western analysts — for being trial balloons, misinformation, or proof that the Kremlin has zero understanding of the nuances of Ukrainian power dynamics. Either the people concocting these plans in the Russian Defence ministry were fools, or this was all a bad joke. Oleg Voloshin, for instance, one of the more marginal names offered, has ranted at me over lunch that gay marriage was merely a cover for demon-worshipping paedophilia. You wouldn’t trust these people to run a local council, let alone the second-largest country in Europe.

Yet not every nominee was a joke. Viktor Medvedchuk, who picked Putin to be godfather to his daughter, was always the most likely candidate. But in what can only be described as an act of total incompetence, the Ukrainians allowed Medvedchuk — the main proxy of Russian power within Ukrainian politics — to escape the country over the weekend. This may very well prove to be a terminal mistake by the Ukrainians, who should have kept him as a hostage to ensure that Zelenskyy would not be assassinated. Medvedchuk is perhaps the only pro-Russian leader within Ukraine with the gravitas to fill the leadership role.

It is doubtful, however, that even if he were to return to rule Ukraine, he would succeed as Putin’s puppet. One of the reasons Putin decided to proceed with a fundamentally foolhardy and unlikely plan of invasion was his correct sense that the window of opportunity was closing. Indeed, the absence of an organised group of proxies waiting to form a quisling government is, if anything, an apt demonstration of how far Ukraine has already floated outside of the realm of Russian control.

This is the dilemma Putin faces: even if his army finds a way to repress the so-far irrepressible Ukrainian resistance, what next? A Russian occupation is off the cards. A puppet government will swiftly fall. When the bombing finally stops, Putin will look around at a defiant country — and find that he has already lost.


Vladislav Davidzon is a Russian-American writer, the Chief Editor of The Odessa Review, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

VladDavidzon

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Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 years ago

It’s truly bizarre. After the masterstroke of 2014, is it really possible they could get things so badly wrong? However the rest of the campaign goes, it certainly seems that Putin’s contention that there is no such thing as Ukraine has been disproved by those who think themselves Ukrainian and are willing to demonstrate it.

One simply hopes for all involved that the final outcome is not a bloody occupation leading to a long-running insurgency.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Watson

Sorry, the “masterstroke” of 2014 was a disaster. Putin wanted Girkin to hive off eastern Ukraine. Instead, he failed and fled. It was only regular Russian troops (disguised and dispersed so they lost any real combat power) that saved the situation–and shot down MH-17.
Every move Putin has made since has either done nothing to get back Ukraine (Syria had zero effect).
Russia can never be a significant power after this.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Watson

I have said all along that Putin’s apparent genius, admired by so many on Unherd if you look at their old comments, was nothing of the sort, though I underestimated his sanity.
The Ukrainian identity distinctive from the Russians, with them now even hating the Russians as murderers, has been forged by siege and bombardment, so that they will fight for their country.
So I wonder if it would be best now forZelensky to let the Russians have Kiev to save an awful lot of civilian lives, and for him and what’s left of his army to escape to west Ukraine to receive western arms from Poland – anti tank and anti aircraft missiles that’ll stop Putin getting control of the air and taking west Ukraine. And then he can conduct an insurgency in East Ukraine, hugely supported by the Ukrainian people, until the Russians give up and retreat.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Tim Dilke
Tim Dilke
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I think that it is important to distinguish between what is good for Zelensky and his government vs Ukraine and the West (NATO and EU). Much as I would like to see both him and Ukraine survive I think that the risk to the rest of us (the World) takes priority. The loss of Ukraine, painful as it may be, maybe the price we must pay short term for our failure to appreciate the odiousness of those who do not share our liberal values.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Dilke

you can have those so-called liberal values anytime. Surely you’ve seen through the West’s hypocrisy by now, and if you have not, then it only serves to convince me that this is the death knell of the previous world order.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Dilke

That’s been my take all along – that the poor old Ukrainians are the unfortunate sacrifice that’s benefitting the west by unifying it militarily and economically. Same as in Hungary, Czechoslovakia when the Russians moved in there to quell rebellions.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

I wondered if you could compare Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Is there a certain amount of hypocrisy in the condemnation of Russia? Just asking, that’s all.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Yes there is hypocrisy.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Not really. While I disagreed with both invasions (Iraq and Afghanistan), they were completely different states.
The fact that there was almost universal international approval and widespread participation in the occupation of Afghanistan should tell you something. There was a real problem to be solved there. Though the occupation may not have been the best way to do so.
Saddam Hussein was a war criminal who killed millions of his own people and Iranians.
Ukraine is a democracy which has never invaded its neighbours – or even threatened them – and does not harbour and export terrorism.
I do not believe that the US’s intent was to destroy freedom and create misery and economic slavery in Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact that they failed is partly incompetence.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is explicitly intended to suppress freedom and democracy in Ukraine and – if he cannot control it – to turn it into a failed state. If he can’t have it, he’ll trash the country. The intent is quite different.
Just because we made mistakes in the past is no reason not to do the right thing now.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is explicitly intended to suppress freedom and democracy in Ukraine and – if he cannot control it – to turn it into a failed state. If he can’t have it, he’ll trash the country. The intent is quite different.

Totally wrong. And it was almost a failed state anyway. Several wrong turns by very corrupt politicians (including everone’s sudden favourite, Zelenskyy)

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

You are totally wrong. Ukraine was a corrupt country by Western standards, but by post-Soviet standards it was better rather than worse. In any case, much better than Russia.
“Failed state” – You parrot Russian war propaganda.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

so no corruption? You need to define what you mean by ‘totally wrong’ plus read what I wrote and what I was replying to; also I did not say it was a failed state. Try expanding your source of info.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

A few years ago I read that the EU had an office in Kyiv which was advising the Ukrainian government on how to control corruption and fraud. This was in preparation for them joining the EU. The irony was that about the same time one EU commissioner was saying that the scale of fraud in the EU was ‘breathtaking” – her words.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Delusional. Sad.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

you’ll realise soon enough. Do some reading!

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

This is correct… and the idea Russia has lost the war is pure nonsense. The West is great at propaganda but little else. Amazing how easily they can move the crowds from covid hysteria to war hysteria. The West hasn’t won a war (if you define that as achieving some sort of peaceful controlled territory after blowing things up ) since Kosovo. What an odd parallel! To criticize Russia’s military plans is rather amusing.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10569141/Putin-NOT-crazy-Russian-invasion-NOT-failing-writes-military-analyst-BILL-ROGGIO.html

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

You see no comparison between on the one hand, the shock and awe invasion of Iraq, a country innocent of what it was accused of, regardless of how unpleasant a man Hussein may have been, and on the other hand the bombardment now by Russia. What I noticed was the gloating by western press compared to its now constant reference to ‘war crimes’. It seems quite racist – war crimes against white Europeans as opposed to well deserved punishment against Middle Eastern Iraqis.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

I see you still believe in the West, bless your heart. I have since given up on the illusion. The universal approval and participation you talked about for the Iraqi invasion, should now have been a matter for self-reflection since the lies that instigated that war and its aftermath have been exposed. The West is led by the US, that utterly corrupt and lying w***e. I used to believe in the US too but after the last two years which led me to research more of the US’s history and propaganda machine, I’ve come to a really sobering conclusion. The West’s hegemony is coming to an end, like it or not. There is a lot I like about the West, but it is more in her past culture, and I say past, because the West is currently cancelling its past. Yes there was imperialism, but at least there was also brilliance, which made the colonizing yoke at least somewhat ‘profitable’. Democracy and the liberal values are shown to be bankrupt when the governing are in cahoots with the globalists/corporatists who will sell out their countryman, in fact, don’t even have allegiance to anything besides their profit, let alone their country.
And as usual, the liberal democratic West is using its favourite tool – censorship – to squash dissent and discussion. https://www.zerohedge.com/political/watch-man-ordered-leave-televised-qa-expressing-wrongthink-russia

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

What about the US action in Syria and Libya. We came, we saw, he died.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

I am fairly sure that the aim of the US in Iraq (and Syria) was chaos. Libya too. The restore democracy is the noble lie.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

… or NATO’s attack on Serbia, also based on lies…

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

It DID solve the problem.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

As the Russian military are solving this problem. lol

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Sump’n to that, brother. I wrote about that myself. Feel free!:
Our Democratic Imperialism versus Their Old School Russian ImperialismWill actual democracy in Ukraine escape being absorbed by either Imperium?https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/our-democratic-imperialism-versus

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

I’m not sure about Afghanistan but there seem to be a number of similarities between the invasions of Iraq and Ukraine. I think there’s a strong ‘God on our side’ syndrome going on here when we say the invasion of Iraq was somehow justified but the invasion of Ukraine is not. I’m appalled in both cases and I don’t think that either invasion was justified. People are rightly shocked at the possibility of large numbers of civilian casualties in Ukraine but there were tens of thousands of civilians killed in Iraq. We called that Collateral Damage. One state decided that another state was somehow a threat to their security and then used a bogus reason to actually invade. In the case of Iraq it was WMD. In the case of Ukraine it’s something else.
I was struck by the pictures of the Russian convoy heading for Kyiv and the shelling of their cities. Not so different from the American tanks and vehicles heading across the desert towards Baghdad and the shelling of their cities.
There were huge demonstrations against the Iraq war but it went ahead anyway and I now see that there are demonstrations in Russia against the Ukraine war and there isn’t much hope that that will work either.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

“In the case of Ukraine it’s something else” Oil, Gas and Wheat?

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

You are right Doug, I’m pretty vague on that point. I know there were some comments from Moscow that Ukrainians are fascists and that Ukraine was always part of Russia anyway.
I’m not a smart commentator. I just thought there were parallels between the two invasions which have not been acknowledged.
I did think of another parallel which hasn’t happened yet but might. When Bush announced that the “Job was done” in Iraq it was just the start of years of heartache trying to run a country that didn’t want to be run.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

The US broke Kosovo off of Serbia. This is the closest thing… at least so far Russia has just broken off the Donbas and Crimea as those areas are overwhelmingly pro Russia. He is currently in more mixed territory but claims this is not going to be permanent. Who knows what that means though. The USA has been pushing hard for this war. They could have easily used diplomacy to solve it. The only conclusion is they wanted it. Why? It appears to be to end Nord Stream 2 and end all Russian economic cooperation with the EU. Why? Germany solving its energy problems with Russia would make it less dependent on the USA and the USA would begin to lose its influence over the EU if this was allowed to proceed. This is what I believe it is about.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

I’m curious about how the US ‘could easily have used diplomacy to solve it’. Can you explain? I don’t imagine you mean ‘..by giving Ukraine up to Russia’, but otherwise I’m not sure how diplomacy could have overcome Putin’s obvious determination to have his own way with Ukraine. Enlighten me!

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Agree that Ukraine isn’t going to be in nato. At least guarantee for a few decades.

The thing they did do was mount a coup against a pro Russian and elected President.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

‘…at least so far Russia has just broken off the Donbas and Crimea as those areas are overwhelmingly pro-Russia.’ Are they really? It is surprising, then, that a majority in both regions voted to leave the USSR at the time of the independence referendum.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

Damn, that makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard. As sinister as it is, it’s actually probably less troubling than the alternatives. India, at least, stands to benefit from relatively cheap Russian energy supplies, they probably need them more than Germany.

Mathieu Bernard
Mathieu Bernard
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

A legitimate question. I would speculate that the war in Afghanistan was justified if indeed the reasons were to destroy the Islamist terror network that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The war eventually took on a completely different mission and ended, twenty years later, in abject failure. The Iraq war was based entirely on the false premises that Saddam Hussein (a petty tyrant created and installed by the US) was in possession of mass quantities of WMDs. It then morphed into a ideological war to “liberate” Iraqis and promote democracy – “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – if you recall. A complete farce. As for the war in Ukraine, it seems entirely unprovoked and unjustified, at least from the Ukrainian side – unless Putin’s moralistic historicism is to be believed. Ukraine was first disarmed in 1994 (some 2000 Soviet-era nukes surrendered in exchange for economic aid and security assurances) and again in 2005 when Obama persuaded Yushchenko to give up an enormous cache of conventional weapons. Ukraine was no military threat to Russia. I see the failure of the West and it’s betrayal of the Ukrainians as a major contributor to this. Putin seized upon an opportunity to do what he has always wanted to do – purge Ukraine of so-called “neo-Nazi” nationalists, create a bulwark against NATO and completely rape the “breadbasket of Europe” to feed his imperialist nation-state.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mathieu Bernard
patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

There are similarities with Iraq but none of them very encouraging for Putin; not least the way George Bush goaded himself into a position where he had no choice but to go in. But there are also plenty of differences.

The problem with your question is you have unleashed the crazy gang. The same names, who crop up time and again and even complain they are being censored by Unherd. I can see UnHerd’s dilemma. These people dominate the discussion and, among their number, there some that express themselves as if they are paid members of Putin’s disinformation campaign. I would guess most of UnHerd’s readership understands many of their fears about the media in the west but their claim that this is comparable with Putin’s control of media and information in Russia, suggests they are themselves intent on undermining freedom, by being willing to play with the truth.

The great hope must be that, post Ukraine, the illiberal liberals come to their senses before the crazy gang gets to them. No one is yet saying Russia has lost the war. They are saying he has changed the whole dynamic in the west.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

YES IT IS PURE HYPOCRISY. It was a pre-emptive attack based on the principle of self-protection using the lie of WMD which never existed. At least, Russia has a legitimate reason – the expansion of NATO’s missiles up to Russia’s door. After years of asking NATO/US to consider Russia’s plea for her security with snubs and continued aggression as the only response, Russia is acting to protect herself. Russia is not aiming to occupy or conquer Ukraine, only to demilitarize and de-Nazify it.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

It’s a pity our governments and media have spent the last two years so vigorously making us doubt anything they have to say.

“On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns—after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces—at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.”
1984

Oceania will, at some point in the near future, be at war with Eastasia.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You ought see what’s going on in Russia, if you think the western media is bad.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

We can’t though. Because our view of their media has just been censored.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Our media just appear more subtle

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Just don’t take the horse paste. Subtle?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Horse paste?

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

Lesley is referring to the risible (but highly coordinated) campaign by mainstream Western media to discredit one of the antiviral treatments for SARS-2 infection, a drug called ivermectin. Her point, I think, was that the propaganda campaign was anything but subtle.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Thank you.
It must have been subtle because 90% of the population bought it.
If the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was getting the world to believe that she did not exist, then the MSM has been able to pull off much the same by persuading the majority of the population that what it publishes is credible

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

I suppose I have to concede this point on first principles – if 90% buy it, it is by definition ‘subtle’, in a relative sense.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Whereas I suspect not even 10% of the population of the old Eastern Block believed a word of the out put of the Soviet Union.
Also Solzhenitsyn said word to the effect that when he lived in the SU he worshiped the West but that he found that, having experienced it living in it, comparatively the West had some significant down sides

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

This is a terrible take. Russia has always been bad at propaganda. Modern propaganda was invented in the USA and they are and have been the undisputed world leaders. Actually Goebbels wasn’t some sort of genius. He literally just copied the Americans. Bernays talks about it in his autobiography. The Fors Marsh group have earned $400 million working for the feds on coronavirus propaganda. Anybody who has studied the US knows about Nayirah and the Hill & Knowlton hollywood style production put out in front of the United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990. It was a masterpiece. Carthage college’s Yuri Maltsev talks about this. He stated that in the USSR nobody with a half a brain believed anything out of Pravda. Everyone knew it was all bullcrap. One of the things that scared him most about living in the USA was everybody believed the press. Now… this has changed a bit over the years as the internet has caused the press to be of less influence and the MSM has struggled in recent years to maintain a centralized narrative. He made that statement a couple decades ago. I believe he is still alive. It would be interesting to see his take on all this.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Boylon
Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

These seem to be the potential outcomes…

  1. Failure. Coup in Russia. Putin removed. Ukraine abandoned
  2. Ukraine abandoned. Putin remains. Russia a pariah.
  3. Peace treaty. Russia leaves but with concessions.
  4. Long term occupation of all/part Ukraine
  5. Broader conflict. More fronts open in other countries.
  6. Nuclear war.

The last two are WWIII and too horrible to contemplate. I don’t believe Russia can afford long term occupation, so Putin would prefer the peace treaty with concessions. The West would prefer the first. However, the West may already have come to the conclusion that Putin must go whatever, otherwise Russia will remain outside the international system and a threat both militarily, and to global financial systems due to Russia’s control of key commodities.
Whatever happens, there will be economic aftershocks. Energy crisis, inflation, lay-offs due to lack of raw materials, food crisis, sovereign debt default, potential competitors to SWIFT, rise of China’s financial role. I also have a worry about escalation, in that the BRIC countries could act opportunistically. For instance if they co-ordinated on payments, or defaulted en bloc, they could completely up-end the West’s financial systems.
(edited to replace bulletpoint numbers after the post got removed, then reinstated)

Last edited 2 years ago by Saul D
Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Why not adding to your little list: zelensky flees to the west establishing an “exile govt” in London. Another leader who remains in Ukraine takes over and agrees to a deal ?

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

I’d place that in group 3 or 4. Most probably 4 as I believe the ongoing threat of Russia force would be necessary to sustain any pro-Russian government with an active opposition in exile.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

There is no real deal with Russia. So every “deal” made by a puppet government means brutal and bloody Russian occupation and millions of refugees.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

not happening

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

A variant of 4 is that Putin forces out many more millions of Ukrainians into neighbouring countries and replaces them with Russian speaking “settlers”. It is a tactic used by China in Tibet and Xinjiang. The first part of the process is under way with the current refugee exodus.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

Where is he going to get the “settlers?”
Russia lost a million to covid alone, and has been in a demographic nosedive since the 90s.
With the sanctions, that will only speed up.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

If the Russians become poor enough he may find them, but it won’t happen overnight. China has the advantage of a more compliant population and coercive structures to ensure compliance.

N T
N T
2 years ago

This feels like premature chest-thumping. Is it not possible that things are going roughly according to plan? The Russian Air Force has not been deployed. It does not seem like Russian forces have been trying very hard to secure strategic objectives. The pause of the armor outside of Kyiv, should make them sitting ducks yet the column seems to be intact. Surely they cannot defend the length of it.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  N T

People were calling the war a defeat on day 2 because the Russians hadn’t taken Kyiv. They were outside Kyiv though and it was worth asking why there wasn’t resistance at the border.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago
Reply to  N T

Yes, indeed. The Russians certainly made a show of shock-and-awe on the second day, flying tight formations of fighters and bombers over Kiev, all in a bid to demoralize the populace. But, that didn’t work, so they moved to stage 2. And now we’re on to more assertive application of force …

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
2 years ago

Are you being sarcastic? That was library footage from the BBC’s archives. Even the fact checkers agree
.

NCFC Paul
NCFC Paul
2 years ago

I think it is clear Putin intends to take the whole country and damn the consequences. I also think that despite the considerable defence of the Ukrainians he will achieve his goal.

Holding it will be unbelievably difficult in almost any circumstance. Ukrainians will mount a resistance campaign, no matter how he slices or dices into four or more parts or not he has another (Russian version of) Afghanistan on his hands. Such a situation is a problem for him down the road but one I suspect he will try to get through with sheer force.

Alternatively I have wondered if he may use possession of the entire country as a bargaining chip in eventual negotiations with the west? Perhaps insisting that any Ukraine he permits never join NATO or the EU, sanctions are lifted and he be paid reparations, as well as some land grab. That sort of thing. It would prove – or be sold to Russians – as a political success for him, therefore, in the end.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  NCFC Paul

It was pretty clear Putin covets the old USSR
It was also clear that the reason for their aggression post 2014 was not this greed, but rather fear of NATO coming all the way to Russia and ballistic missiles a few minutes away from Moscow.

Just like Poland and Ukraine fear Russia, Russia fears Western Europe. Both with good reason.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Your penultimate sentence contains some truth, if we substitute ‘Putin and the Kremlin elite’ for ‘Russia’. Your last sentence is utter nonsense. Most European countries can’t even manage to spend 2% of GDP on defence. And Ukraine’s fears have just received a terrible justification.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  NCFC Paul

There will be no future negotiations with Putin. There is no point.
He has united the world against him. No Western politician can afford to sell out to Putin now.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  NCFC Paul

No one is going to make a deal with Putin that is supposed to last more than a few days or weeks. Everyone knows that Putin lies and that Russia ignores all agreements and treaties.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

“remains unclear why the electricity, heating, water and internet have not been knocked out in any part of the country”
Yes, quite different tactics compared to those adopted by the Western powers in Vietnam, Iraq, Yemen, etc, where they had not yet found their recently developed respect for sovereignty.

It’s amusing though, Russia poses such a threat to Europe that they had to extend NATO all the way to its borders, yet they are too “incompetent” to drop a mass of high explosives on civilian infrastructure as any “competent” Western army would do.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Gaslighting the whole of the West as Putin seeks to gaslight the whole of Russia and Ukraine.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Yes, because as we have seen before, the West are so much superior at being peaceful and respecting sovereignty, especially for countries that dare do join opposing blocks as Cuba, or say Allende found out

Here is another bit of “gaslighting”:
If you didn’t want a Putin in Russia, it might have been a good idea to help out Russia when their GDP shrank by 2/3rds in the 90s and life expectancy reduced by a decade.

But it was so much more satisfying to interfere and keep the drunken fool Yelstin in power, and move “defensive” NATO eastwards wasn’t it?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You have a time machine?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Why not stick to the point of the article, that of Russias unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, rather than trying to change the subject?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Because unsavoury as the invasion is, it was not entirely unprovoked.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago

‘Unsavoury’? Is that really the best epithet for this situation?

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

I’m sorry to be a grammar Nazi, (now ‘grammar Russian’?) but an epithet is, strictly speaking, nominal.
‘Unsavoury’ is a ‘description’, otherwise ‘adjective’.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Unsavoury equals morally unacceptable. Perhaps you require a cruder term like ‘insert swear word’ unacceptable?

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

Come on, let’s hear it then. Exactly what is the “provocation” that justifies this war ? Facts please.
“I don’t like the people the neighbours invite round to their barbeque” is not a reason. Putin’s original demands were absurd and unacceptable and could never be accepted.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Well covered in the BTL comments and in previous articles by analysts – NATO encroaching on Russia’s borders. Sheesh.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

So Putin was “not entirely unprovoked” to murder tens of thousands (at best) of people, drive millions from their homes and steal their land?
Your post seems monstrously amoral to me.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

It’s the usual Strong Man Romanticism, as with Trump.
The said leader has to be:

  1. Incompetent
  2. Delusional
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Did Ukraine attack Russia, join NATO or the EU? If the answer is no to all these questions (hint: it is) then what could the Ukrainians possibly have done to deserve the treatment Putin is currently dishing out? In fact considering Putin has already in the last decade annexed large swathes of their territory the Ukrainians have been incredibly well behaved.
It was an unprovoked invasion

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You’re making the classic error of qssuming Russia is doing something deliberately instead of being incompetent. They have been attacking civilian infrastructure, just not very well.

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
2 years ago

Apparently during yesterday’s negotiations, both Ukraine and Russia were flirting with the idea of humanitarian corridors. Might it be that the Russians are thinking of what they did in Syria which was to bomb the place, open a corridor, shoe everyone out (”voluntarily leave”, but I doubt it was out of their benevolence) and depopulate the area so that you don’t have trouble makers on your newly won territory? I might be overthinking I suppose.

Last edited 2 years ago by Malvin Marombedza
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

The ultimate effect of Putin’s gambit will be the cessation of Russia as a significant power.
It is very doubtful Russia will even be able to replace its material losses after the campaign ends. No chips from Taiwan. The military factories won’t be funded, with half the sovereign wealth fund in western hands.
Moreover, Russia’s stock market is history, and Russia’s oil will now always be at a discount because it is an unreliable supplier.
Whatever the outcome, Putin will be remembered in history as the leader who reduced Russia to the level of Mao’s China.
A real “Northwest Korea.”

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Discounted oil? Which exchange does that trade on?

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Isn’t Russia one of the main countries which produces copper which is needed for all the digital appliances?

Mikis Hasson
Mikis Hasson
2 years ago

Freddy Sayers is one of the few who get it and doesn’t conform to herd mentality. Putin is by no means insane or incompetent. He is democratically elected and is supported by a majority of Russians far greater than the majority enjoyed by any western government because he has kept a very difficult and usually violent population at peace and growth for many many years. He has not destroyed water, electricity etc because he doesn’t want to destroy Ukraine. He wants to take it over, negotiate an agreement whereby the EU and NATO no longer try to seduce Ukraine into joining them and that Russian culture, language and history is preserved for the part of the population that is of Russian descent. Then he will retreat, keeping a buffer zone at his border with Ukraine from Donbas upwards in exchange for all sanctions being lifted. Then he will have won his objective. He does not really want responsibility for one of the poorest, populous and backwards countries. He just doesn’t want Ukraine to be taken over by the EU and NATO and this fact is obscured by the declarations of his madness and his violence, which are another fear mongering propaganda same as with Covid. Now Zelensky has requested to enter forthwith into the EU and it is actually being considered, although it is totally ineligible, poorer and less democratic than most countries that are already on the list and waiting and the EU is actually considering it. The outrage against Russia and Putin is totally out of proportion to the WMD lies about Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan for decades. No country sanctioned the US and its allies due to those where many more people were killed and much more infrastructure was destroyed. Do we all have to follow the herd? Can’t we see things in proportion?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

“No country sanctioned the US and its allies”
Perhaps the reason for this is due to the sheer number of Western nations that supported the invasion at the time? Hindsight is surely 20/20.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

The satellite photo we saw on Sky this morning showed Ukrainian missiles coming from the centre of a residential area so they are using their civilians as a human shield as Russia has said…

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

Yes, it is hard to imagine how a puppet regime would be durable.
Let me pose the contrast: Kyiv 2022 versus Prague 1968.
In Czechoslovakia in 1968 there was still enough support for a pro-Soviet regime, so the Soviets could invade, could depose the liberalizing regime and replace it with a pro-Soviet regime. That regime lasted another 20-some years.
It is not obvious that would be enough domestic support to sustain a puppet regime in Ukraine — at not outside of a few oblasti on the Don River in the east. Here’s a short essay that expands on just that point: https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/et-tu-putin

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

You ask: “why the electricity, heating, water and internet have not been knocked out”, and assume that it is incompetence on the part of the Russian army. However it is more than likely that Russian policy is to inflict as little disruption to civilian life as possible. This is also apparent in the fact that civilians and infrastructure are not being attacked by Russian planes from the air, After the initial strategic bombardment, we have been told (Freddie Sayers interview yesterday) that Russian planes have been grounded. ..
Satellite pictures can give a better understanding of what is happening there and we should not be denied access to this…

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Yes, remember we live in an era of mass misinformation, where any wing nut’s comment on any subject can be read all over the globe.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
2 years ago

Ukraine will have to make a serious effort at coming to terms with its Russian-speaking citizens and the ultra-chauvinistic elements in Ukraine. Surely the spirited resistance in the Russian-speaking areas has shown that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are no Russian fifth column, and they do not deserve to be denied an identity or treated as second-class citizens.
If Ukraine wants a chance of joining the EU – which it should, eventually, though the EU needs to urgently abandon any military pretence, for reason unconnected with Ukraine -, then Ukraine needs to grasp this nettle, painful as it may be (as do some countries that are already in the EU…).

Last edited 2 years ago by JĂŒrg Gassmann
Robert Routledge
Robert Routledge
2 years ago

Whatever the rights and wrongs there can be no doubt Putin has messed things up for us all be it Ukraine, Russia or the West the only eventual winners will probably be China

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

It is very easy to have a pro Russia Ukrainian government…they used to have one about 10 years ago funnily enough until US/EU got involved. A UKR without the Clinton and Biden crime families involvement could be a good thing too.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

That “pro Russian” government was elected because of pro-Europe promises.
After this war, Ukrainians will never elect pro-Russian president.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
2 years ago

And it was promptly kicked out when it renaged on those promises and tried to join with Russia.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

so…oust by force and much violence a government because if decided not to sign a trade deal is fine?

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

It is an obtuse logic Putin is employing. “I have to destroy and country before I can save it”. Save it from whom….Unless he is willing to employ a million soldiers to pacify Ukraine the only thing he has accomplished to destroy the Ukrainian military and prevent NATO from admitting Ukraine. It is a hollow victory. The West will unlikely be willing to do business with Putin after this…

tom j
tom j
2 years ago

A week after it launched its attempted blitz across Ukraine, finally the Russian army has taken its first major city: Kherson, a key port city in the south of the country.”

A week! Finally!

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

Unherd, the place one goes to read Atlantic Council articles. But hey, at least, it offers a modicum of analysis regarding the post-invasion situation.

Could it be that when Putin achieves his stated goals of denazification and demilitarisation, he will let Zelensky sit and claim victory, provided that Ukraine finally stops stoking tensions, cosying up to NATO at every turn, and cuts all ties with American and British intelligence, in other words becomes neutral Ă  la Finland?

I’ve read in many places that Zelensky was forced to bow to ultranationalist forces because of his waning popularity, and brown shirt types generally not listening to anything but force (as they now experience in Mariupol). I’m not sure he will be very unhappy if the Russians succeed in taking out the Azov factor. He’s a jew, after all, isn’t he?

Or is Zelensky too much of a puppet, only capable of reading the lines fed to him?

Last edited 2 years ago by Neven Curlin
Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
2 years ago

Has anyone else noticed that for certain comments a “thumbs up” (or thumbs down) vote is allowable, but on others it isn’t? Are comments being monitored, and reactions being censored, by UnHerd? That would be disturbing, if true.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Thank you, Vladislav, for this hopeful report. Your analysis is like a ray of sunshine in a very dark scenario. I hope your analysis is correct.

Lilly Ray
Lilly Ray
1 year ago

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Arrested Snelling
Arrested Snelling
1 year ago

Lovely, exceptional work.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

Putin wants Ukraine for religious reasons, why do we not focus on getting him what he wants without tearing brotherly cohesion further apart?

Putin, actually, wants the following:
#1. Kiev recognized as the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy;
#2. The Ukraine Orthodox Church dismantled and united with Russian Orthodoxy;
#3. A shrine established in Kiev by the river of the mass baptism that happened in year 998 AD;
#4. Unlimited visitor (and work) visas for Russian centric citizens into Ukraine.

Reference material:
https://unherd.com/2022/02/putins-spiritual-destiny/

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

It is obvious that Putin, in his religious zeal, has lost focus what with the report that he wanted Ukraine split up into four (4) parts. This is counter-productive to his religious zeal – which is what so often happens with with religious zealots.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

Everything in the article is Covid-style propaganda. No, the Russian army is winning. They encircled most of Ukr army and are encircling Kiev. Similar to what they did in Syria they’ll open corridors so that Z-sky and his gang will escape to Western Ukr. Most of the Ukr so called resistance was greatly exaggerated. No, they didn’t actually controlled the airport and no, the ghost of Kiev didn’t take down 6 or 13 Russian jets. The Russian army uses the same strategy as always: instead of bombing cities (shock and awe) as the Americans do, they encircle and evacuate insurgents while looking for people they can negotiate with. They did that successfully in Syria and Chechnya. Z-sky govt is not heroic and is entirely funded by a well known oligarch Kolomoisky (who lost the previous elections and also produced the TV series in which Z-sky had the main part).

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Croitoru