Does the West Have the Guts?

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Putin is sitting at his desk in the Kremlin. He is alone.

‘So the head of the German navy said that Crimea (annexed forcefully by Russia in 2014) was “gone, it will never come back” and that I, Vladimir Putin, only wanted and “probably deserved respect”, and that it would be “low cost, even no cost” for the West to give me such support, in part because it needed Russia as a bulwark against China.’ (WSJ 1/22/2021)

Putin laughs.

‘Beautiful. I should send him a check. Just beautiful. And if that is the head of the Navy talking, then he reflects the opinions of many Germans in the armed forces. In other words, they’re acknowledging their weakness and their need for me and all Russians, to defend them from the Chinese. Never mind Ukraine, they can be sacrificed. They are expendable to keep me happy. To give me respect.’

He shakes his head slowly, still in disbelief at the comments from the German officer. Now a hint of a smile forms on his lips.

‘If I hadn’t put the pressure on them, the cracks wouldn’t have shown. I would never have guessed it… Vladimir Putin as a defender of the West. This is too much’.

He smiles broadly for a moment and then, leaning forward, hands clasped, his mood turns somber.

‘Ukraine is mine. The West cannot get consensus, and I’ll drive my army right through their doubts. And the sanctions they will impose, whatever they may be, they won’t work because they won’t last, because Germans will start complaining of how cold it gets after I turn off the natural gas they depend on me for. And they’ll start calling their prime minister pleading that he intervenes, that their factories cannot produce enough and they’re not making enough money. And they’ll beg that the government appeal to my generosity.

And the French will bitch that they can’t get enough croissants, and the Italians not enough pasta, and Macron and Draghi will call pleading for a meeting with me. 

Or they’ll turn to America for help, but the Americans will say they can’t act without consensus – but nothing can get through their congress, and their people keep tearing each other apart over vaccinations, abortion, gun control, race, women’s rights, so how are they an example to anyone?

And all the while, I’ll be smiling, as I arrive in Kyiv at the head of my triumphant army, secure control of the country, appoint one of my devout followers to write a new pro Russian constitution, then take a well deserved vacation in Sochi, do some skiing, and plan my next move.

Life is beautiful. Yes, it is.’

He stands, crosses to the window, looks out.

‘What is the secret of my astounding success? Simple. My willingness to act. To repress dissent if necessary. To squash opponents if called for. Alexei Navalny will never rise to power while I’m alive. I’ll invent charges for him to die in prison.

And those I’ve sent into exile will die in exile.

But I do have to invigorate Russia’s economy. I must do that. My fellow Russians expect that from me. Trump said “America first. Well, I say Russians first”.

And to do that I will look to the Chinese system. It is much better than democracy.

Look at how fast they’ve risen. I’m envious of them. I recognize that.

But I don’t trust the Chinese, either.

They mesmerized America with the promise of riches. How can you explain that America has fallen behind in their production of microchips? In artificial intelligence?

The Chinese cast their spell and America relaxed. “Don’t worry, America, we have what you need,” they said, but the tags read “Made in China.” “We are making you money, isn’t that what you’re about?” And America nodded a little more, its belly growing in size, its robust quarterly reports in hand as it dozed off.

China smiled.

Then it struck. The South China Sea is ours. The Belt and Road initiative is on. We’re going after Taiwan. We’re conquering outer space on our own, never mind the International Space Agency, which you denied us entry to. And there we are.

Trump may have put America to sleep – in terms of their place in the world – but the trend was already there. Hubris. It will kill you.

Now it’s Russia’s turn. My turn.

And so this is only the beginning. For I will keep annexing territory. Little by little. The Baltic countries look like a good possibility. Little Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. Who will go to war for them? No one. They are too small.

Then I expand. Poland would be a good one to catch. A fat little fish.

And again, who will go to war for Poland?

Not Germany. Not America.

In America they’ll say, ‘Wait, we’ve too many problems here at home, with our schools, immigration, racism, inequality, we need more time.’

‘Once upon a time they had fight in them. Now it’s gone. But they will still kneel before China to get their money.’

Putin laughs. Then the pensive and serious mood returns, eyes narrowed.

‘Ukraine is mine. Not just the East, but the whole country. It’s mine.’

Oscar Valdes.  Oscarvaldes.net. apple and google podcasts and buzzsprout

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