He is in his bunker somewhere near Moscow. Various video monitors mounted on the wall are showing footage of the damage done by the attack of two Ukrainian helicopters on Belgorod, Russian territory located just north of Kharkiv.
‘They attacked Russian soil! How dare they!’
The video shows several oil tanks in flames.
‘Attacking my land, my sacred grounds!’
Putin trembles in his rage.
‘What happened to our air defenses? How was this possible? If they did it once, they will do it again!’
He is standing in front of his desk, looking in disbelief at the video of the attack being replayed.
‘Zelensky will pay for this. Once I capture him, because I will do that, I will put him on trial. And he will pay. The world will be clamoring for me to be merciful but I will not.’
Putin slams his fist on the table.
‘What the hell happened to my army? I’ve spent years and years building it up and now they don’t deliver. Who is responsible? I’m having to call up more and more men for military service. I’m having to ask Syrian fighters to join in to kill Ukrainians. I’m having to call up the Wagner group too.’
He shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the table.
‘It doesn’t look good… me… Vladimir Putin… asking Assad for help.’
He rubs his face.
‘Will I even conquer all of Ukraine? How can I live with myself with less than total control over it?’
He sits down, the mood despondent.
‘I was wrong… instead of riding victorious into Kyiv… instead of people calling my name in adoration… throwing flowers at my armored limousine, I’m now looking at the possibility of having to negotiate a peace treaty. With a comedian! Me, a great political leader! Oh, the irony of it all. What a twist of fate!’
He leans forward in his chair, clasping his hands, the anger palpable and a growing sense of self reproach.
‘It’s the fault of the Americans. Yes… Biden. Him. And I made too much of Trump… thinking that he represented America… thinking that he was the epitome of their decline… that the January 6th assault on the capitol was a clear sign they were rotten to the core… weak… morally dissolute… reveling in vice.’
He stands abruptly and walks a few paces then stops for a moment. Something is deeply wrong. He returns to his desk, presses a button on a console and images of him addressing a crowd of adoring fans at a stadium in Moscow appear on the screens.
The sight eases his tension as if hope had returned.
‘No. I’m okay. I’m all right. They still love me. God has not abandoned me. God is with me. And I will redouble my efforts. I will conquer all of Ukraine. And I will force the West to take my rubles for our oil.’
He laughs loudly, feeling victorious.
‘That was a great strategy of mine. How I made Europe dependent on our oil and gas. How I made them kneel for it. Brilliant.’
But his expression now turns somber.
‘Can I recover…? In the eyes of the world… can I redeem myself? In the eyes of China, can I, once again, look strong?’
He shakes his head slowly… in disbelief… as if acknowledging the loss.
‘Is this the beginning of my end… with the whole world watching? No… it can’t be.’
He reaches for the console and switches back on images of his troops and tanks riding into Ukraine on February 24th, the first day of the invasion.
He smiles with relief.
‘There it is… my power… Russia’s power… it’s not gone… I see it… the fullness of my power… everybody sees it… I know it’s still there… it’s not gone away… it’s there… yes… it’s not over… it can’t be… I still have a hand to play… Putin is not gone…’
But he hesitates. Doubtful.
‘If it’s gone… really gone… then… I can still… yes…’
He turns around, away from the cameras, hands clenched into fists.
‘America will not defeat me. They will not. We will both go down in flames… and just who will stop me?’
Oscar Valdes Oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.