Does Putin Have an Achilles Heel?

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Putin speaks.

The world has not yet acknowledged how complete my domination has been.
From here, in Moscow, I can choose to kill every day. The number I want killed is entirely up to me. I can say, let me fire a missile into this town… no, let me hit the other town… or better yet, both towns. And no one can stop me. No one.
I wield absolute power.
In Washington, Biden scratches his head, every day, wondering how he could stop me. But nothing comes to him.
How have I acquired my power? By building my nuclear arsenal, steadily, improving it and making it clear I’m willing to use it… and by convincing my people that I know best.
How I managed to convince so many people will be studied by historians for years – how I stripped the majority of Russians of the will to be their own person.
And so the world is in awe of me… some may hate me… but they’re in awe of my power.
I can fire a missile or several, to Washington, to New York, to San Francisco, to London, to Paris, to Madrid… I can destroy Singapore… Tokyo… Manila… Mumbai… Delhi… and why spare South America… how about Buenos Aries… Rio… Santiago… Sao Paulo… then Melbourne… Sydney… and I can fire them at the same time.
I might even send one to the International Court of Justice in The Hague… take care of all those judges while they’re at work… Gordon Brown in England was blabbering the other day about charging me with crimes against humanity. He’d better watch his mouth.
And how I love to see the deference that world leaders show me… every single one of them… for when they come to me they come to see the king.
I look into their eyes carefully and notice how a handshake is not quite enough… that they’d rather bow to me… the deeper the bow the better… and I love it.
Even Xi Jinping… he knows he’s been helpful so that gives him some protection… but it’s up to me, isn’t it… up to me to spare him… for if I get pissed off I’ll bomb the crap out of China, too.
Nero… the emperor… got to see his Rome burn… it must have been exhilarating… but I can add it to my list and see the whole world burn.
I have been able to climb to this position because of my complete subjection of the Russian people. All of them. And those who brand themselves ultranationalists… I let them talk and be critical… but the day I find no use for them or get tired… I’ll round them up and eliminate them. Every single one of them.

He’s been sitting at his desk, now he swivels a little, crosses his legs.

Have I crossed the line?
Yes… I have. There’s no way back for me.
But no modern day leader can say what I can say today… I dominate the world.
I know it won’t last… nothing does… but I’m enjoying the thrill.
Still, I have choices… I can go down in flames with the entire world… exhaust my nuclear arsenal… fire all my missiles and bombs… kill as many as I possibly can… watch hundreds of millions of people destroyed by my fury… bring humanity to their knees… or I can take pity and spare some nations.

He nods to himself.

I know my end is approaching.
It’s been terribly exciting… festive… a carnival of death.
And yet… I’d like to be remembered, too… yes… no point in killing everybody. I know I will die in my fury but I’d like to be remembered… so I must spare some people so they can tell the story… if I have an Achilles heel, then that is it… that I don’t want to see history end.
I want the world to have a memory of me. I want to be studied and quoted and seen as so significant a force that from here on history will be divided into the before Putin era – bP – and the after Putin era – aP.
But can anyone stop me?

He pauses as he joins his hands in his lap.

Only the daring… the very bold… only the willing to sacrifice everything to save the world.
Save it… yes… from me.
I know there are people like that… men and women… now planning to strike the fatal blow…
I can feel it…
But I’d prefer that it be one of my own… a courageous Russian.

What We Need to Say to Russia Now

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One taboo just came down. There are at least two left.
The taboo that came down was the one that said the West shouldn’t send tanks into Ukraine because it would upset the Russians. The tanks would be too much fire power and the big bear would growl louder.
After much back and forth, finally Britain took the step and committed to sending in their Challenger tanks. This will boost Ukraine’s fighting capacity and make a difference.
Now if only Chancellor Scholz in Germany would make up his mind and supply the Leopard tanks, then the punch Ukrainians can deliver will increase its power.
For the second taboo. The West should not supply weapons powerful enough to reach into Russia’s territory.
This is a good one. For a while, I bought into it, too. Russia can shoot their missiles into Ukraine from inside their borders, but Ukraine can’t shoot the missiles we give them into Russian territory.
This is not a sustainable position.
Keep this up and Russia will conquer Ukraine.
We need to make up our minds, do we want Ukraine to win, or are we looking for a long war and then, after there are no Ukrainian men left to fight, Vladimir the Great will ride into Kyiv unopposed.
With China and India buying his oil, even at reduced prices, there will always be cash to support the Russian economy, at least long enough to conquer Ukraine.
So we must draw the line and say to Putin, stop firing missiles into Ukraine from Russia itself. Stop now. If not then we will give Ukraine the capacity to fire missiles into your territory.
The assumption in the West has been that this will so upset Putin that he will want to fire his nuclear weapons at us. Hence, Escalation. The big E. The third taboo.
But does Putin want Russia destroyed? No.
He cannot get away with firing nuclear weapons without us firing back.
We haven’t confronted Putin yet because he has intimidated us.
We must admit this.
The bully has to be confronted. There is no other way.
Do we have what it takes to confront him? Yes.
This war pits two very unevenly matched combatants. Russia has the advantage of territorial proximity and larger number of troops.
That Ukraine has come this far against the odds is an amazing story.
But without us setting new rules, Ukraine’s remarkable courage will be beaten down.
There is so much they can take.
To not confront Putin now is to say, ‘let’s wait until Ukraine is exhausted and then Zelensky himself will be ready to beg for a negotiated peace which His Highness Vladimir the Greatest, might just agree to in the interest of projecting a measure of benevolence. So long as half of Ukraine stays under his control. The other half to follow in 2-3 years.
And Putin will be able to say, ‘it took my frightening them to get them to not set limits on me. That’s why I will one day own Europe. Because if the West can’t stand up to me now, they won’t do so later. My bravado will again win the day.’
In confronting Putin it would help if we can say to China, ‘You’re an accomplice in this war. You’ve supported Putin. If Putin dares use nuclear weapons, then you, too, will be a target for us. Think about it.’
Would that mobilize China to prevent a nuclear war?
We are letting Putin frighten us.
We cannot allow it.

Missiles Rain on Kyiv. Why not on Moscow?

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Something is off, isn’t it? Putin gets to shoot what missiles he wants onto Ukraine – hospitals, hotels, homes, streets, power generating plants, transportation hubs, defenseless citizens and children – anything. But Ukrainians, lacking the means, cannot give Putin the misery he deserves.
Isn’t this an argument to give Ukraine everything it needs to defend itself?
Short of nuclear weapons we should ramp up deliveries of the weapons they need to attack Russia itself.
And let Putin feel what Ukrainians are feeling.
We haven’t done it thus far, because of the fear of appearing to be ‘escalatory’ in the war effort and so angering Putin.
So what would his wrath be like?
Will he move his nuclear weapons into position?
He may, and if he does, then we’ll move ours.
Will Putin risk seeing Russia go up in flames?
Xi Jinping, in China, will be the first to say, ‘Hold on, Vladimir. I didn’t sign up for this. I mean, I said we were going to be friends without limits, so it is clear to the West that we are your accomplice in killing Ukrainians because we are propping you up. But if you fire a nuclear weapon, not only will you be fired upon in response, but we will be a target too. You’ve been around for a while, but here in China we have just got started on our plans to take over part of the world – the other part going to you, of course. So I don’t want to see Beijing or Shanghai burn. Please, let’s think this over.
Ukraine has a point. If missiles rain on Kyiv, why not on Moscow?
If it weren’t for the missiles, Ukrainians would have pushed your army back further.
So, it looks like you’re losing this war, Vladimir.’
‘They’ve been scared to stand up to me, the West has,’ replies Putin. ‘They’ve been very careful to not give weapons to Ukraine that I will see as escalatory. So I think I can get away with it. It’s not that they’re being cautious, it’s that they’re scared.’
‘Maybe… and maybe not’ returns Xi. ‘But once you start readying those missiles, something could go wrong, and the West will not hesitate to fire in your direction and mine.’
‘I can’t accept that I’m losing this war, Jinping… can’t accept that they’ve pushed my people back. Thousands of Russians have left the country… good people… smart people… to avoid the draft… my international reputation is in tatters… my soldiers have committed war crimes… I’m relying on prisoners as soldiers…’
‘You’re getting desperate, Vladimir. That is not good. I need you around for when I invade Taiwan, so you can back me up.’
‘Trust me, they have more to lose than I do…’ says Putin.
‘I don’t like how you’re talking. This is not about you, Vladimir. It’s about Russia. And about China.’
‘I am Russia, Jinping… like you are China.’
‘No. No and no! Look, I want to be in power forever, just like you… and I will not hesitate to eliminate my adversaries to accomplish my goals, just like you have done… but I’m definitely not China… and you are definitely not Russia. There’s a whole lot more here than you and me…’
‘You won’t back me up?’ asks Putin.
‘I can’t.’
‘What does that mean?’ presses Putin.
‘If you push on with your wish to fire nuclear weapons… ‘
‘I’m not going to fire them, just scare them…’
‘Once you get in that mode, things can go wrong. I can’t accept that,’ replies Xi.
‘I’ll have to tell the West that I’m no longer supporting you… and I will do so because I don’t want to see any of my cities burn… as I’m sure they will… even if we were to land some missiles on America in retaliation.’
‘You’re backing out, Jinping… I can’t believe this… you said we were friends without limits…’
‘I did… but I didn’t say crazy without limits.’


‘I will not accept defeat, Jinping… will not.’
‘Then keep fighting… but stop raining missiles on Ukraine… or the West will arm Ukrainians to the teeth and push you all the way back to your pre 2014 borders. And how are you going to explain that to Russians?’
‘Ukraine does not want to negotiate… they want everything back,’ says Putin.
‘Surprise them. Get creative. Give a little. Offer them all of the occupied territories in the East but you keep Crimea.’
‘They may not accept that, either.’
‘They would be saving a lot of Ukrainian lives… put it in that context. Stress the saved lives. And sweeten the deal…’
‘Sweeten the deal?’ asks Putin, puzzled.
‘Yes… add that you would accept Ukraine as a NATO nation.’
‘What?’ replies Putin, with a flash of anger.
‘You’re losing the war, Vladimir,’ says Xi calmly. ‘Ukraine was never a threat to you. You made that up.’

Putin hangs up.

Xi puts down the phone. He swivels in his chair. He is alone in his office. He shakes his head slowly, concerned with the turn of events.

‘Biden needs to step up and escalate. Putin won’t be able to handle Ukrainians being better armed. But the West needs to act now… not give Putin time to rearm. This is the time.
As far as him using nuclear weapons… he won’t do it… but he’ll walk to the edge… maybe he’ll scare the West… rattle their nerves… but maybe not… and if not… China has to be ready.
We can’t afford a mistake by Putin.’

Biden Talks with Kim Jong Un

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Early in the morning, on a Tuesday, North Korea time, president Joe Biden puts in a call to the ruler of that country. The call is made through a top secret video link that had been cleared days before by people on both sides. The stated topic is nuclear weapons.

Biden – Good morning to you.
Kim – Good afternoon to you.
Biden – Thank you. Kim… you keep firing the missiles… and I’m worried that you might make a mistake.
Kim – I won’t.
Biden – Mistakes can happen to the best of us. We understand you want to be acknowledged… and believe me, we do. We have no intention of harming you or your country in any manner.
Kim – Then lift the sanctions.
Biden – I’m getting there. Kim, it costs a lot of money and effort to build those weapons… money that can go to more productive uses. Let’s discuss the war in Ukraine for a moment. Your friend Putin has talked about firing his missiles at us… but he won’t. You know why?
Kim – You will fire back.
Biden – Exactly. If a city in the West burns, then Moscow and St Petersburg will burn… but Beijing and Shanghai will burn, too. People in Moscow, with their skin falling off because of radioactivity, will go hunting for the man responsible for such atrocity. ‘Where is Putin?’ the angry people will say. And they will find him. I don’t have to tell you what will happen to him when they do.
Kim – You think the same will happen to me?
Biden – Worse. If you hit us, China won’t risk their country to defend you. They have bigger plans.
Kim – Why would the West hit China if Putin hits you with a missile?
Biden – Because they are Putin’s accomplice, and if we let them stand they will continue his war to dominate the world.
Kim – You are wrong, China wants every nation to be free.
Biden – If you want to believe that, good luck. Let me ask you, do you think your people are free?
Kim – Yes.
Biden – Can they say anything they want?
Kim – They understand they must sacrifice… for our glorious future.
Biden – How long, Kim?
Kim – I don’t know.
Biden – Got you. I’ll get to the point. Our present strategy with you is not working. You keep building more weapons and like I said before, I really think you will make a mistake. So here’s my proposal. We would have to work with the United Nations to have it approved but here is what I have in mind.
Kim – I’m listening.
Biden – We would lift all economic sanctions on you… so you could trade with any nation in the world… so long as you abide by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That way businesses from anywhere could go into your country and employ your people, create goods and services, train your workers, relieve hunger and slowly begin the process of lifting your GDP.
Kim – I will not stop building nuclear weapons.
Biden – We wouldn’t ask you to stop.
Kim – No?
Biden – What we would ask you is not to sell your expertise in nuclear weapons to anyone.
Kim – Hmm. But France does it?
Biden – Yes but they are a mature and responsible nation. Kim, you have to prove yourself first. We can’t have you – in your desperation – selling nuclear expertise to anyone you want.
With this offer, you would have the chance of developing your nation. Technologically, industrially, scientifically. And you and your people will benefit.
Now, we know that you will be tempted to cheat, let companies into your country and then, secretly, try to sell your nuclear expertise to others. But we would have to insist with the companies willing to go into North Korea, that if you violate the agreement, they will have to stop doing business with you immediately.
So you must decide. Again, the United Nations would have to approve this.
I think your people would be very grateful if you agree to this idea.
Kim – I’ll have to think about it.
Biden – Of course. Think of what the West did for China when we went in with all our companies. China, on its own, would not be where they are now without the West. Sadly, they’re now choosing to deny our contributions to their development and think they have all the answers.
Eventually, your political system will have to change to take maximum advantage of what the rest of the world has to offer, but that will take many years, more than your present life expectancy… so you will die while still in power.
Kim – I’ll have to think about it.
Biden – Take your time. One final note. Ukraine will win the war against Russia. The winds of freedom are blowing and they have reached Iran. I predict that the mullahs will fall and a woman will emerge as leader of that country. And they will be pro western.
That will stop Iran’s interference in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and create conditions for more positive political changes throughout the Middle East.
Kim – I predict the mullahs will repress that protest movement.
Biden – Time will tell. So that’s all I have for you today. Hope you consider the proposal.
Kim – I will.
Biden – Oh, almost forgot. I was thinking of sending you a present…
Kim – What?
Biden – A pair of my favorite aviator glasses.

Kim laughs.

Kim – I won’t be able to use them when I meet with Putin or Xi but send them anyway. I’ll use them when I go fishing.
Biden – Okay. Have a good day.
Kim – Good night.

North Korea Shoots a Missile over Japan

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Kim Jong Un gets a call from Xi Jinping early in the morning.

Xi – Good morning.
Kim – You’re calling about the missile I shot over Japan.
Xi – Yes.
Kim – It went very well.
Xi – I’m not calling to congratulate you.
Kim – I see.
Xi – You’re a fool.


Xi – Suppose the missile had been loaded…
Kim – It was not.
Xi – Suppose it had been… and it malfunctioned, which we all know can happen… then it would’ve fallen on Japan. Then what?
Kim – It wouldn’t have happened.
Xi – Missiles malfunction… yours are no different. Please answer my question.


Xi – Were you there to inspect the missile before it was launched?
Kim – No.
Xi – Then any nuthead could’ve loaded it with an explosive… without you knowing.
Kim – We have strict security protocols…
Xi – Yes, and people willing to circumvent them.
Kim – No. They are fail proof.
Xi – When it comes to humans, there’s nothing fail proof.
Kim – Look, I had to do it.
Xi – Why?
Kim – The world forgets me unless I fire some missiles. Otherwise it’s you, and Putin and Modi and Biden, the English and the European Union getting all the attention.
And now Iran, with all the women protesting. You think they’ll be able to push out the ayatollahs?
Xi – I’m watching carefully. But let’s not get off track. Aside from your bombs and missiles, why are you not getting any attention?
Kim – Because we don’t produce much?
Xi – That’s right. I’m your main trading partner but if you ceased to exist, if you went up in a cloud of smoke, I could get everything I’m getting from you elsewhere.


Xi – And it doesn’t have to be that way, does it?
Kim – I’m following a policy of Self Reliance, just like you are.
Xi – Yes, but we first opened up to the West so we could learn from them and then build on that.
They came, showed us what they have, we paid attention, learned, copied and became creative enough that we’re seen as the ‘factory of the world’.
Kim – But you had the huge market to entice the West, so their eyes widened with the expectation of riches… we don’t have that size market.
Xi – Look at Vietnam, they’re attracting more and more investors who are worried I’m getting government more involved in how Chinese businesses are run.
Kim – Vietnam is four times as large as we are…
Xi – That’s not it. You’re about the size of Taiwan and look at where they are.
Kim – I know what you’re saying… become more productive… open up to world markets… learn from them. Copy, steal, just like you did… and then create.
Xi – Yes.
Kim – But I’m afraid I’ll lose power.
Xi – The Communist party still rules Vietnam, and yet they’ve opened up and now they are richer and better educated. If your people are important to you, take some chances. Look, on October 16th, just 11 days from now, the 20th National congress of the communist party will convene. I am expected to be unanimously reelected for a 3rd term. And I forbid freedom of speech and have everyone on surveillance. Still, somehow, the people… most of them, are happy. So it can be done.
Kim – Congratulations.
Xi – Thank you. My point is you need to take chances.
Kim – The United Nations and America have put all these sanctions on me… because they don’t want me to have nuclear weapons…
Xi – They don’t trust you… but if you stopped the bomb building and let them in so they could make a ton of money, then, when the time came, you could say, ‘I’d like to get back to building bombs’.
Kim – That’s what you did.
Xi – We did our first nuclear test in 1964, well before the West came along. But they didn’t complain when we kept building them, after they came in. They were making a ton of money. Of course, we added that we needed to defend against Russia. Just in case. But times have changed.
Kim – Clever.
Xi – It’s politics. The key is to let the West make money. I think Putin failed on that. With the making of money comes the transfer of knowledge and other skills. Putin has the art of suppressing freedom, he’s got that down, but if he had let more western companies go into Russia and make lots of money, instead of favoring his inside group, then he wouldn’t have felt threatened. He would’ve stayed in power for ever.
Kim – You don’t think he will?
Xi – He’s on his way out. I hope it’s not violent.
I think you need to take the initiative and say to the world, ‘I’m putting all nuclear weapons development on hold. I will not do any more tests and will let UN inspectors come by and check. Please lift the sanctions.’ See what they say.
Kim – I would still forbid freedom of speech and keep high surveillance of the people.
Xi – Yes. You could say, ‘I’m trying the Chinese model’.

Kim laughs.

Kim – What do you think of Ukraine?
Xi – I’m worried about them. They’re making people think of liberty in a whole new way. Which is why I’m against them.
Kim – You think they’ve had an effect on the women in Iran?
Xi – Definitely. It doesn’t help that the ayatollahs are selling drones to Russia to kill more Ukrainians.
Kim – You think the Iran Nuclear deal will be revived?
Xi – The West would be fools if they did.

This piece was edited on 10/6/22, to include the time when China first tested a nuclear weapon.

The Butcher of Moscow

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He was sitting at his desk in his bunker when the call came in. The general he had summoned had arrived. Putin reached over to the photo of Josef Stalin he kept on his desk and put it in one of the drawers.
The general stepped in. Putin signaled for him to take a seat across. The general did.
Putin – Good to see you.
General – Pleasure as always, Mr President.
Putin – Wanted to hear from you directly how are things on the front.
General – There has been much resistance as I detailed on my report from yesterday but I’m confident we will prevail.
Putin – How long?
General – That’s a hard question to answer.
Putin – A guess…
General – It could go on for months… with the West providing so much equipment.

Putin looks off as he nods.

General – Their morale is high… they’re good fighters. It’s their land we’re taking over…
Putin – No, General, it’s our land.
General – I meant they’ve been there for a long time… and they’ve been able to put up with a lot of killing.

Putin leans forward, intertwines his hands.

Putin – Do I look like I’m having trouble sleeping?
General (scrutinizing briefly Putin’s face) – Mr President, your expression looks fresh and healthy.
Putin – You know why?
General – You’re convinced you’re doing the right thing?
Putin – Yes… God is on my side.

The General nods.

Putin – The Russian orthodox church says I’m in the right and that’s good enough for me.
Are you a believer?
General – I am.

He had prepared himself for the question.

Putin – I don’t want to keep losing Russian soldiers… so I may have to use nuclear weapons.

The General flinches, surprised by the statement.

Putin – Even though I think that a long war will eventually work to our benefit… carefully placed nuclear weapons would make a big difference. The war is raising energy prices, fueling inflation, creating food shortages, lowering morale throughout the West. Do you follow the capital markets in the West?
General – Not regularly, Mr President.
Putin – They’re panicking, selling and selling, the likelihood being that they will go into a recession… even a depression… which would erode support for Biden and his people. All of which makes it more likely that America will see more political divisions and increase the possibility that Trump will be reelected in 2024.
General – That would be good for us?
Putin – Of course. He’ll agree to the superpowers carving out spheres of influence and we’ll all live happily ever after. I will do everything possible to see him reelected… but I can’t wait that long. Nuclear bombs in Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa… will send a clear message. Surrender immediately. Or else… more will be on the way.

The General looks down at the ground for a moment, gathering his thoughts.

General – Wouldn’t that be killing a lot of innocent people?
Putin – Innocent? If they’re collaborating with the enemy they’re not innocents.
General – But don’t you think the West will figure out you’re planning a strike and do something about it?
Putin – Maybe. But they have a lot of people to consult before they make a decision. I can make my choice quickly.
General – They may have a plan ready to go…
Putin – Perhaps. But I’ll take my chances.
General – That would be a big chance you’d be taking. It would change the history of the world.

Putin nods as he narrows his eyes.

Putin – I hadn’t thought about it that way… but it definitely would. Still, the Japanese were able to rebuild.
General – Too many innocent people would be killed or burned.
Putin – There are no innocent people in this war…
General – The children…

Putin shakes his head as he looks directly at the general. Why is he having to repeat himself?

Putin – Do you think the West will give planes to Ukrainians?
General – I’m sure they’re thinking about it. The Czechs already send in helicopters and are repairing them too. With planes they could hurt us badly.
Putin – Another reason to drop the nuclear weapons.
General – But the West may respond by using nuclear weapons on our troops and that would be it.
Putin – I don’t think they would. They would think it inhumane… or wrestle with their conscience. Advantage Putin. For I would not hesitate to fire on Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam…

The General looks off for a moment,

Putin – A lot of killing, you think?
General (now looking at Putin) – That’s… destroying the world as we know it…

Putin is struck by the statement.

Putin – The world as we know it…? Interesting. General, I detect a certain pro-Western bias…
General (puzzled) – How so?
Putin – What about China, India, Africa, South America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia… aren’t they important engines of growth?
General – Of course, but the cities you mentioned are at the cutting edge…
Putin – No, general… they’re decaying cities, filled with corruption, greed, moral decay and perversion… but you don’t seem to get that.
General – I do… but there’s a vitality there that enriches our world…

The general catches himself. He had forgot caution.

Putin (eyeing the general carefully, speaking deliberately) – I’m not just fighting for Russia, general, though I’ve warned them… said it again and again… do not encircle me with NATO. I must have my Ukraine. How many times do I have to repeat it?
I’m fighting for a new world order… so the nations of the East and South can emerge… and shake off the shackles of unrestrained capitalism…

The general nods uncertainly.

General – If we attack… wouldn’t they destroy Moscow, St Petersburg… so much life, so much history?
Putin – I would get to them before they get to us.
General – How can you be sure of that?
Putin – I am sure. That’s why I have ruled this nation as long as I have. That’s why people believe in me.
But rest assured, general, it won’t come to that. If the West chooses to use nuclear weapons against our troops in retaliation, then there will be nothing left in Ukraine… and I will take it over and rebuild.

Putin sits back in his chair, taking his time.

Putin – General… your pro-Western bias worries me… I believe that’s made you less effective on the battlefield.
General (quickly, emphatically) – I assure you it has not. What I said is simply an acknowledgement that the cities you mentioned are creative centers… I believe in Russia’s importance in the world, Mr President…
Putin (ignoring him) – Which may be why we’ve not gained more territory.
General (urgently) – Mr President, I have given the war effort and our conquest of Ukraine all of my energies, day and night…
Putin – But your attitude would easily lead to a lack of conviction… in ways not easily detected…
so be quiet, please.


Putin – I hate to do this, dear sir… how long have you been in the armed forces?
General – Thirty five years, sir… and proud of it.
Putin – It may be time for you to retire.

The general’s heart sinks. He closes his eyes.

Putin – You have been obedient and loyal… but maybe it’s time for you to spend more time with your family.
General – But why, sir?
Putin – I don’t think you have the commitment I need to have my orders followed unquestioningly. I don’t get that you’re hungry for victory.
General – That is not true.
Putin – Be quiet.

Leaning forward, the general rubs his face. His eyes now moistened.

General (choosing to fight) – Don’t you think it’s good for Russia that you hear different opinions? For instance, our soldiers’ morale has been low, that has affected performance on the battlefield.
Putin – And what have you done about it?
General – I’ve told them that we must sacrifice for a greater Russia. I’ve joined them in the front lines… stood side by side with them… they just don’t believe me. I’ve proposed they be given bonuses…
Putin (firmly) – The morale of our troops has been low because you lack commitment, general. That is why.

The General looks off, feeling defeated.

Putin (softly, almost caringly) – You’ll be placed under house arrest effective immediately. Return directly to your home. A security detail will follow you. You may leave now.
General (pleading) – I don’t deserve this, Mr President.
Putin – That is my final decision.
General – Will you please reconsider?
Putin – Didn’t I just say my decision was final?

The General stands, salutes energetically and exits.

On the way out, he thinks to himself, ‘And what do I tell my children that I did for mother Russia?’

Oscar Valdes,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts