Like you, I’m trying to make sense of what I see and read. From what I can tell, Putin had several goals when he invaded Ukraine. One overt goal was to expand Russian territory and economic power since Ukraine is central Asia’s breadbasket. Putin wanted to move Ukrainian captives into the Russian interior since the Russian population is falling. Putin also needed a way to skim more money from the Russian people as they sacrifice their standard of living to achieve Russian “security”. None of that went as planned.
Putin and his oligarchs stole about a trillion dollars from the Russian economy. That is comparable to what the US oligarchs stole, but the Russian economy is about one-fourteenth the size of the US economy. To understand the proportions at work, consider what would happen if the Biden, Clinton, Obama, Pelosi and Soros families took 14 times more of our economy. That is a lot of graft for a country to bear, but now double it again becaues Russia has half as many people as the US so the per person cost of graft is higher. That is the size of the problem faced by the Russian people.
That describes the Russian economy of a year ago, but the proportions are much worse today. Not only is the Russian economy shattered by sanctions, but Putin has to pay his corrupt cronies in worthless rubles that they can’t easily exchange into hard currencies as they move their wealth outside of Russia. Reducing the corrupt payoffs upsets the power hierarchy that keeps Putin in place. Unfortunately, Eastern Europe pays Russia over 500 million dollars a day for oil, coal, and natural gas.
Remember that eastern Europe switched to Russian fuels after Germany shut down its coal and nuclear powerplants to appease the environmentalists/socialists. Russia helped finance the green parties, and in return the green parties made the Russian oligarchs fantastically rich. Like the Russian oligarchs, the western greens were always interested in spending other people’s money and telling other people how to live.
The west does not have a monopoly on political corruption. Just like the Russian winter, Russian corruption is always in the background in the Ukraine conflict. The Russian military machine ran out of fuel several times. The reasons are enlightening for westerners but are taken for granted by native Russians.
Time and again, what the Russians paid for isn’t necessarily what they got. Putin and the oil oligarchs skimmed their cut and siphoned some of the fuel to the black market. Russia’s military officers skimmed their share of the military budget as well. At one point during the war, Russian forces fired on their own oil storage facilities since it was healthier for their officers to attribute the loss to war rather than have to explain how they drained their own oil storage tanks and sold the fuel. That style of corruption is only familiar to the west when we see a few corrupt building contractors or government unions, but in Russia it happens on a trans-national scale.
Repeat that process of corruption again and again and we see a Russian military robbed of food, of fuel and of other equipment. Tents and uniforms go missing. Radios are sold to the black market. Repair supplies are at a fraction of their reported levels since spare parts often walk away from storage depots. That seems almost bizarre to westerners but is standard practice in socialists economies around the world. The Russian military might well run out of tires for its trucks.
What is left is a shadow military force. Many of the Russian combat vehicles are not fully equipped with reactive armor since the necessary components were either removed or never installed. Yes, the boxes appear on the sides of the tanks, but in many cases the boxes that should hold reactive armor are empty. I shudder to think what is left in their medical trauma kits.
Sadly for the Russian people, the controlled press in Russia would never report that Russian soldiers were sent to die in substandard equipment or left untreated on the battlefield. As brutal as that is for the Russian people, it fortunately gives us a window to peace. The west can report on the corruption and the progress of the war as clearly as possible.
There are no angels in public office. Putin sold the war as a fight of Russian integration, but the Ukrainians clearly want none of Putin’s corrupt rule. It is hard to sell the myth of integrating fellow slavs back into Russia when Russian soldiers murder civilian captives, rape women and young girls, and level the cities they are claiming to save. The west can expose the mass graves and lay bare the lie that made the war palatable to the Russian people.
The western environmentalists are indirectly funding the Russian oligarchs and they too have blood on their hands. The west can put its own house in order and reestablish its energy independence. Western countries should remove the restrictions and taxes they placed on all forms of domestic energy production. It can restart its coal and nuclear plants for a start. The west can again mine and produce its own fertilizer.
The west can ostracize Russia’s trading partners like Turkey, South Africa, Uganda, Iran, India, China and Pakistan. For example, western nations could impose a tariff on Indian goods until the Indian oligarchs stop trading with Russia. In the United States, the Biden administration could do the same with China. Unfortunately Biden’s hands are red with Chinese bribes. There is little chance of Biden imposing sanctions on China unless he was compelled to do so by Republican legislation and a public outcry.
The war will end at some point, but that will not come when Russia runs out of bullets and bombs. The war will end when Putin and the Russian oligarchs run out of money that pays the bribes that keep them in power. That can happen sooner rather than later.
We will have peace if the Oligarchs are starved quickly. Putin may expand the war if the West reacts slowly.