Vladimir Putin is cunning but that doesn’t mean he’s wise. Sure, his invasion of the Ukraine looks like a shrewd gamble. Especially invasion of the Crimea. Stalin’s bloody ethnic cleansing left Russians as the overwhelming majority in the Crimea, and Kruschev’s gesture of ceding the territory to the Ukraine was empty symbolism. After all, at that time the entire region was part of the Russian dominated Soviet Union.
Naturally, the Russians in the Crimea are happy to welcome Putin’s troops. You may have seen them on TV cheering and yelling for Russia to take them back.
As for the rest of the Ukraine, resistance to Russia would be futile without military support from the West. And I don’t think the West is prepared to go to war with Putin. Not now, with the echoes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars still ringing in their ears. But they don’t have to. And that’s where Putin is making a big miscalculation.
It wasn’t military might that brought down the Berlin Wall. It wasn’t troops that won the Cold War.
The Communist economic model failed.
And if Putin tried to bring it back, it would fail again.
He is reportedly trying to create an economic trading bloc to rival the EEU and he needs the Ukraine to make his plan work. But I don’t think he is contemplating a separate economic system. Russia has been there and done that. And since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russian interests – legal and illegal – have jumped into the global marketplace with both feet.
But the Russian economy has struggled under Putin and the ruble has lost significant value. I am sure the various power elites in Russia are not jumping up and down with joy.
An article in Politico quotes “a senior administration official” as saying Russia risks being cut off from Western banking and finance networks if Putin does not reverse his course on the Ukraine.
And that’s where the West – especially the US, which is the keeper of the world’s reserve currency – has an ace in the hole.
If President Obama succeeds in isolating Russia economically and financially, the country’s “elites” would be hit where it hurts – in their wallets. They would inevitably turn against Putin.
The Russian strong man should think twice about the path he’s taking. But, of course, he won’t.