By William J. Furney
Will he or won’t he? Or has he already?
These are the questions the world is pondering about the former KGB agent and onetime taxi driver, who was forced into apparent lowly but necessary work when the Soviet Union fell apart.
Now, Vladimir Putin, the longtime Russian president and former prime minister, is attempting to make his mark on the world, rock-solid-style, by imminently invading a democratic country whose southern Crimea region he’s already swiped, according to US and other Western-goverment intelligence. Commercial satellite imagery shows massive troop and military harward buildup along the Ukraine border since late last year, and the threatening presence is evidently approaching 190,000 troops.
The Kremlin claims it’s all about “military exercises” but no one, rightly, is buying that line, because the Russian government has form regarding a loose affiliation with the truth — and the evidence of war-intention has been visible for all to see since late last year. If you line up along a country’s border, and remain there for months, adding aircraft and field hospitals, it doesn’t take a military general to work out what the plan is.
According to the Brits, Putin has already given the order for war, starting what Boris Johnson called at a security conference in Munich on Saturday “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”, after Hitler invaded Poland and triggered World War 2.
“All the signs are that the plan has already in some senses begun,” the embattled British prime minister said in an interview with the BBC. “People need to understand the sheer cost in human life that could entail,” said Johnson, setting out a slew of sanctions the UK would impose on Moscow should brazen Putin forge ahead with an invasion.
Russia, it seems, is looking for any excuse for a fight, firing shells at Ukrainian troops in recent days, killing two soldiers. It has led military officials in Kyiv to assume a war has begun. “Our intelligence is consistent with the Americans’: Putin has a plan and it is under way,” a Ukrainian government official was quoted as saying by today’s Sunday Times.
In Munich — where in 1938 British leader Neville Chamberlain met another liar and thought he had prevented a second world war — all talk was about diplomatic efforts to try half Russian military action against Ukraine. But UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss conceded: “We need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Russia has shown they aren’t serious about diplomacy.”
Speaking at the conference — which the US advised him not to attend, saying it was not a good time to be abroad when his country might be attacked at any moment — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed that the international security system was “almost broken” and said the world must learn the “terrible lessons from history”.
“The rules that the world agreed on decades ago no longer work. They do not keep up with new threats. Not effective for overcoming them. This is a cough syrup when you need a coronavirus vaccine,” he said.
Will Putin risk international isolation, crippling financial and other sanctions and his country becoming a “pariah to the international community”, as the Americans asserted this week? Or will he pull back at the 11th hour and send his troops home, even as a growing body of intelligence suggests military action has begun? Does Putin even give a fig about the West when his attention is increasingly on China, a new, mighty axis to challenge world order?
Whatever the case, and whatever is going on in bully Putin’s strongman mind, French President Emmanuel Macron gave diplomacy a last shot phone call on Sunday, after visiting Putin earlier this month for a chat in Moscow that didn’t appear to produce much in the way of diffusing the growing tension and drew astonishment — and ridicule — over the size of the table separating the two men: a visual gulf between Russia and the West.
The call, which lasted over an hour, didn’t achieve much either, and resulted in a bland statment from the French goverment that outlined “the need to favour a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis and to do everything to achieve one”.
Just as with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and his destabilising rockets, there’s no doubt warmongering Putin is loving the attention, war or not.