Bullies Never Win

By William J. Furney

Dastardly Vlad, likely a war criminal, thought he could bulldoze his way into Ukraine, after stealing Crimea, but underestimated the reserve of the steely Ukrainian armed forces and even its citizens. 

Now, a month after his catastrophic, backfiring and stalling misadventure, the bullying Russian leader not only has blood on his hands but a country in crisis and derided around most of the world. (Disgracefully, Narendra Modi, of India, has failed to condemn the war, owing to self-serving military and other ties to Moscow). 

The divorced father of two daughters who will be 70 in October has been ruling Russia with an iron fist for far too long — from 1999 as prime minister and then president — has never been content with the breakup of the Soviet Union. A former KGB agent who became a taxi driver after the union’s dissolution, paranoid Putin has now been branded a “butcher” by Joe Biden, and rightly so. 

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the American president said in a speech on Saturday after meeting Ukrainian refugees in Poland, immediately triggering panic among US officials, who insisted Biden was not calling for regime change, and hence possible direct American military action to remove Putin from office. 

Vlad reckoned his big war game would be his crowning glory, as he thumbed his nose at an outraged world that, thanks to satellite imagery of troop build-ups, knew his sordid plan all along; but little did the diminutive despot know that the invasion of a democratic state would be his undoing, with not even a pyrrhic victory in sight. It was — is — a reckless military action that has upended the way people around the world view Russia, even if we had dark suspicions about its leaders all along (most recently, poisoning potential rivals in England and elsewhere). 

Just like the rubble he’s trying to reduce Ukrainian towns and cities to, Vlad is left moaning and whining about Russia being culturally “cancelled”, the way, he whimpered the other day, JK Rowling has been “silenced” by woke mobs that, paradoxically, shut down free speech on gender issues. 

On hearing the cryfest, the Harry Potter author barely drew breath before tweeting: “Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine”.

Sad Vlad, miscalculating fatally, thought he could have it all — the riches, the glittering palaces, the sequestered mistresses, the adoration at home and abroad — but it turns out he’s losing it all, in every aspect, and may well end up behind bars in the Hague, hauled before the International Criminal Court. 

Would Russians then really rise up and demand real democracy in their country, not the sham that currently exists, and where anyone presenting any kind of danger to Russian leaders is in immediate peril?

Much like the retreating dog with its tail between its legs, Russia is left with little option but to pull back from Ukrainian positions, saying, disingenuously, the military effort will instead focus on the Donbas region. All Putin tragically has to show for a month’s worth of warring in Ukraine is 15,000 dead Russian soldiers, according to a NATO tally. 

The UN, an organisation designed to prevent wars from erupting, says more than 1,100 civilians have so far died in the Ukraine conflict, and close to 1,800 have been injured. And the failing global body estimates that around 3.7 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine, to neighbouring nations, marking the biggest flow of refugees in Europe since World War 2. 

As the Russian leadership is hit with resignations and deaths of military commanders in the field, its soldiers on the ground in Ukraine are reportedly losing confidence in Moscow’s mission. 

“Morale problems within the Russian military are becoming more serious and apparent,” said the US-based Institute for the Study of War, in its latest assessment of the fighting. “Reports that the soldiers of a Russian unit killed their brigade commander by running him over with a tank and, more recently, that the commander of the 13th Guards Tank Regiment of the 4th Guards Tank Division (1st Guards Tank Army) committed suicide likely indicate a general breakdown of morale even among first tier Russian combat units.”

The American writer Alice Walker noted that “Men make war to get attention. All killing is an expression of self-hate” — a view probably never so true as in small-man Putin’s case.

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