Vladimir Putin was nine years old when Nikita Khrushchev ran the last large scale bluff when he vowed to declare the 1948 Berlin Agreement null and void and assume Soviet control through the East German puppet government.
In 2009 Fred Kaplan wrote that
“Western intelligence agencies didn’t know it at the time, but Khrushchev’s threat stemmed from desperation. Over the previous decade, West Berlin had grown free and prosperous while East Berlin had stagnated under the Soviet boot. Easterners were emigrating to the West in droves, using West Berlin as their transit point. By the fall of 1958, East Germany had lost 2 million people, with continued losses of 10,000 per month, including some of its best-educated youth. Khrushchev needed to stop the hemorrhage.”
I remember hearing a rumor early in my Air Force Security Service career, that the U.S. did not fully understood how much of a bluff Khrushchev was making and that later intelligence revealed that had a show of force opposing the blockade been made, the Soviets would have backed down. I have not been able to confirm that story. However, what we seemed to have learned currently is that Putin’s desperation perhaps exceeds that of Khrushchev 50 years ago.
Though not the political buffoon that is Trump, Putin seems to have allowed his myopic vision of a potential Soviet reincarnation in Russia’s future project get out of hand. Probably assuming that any American population that would elect a political joker would not fully have its mind on the implications of Russian aggressive maneuvers abroad. Vlad has become the bluffer who assumes that Biden and a voting majority would reflect the same shallow silliness of the last administration.
General McCaffrey suggested an adjusted foreign policy approach when he put “the chances of Vladimir Putin using nukes at “zero” and urged NATO forces to destroy the Russian military forces on the ground in Ukraine before they begin their final assault on Kyiv. ” — MSNBC
I also tend to agree with McCaffrey when he refers to Putin as being,
“so over his head by invading Ukraine and not anticipating how citizens of the country would fight back and that it is time to bring about an abrupt end to the unprovoked invasion. MSNBC”
My own military service began in 1968 and ended in 1975. Thinking about Putin-versus-Zelensky, I remember a satirical line regarding LBJ that went something like this: “Johnson simply cannot understand why Ho Chi Min won’t obey him.”
I’m also impressed that McCaffrey without hesitation has concluded that Putin’s embarassed military muscle combined with his shrunken economic potency makes him in effect a sitting duck.
True, a desperate sitting duck might trigger a larger disaster and it seems that McCaffrey was ready for the question around which many hesitations happen that cost lost opportunities. Putin’s options beyond the border of Ukraine are in reality certainly limited.
I agree that there is a risk of a nuclear Armageddon but I’m not yet convinced that a desperate Putin madman performance would be supported and sustained by his own military, his own Russian oligarchs and above all his fellow citizens. We can look on the Russian populace as a gullible, tyrant-dominated group of ignorant consumers of a shrinking Russian prosperity, or we can expect from a more mature perspective that in a country dominated by an authoritarian regime people do not have to wait until the next election to fire the bumbler.
McCaffrey is talking about knocking Putin out in the ring, not going into his home town and cleaning house.
“I think it’s a political decision at the highest levels,” he continued. “NATO can clearly knock the Russians into the next world in a 30-day air campaign. They can take out their ground elements, which are still inviting targets. So the question is, is NATO there? The answer is no. And is the president prepared to risk escalation? I think the answer is, no. We need to understand — I don’t think World War III is in the offing. I think that’s nonsense. Putin is so over his head. 60 percent of his ground capability is in Ukraine and half his air power. So it’s a question of are we going to watch Ukraine go under or not?” — MSNBC