I know a little —choot-choot– about Russia. Preferring Gogol to Google gives me no inside angle: that would be like a Russian reading “The Remains of the Day” in early 2016 and saying they could therefore call Brexit. Yet I had Бородавки и все такое –warts and all– experiences in Russia back in the day when the prime minister used to say things like: “We wanted the best, but it turned out like always.” That particular phrase rings true again today for obvious reasons.
For a Western media that for years has had Russia front and center as *the* threat to democracy, there is strangely little coverage of the major Russian military mobilization currently underway. 20,000 men, tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery have been moved to the border with Ukraine, and Russia is beginning combat readiness tests in all its military districts. Ukrainian President Zelenskiy has begged for rapid entry into NATO, while US arms deliveries have been stepped up to his army, 25% the size of Russia’s. Russia has warned that allowing Ukraine into NATO would be a provocation that would make matters far worse – and Russian history and psychology underline that may be no idle threat. State-baked Russian TV and social media are openly talking about further fratricidal war ahead.
This may be aggressive –and expensive– posturing by President Putin to win nationalist support in the face of anti-government protests and the ongoing detention of opposition leader Navalny. Likewise, Ukraine –which has failed to push through any of the economic reforms demanded by the West, and had so dropped off the radar that Zelenskiy had to wait weeks for a phone call from US President Biden– benefits from renewed American and EU attention. However, if Russia were going to seize Ukrainian territory, this is *exactly* what it would look like at this stage. A Wall Street that doesn’t worry about war may not get this, but wars don’t ‘just happen’: there are logistics first – which we now see underway. Or it may be sabre-rattling. And who can tell? Who could tell before Crimea was taken?
As such, what is the ‘correct’ Western response? And the Russian counter to that response? Would the West fight to defend Ukraine? It’s a mess if so. Would the West refuse? Probably – and yet it’s a different mess too if not. Life, like geopolitics, is complicated. The deliberate uncertainty and room for dangerous misinterpretation on both sides presents fat tail risks: those dismissing them might not be happy to do so if it were themselves on the front line.- READ MORE
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