by wjw on February 28, 2022

Recent events in Eastern Europe bring to mind a day in Finland’s archipelago back in 2017. Author Marcus Prest had arranged for me to take a boat through the archipelago to an island owned by his outgoing pal Bjorn. Other guests included philosopher Joel and Glen, a retired colonel in the Royal Artillery, now working in Ukraine as a military advisor.

Glen’s job was to try to convince Ukraine’s elites not to steal so much of the aid money given to them by the West. Money meant for the army should go to the army, he argued, not into the generals’ bank accounts. (With its oligarchs and gangsters, Ukraine has all the makings of a mafia state.)

We were talking about the merits of the various military forces in the region, and Glen said, “What the Ukrainians do well they do very well.”

“What do they do well?” asked I.

“Suicidal bravery.”

Well that’s what we’re seeing now, isn’t it? Armored columns challenged by citizens armed with Molotov cocktails, militia swarming onto paratroops and special forces as they land, and the garrison of Snake Island telling a Russian warship what it can do with all that firepower.

Despite all the setbacks, despite all the heroism, Putin might still win a military victory, but it will be a meatgrinder, and after that comes the problem of ruling a 40-million-strong nation with less than 200,000 troops. It’s not going to happen, it’s going to be a bloodbath, and that’s if things go well for the Russians.

Meanwhile the West has crashed the ruble, which means that Russia has no cash to offer the few countries that will still trade with it. There are only the gold reserves, which means that Russia will be paying with gold bricks for items on its shopping list.

Putin has to have been surprised. No one had opposed his military ventures before, and apparently he’d convinced himself that Ukraine would be a walkover.

He’s staring into an abyss now, and we can only hope he doesn’t deploy his nuclear arsenal to drag the rest of us into the abyss along with him.

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