Putin and the nuclear threat of a corner poker player: which cards he wants to play, which moves he has failed (for now)

“The West” that Vladimir Putin he calls “collective”, according to the Russian president, “is about to collapse”. There mega party set up Friday 30 September from the Kremlin to Moscow and major Russian cities to celebrate theannexation of the four oblasts secessionists and now become integral parts of Russian territory (thanks to fake referendums) equal to 15 per cent of Ukraine, was the grotesque and propaganda outline of a regime increasingly gangrenous in the Putinian crusade to give back to Moscow the hegemony lost with the dissolution of the Soviet empire. From today, therefore, it gravitates concretely more than ever, on Europe and on the whole world there sword of Damocles of the nuclear threatas the last bluff of a poker player now cornered because he was exposed.

And mistaken: because if it is true that theWest often shows and gladly divisions and contrasts, it is also true that thanks to Putin and his infamous war choice passed off as a quick “special” operation (with the excuse of wanting to cancel the alleged Nazi regime of Zelenski), he has regrouped and is determined to resolve the Ukrainian question guaranteeing Kiev sophisticated military support (and capital to survive). Even those political Trojan horses placed in Europe with the aim of destabilizing it, are realizing the dangerous Putinian drift and the evident unpopularity of their conflicting positions: the apparatuses of the influence devices that Moscow has set up over the last decade to nurture support for its policies or, at least, to convey indulgent analyzes towards Russia, without however obtaining an end to the sanctions.

The West demonized by the leader of Moscow, after years of fearful inaction, is taking measures against a Russia whose image has rapidly deteriorated in recent months and whose weaknesses emerged mercilessly: military ones, first of all, the result of incompetence, corruption, criminal nature. The catastrophic lack of discipline and motivation of the troops, the low quality of their equipment, the disorientation of the ranks forced to operate as criminals (terrible are the testimonies collected by the intercepted telephone calls of the soldiers when they speak with family members).

The picture is even more unsettling if we also look at Moscow’s strategic and diplomatic fragility, the inability to devise a way out from the tragic spiral of the escalation triggered on 21 September with the (almost) general mobilization that triggered the flight of hundreds of thousands of Russians from their country, street protests, bewilderment and strong signs of popular dissent right among that mass imbued with Putinian propaganda – i vatniki, that is the “muffled” – who believed they were covered by the promises and the media bombardment of the Kremlin, to suddenly find themselves without that protective cloak. Meat for slaughter. Poor people sent to the fray. Not surprisingly, the day after Putin’s decree, Zelenski addressed them (in Russian, so that the mobilized people would understand) saying: “You can protest, rise up, flee or surrender to the Ukrainian army: here are your options for survival ”.

Furthermore, Putin cannot be said to be unpredictable. On the contrary. Vladimir Vladimirovic, on the eve of his crucial seventy years, he always announced what he would do. Since the day he became prime minister, in 1999, unleashing the second Chechen war, with its horrors and destruction. Then after having deluded the West to which it supplied gas and oil, began in 2008 with theSouth Ossetia removed from Georgiahe waited another six years to grab it Crimea – annexed with a referendum on “reunification” in 2014 – and to fund and arm the secession of Donbass and Donetsk oblast, in which two referendums onautonomy from Kievwith more than Bulgarian percentages (89 and 96 per cent respectively).

The script was repeated this weekand Putin, with the emphasis and frown of a “strong man”, claimed it: “The inhabitants of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporija they become our citizens forever”. The population “voted to share our common future”. An “unequivocal choice”. Therefore, “we will defend our land with all our strength and our means “. If anyone had not understood, the companion is ready Dmitri Medvedevwho has become the hawk of the hawks, to make Putin’s saying-unspoken explicit: “World War III is closer“. Europeans must be frightened. They have to tremble with fear. The nuclear nightmare will stop them.

The expensive bills will prompt them to ask for let us do what we wantwe keep them on the gas barrel … in Moscow’s eyes, war will change its nature – in its favor, of course … the web is seething with these considerations, social networks are not drenched in fears for the fate of the Ukrainians but for the realistic possibility of having to lower the heating of the houses by one degree, to pay more and more expensive energy “because of Kiev” (I read it). The soft power Russian uses these sneaky forms of pressure. Use violence to take over the territories of other countries. And the hidden persuasion to create impunity. Like the anti-Western ideological paint and the pseudo-war of civilizationswho also find many fans from us.

The fact is that Putin is betting on attrition of the western front, on the divisions between NATO allies, on the explosion of discontent. He ventured a move that could be fatal to him: he burned the bridges that could have allowed him to retreat, without losing too much face, despite war crimes that are charged to him (and that history, however, will bequeath to him). So it does nothing but drag Russia to the brink: but let’s not delude ourselves. Unfortunately, the war will last a long time, worse, it risks changing its format, and it is useless to hope for a palace revolt, the elites who could overthrow Putin are shattered, dispersed, in exile, in jail. The “men of the Force“, I siloviki (the police, military, key ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, the military industry, border police: millions of people who are organic to the “vertical of power” and the democratization established by Putin). The real dangers, for him, come from the military and ultranationalist circles who would like to use all their military potential (even the tactical nuclear arsenal) to solve the “Ukrainian practice”.

Putin had to feed them something. For instance, the staging on Friday, the arrogant threats. Even the ferocious and ruthless attack of missiles launched on convoys of civilians with dozens of deaths. For the West, reading all of this is a disturbing point of no return: “America and its allies are ready to defend every inch of Ukrainian territory,” Biden warned, and what else could he say, if not threatening words how much those of your Russian colleague? We are victims of these strategies of intimidation … The annexation of the four Ukrainian oblasts is certainly a formal act, but in one sense only, therefore not legitimate, according to the international community who challenged the referendums. However, the fact of annexation itself carries enormous political weight. I translate: it means that on those territories it can no longer be negotiated. And when Putin proposes possible negotiations, he is a red herring, at most they will be reduced to (sterile) discussions on the modalities and security guarantees, especially on the disarmament of Ukraine. Which was absurd and unthinkable already on the evening of February 24, let alone today and even more so in the days to come.

The ambiguity grows, then, in analyzing Putinian references to bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As if to say: hear from which pulpit the sermon comes. Argument that we find in the discussions that meander on the web such as the accusations that Putin has made to the Anglo-Americans about the NordStream submarine sabotagethus opening up the possibility for Russia to use the same methods (sabotage of Internet cables is already being feared). Putinologists call this rhetoric “the mirror effect“. Raise and counter-accusation in reverse. The problem is that the poker player Putin has a flaw: he lacks the quality that makes a player great, namely the ability to guess the cards of the opponents. He is fine with him as long as they let him play and leave the table, a metaphor for what has always happened towards the Putinian bold audacitywhen the Russian president attacked Georgia, annexed Crimea, operated massively in Syria, sent mercenaries to Congo, Libya and Chad.

The West protested timidly, threatened sanctions, some applied it, except to continue buying gas and oil from Moscow and many other mineral resources of which Russia is extraordinarily rich. Today, the poker table is done more professional. Someone stayed. She raised. The use and abuse of threats can backfireas John Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, pointed out: “We have communicated to the Kremlin, privately and at the highest level, that any use of a nuclear weapon would cause catastrophic consequences for Russiaas the United States and our allies would respond decisively. We were clear and precise on what this would imply ”.

We are back in the time of Cuban crisis. The only detail is that Biden is not Kennedy, as Putin is not even Khrushchev. There are new actors on the world stage: for now they witness the tragic spectacle. China and India, however, they begin to press on their (less and less reliable) Russian friend to come up with one conflict resolution. The Chinese are wary of the Polar Bear, as the Russians call it, which they do not approve of Eurasian imperialismand they do not believe in Putin’s sincerity who has in fact accepted the vassalage because he is forced to sell off gas and oil.

Indians are more than perplexed of their cumbersome historical partner: they would like to end the conflict and recover the stability of the markets, a vision that unites them to Chinese pragmatism. It would be the end of Putin: and even this arouses fears, too many unknowns about the “after” are holding back Beijing and New Delhi. Only Europe it is still the same quarrelsome Europe than the terrible 1962. United and disunited, because the interests and selfishness of the strongest nations always prevail. It will be there big bad winter of our discontent. Hoping it’s not the last.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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