April 14. 2024. 6:26

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For Putin, the writing is on the wall when it comes to Ukraine

The longer the war drags on, the clearer it becomes to the world: Russia can no longer win, writes Alexander Temerko.

Just over a year ago, nobody but the most hard-nosed military intelligence analysts thought the war would be upon us; neither world leaders nor ordinary citizens wanted to face the truth of its coming.

The West did not believe because it did not want to believe: It was unprepared and opted to hold tight to the fantasy of ‘common sense’ and ‘realpolitik’. Ukraine did not believe because it was afraid to provoke its fascist neighbour. And Russia did not believe in the spectre of true, destructive war because it greatly overestimated its forces and deluded itself into the myth of a bloodless victory.

It held the fanatical belief that the Ukrainian people were tired of freedom and their legitimately elected government and that they secretly awaited reunification with Great Mother Russia, eager to be a new brick in constructing a new Soviet Union.

After almost six months of exhausting military exercises, the most capable and fearsome Russian armed units were transferred to the Ukrainian border. But as we all know, things did not go as planned.

For 2562 years past, we hear of the writing on the wall of the feast of the Babylonian King Belshazzar, which declared, ‘You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting’, as the palace halls collapsed around him.

Those same words are appearing on the walls of the Kremlin before the eyes of Vladimir Putin – representing the end of his regime and the destruction of his country.

Putin’s faith in his corrupt entourage, his bloated army, and his ‘mastermind’ foreign policy – all have been found wanting. His faith in his sanction-proof economy, in his native defence industry, and his propaganda machine have been found wanting as well. His faith in his rusting nuclear deterrent may crumble next. Ultimately, his faith in himself and his impunity will wither, too.

But these last kernels of his faith have pushed him to throw a new horde of 300,000 ill-trained and ill-equipped soldiers to their dooms into Ukraine.

The myth of the world’s second strongest army has shattered outside Kyiv and Kharkiv; the legendary reputations of Russian generals and their ‘fearless’ armies have evaporated in Kherson and Bakhmut.

Failing to succeed on the battlefield, the Russian leadership has resorted to indiscriminate and desperate missile salvoes against Ukraine’s economy and citizenry – increasingly relying upon supplies of brutal armaments from dictatorships like Iran and North Korea.

Yet the longer the war drags on, the clearer it becomes to the world: Russia can no longer win.

Russia has singlehandedly precipitated its own biggest setbacks since the fall of the Soviet Union. In one year of the war, unleashed to sweep NATO from Russian borders and create the buffer it had thirty years ago, it has instead accomplished the direct opposite: The West no longer fears Russia, and worse, many ignore its interests altogether.

In the eyes of the Western world’s leaders, Putin has turned from a master political strategist into an ageing madman, fearing for his life and health, detached from reality, and caught up in his own lies.

Western countries chose energy independence and global decarbonisation over dependence on Putin’s oil and gas distribution principles. They opted for transparent business while abandoning ill-gotten gains from deals with corrupt Kremlin oligarchs or thieving state corporations.

Russia has become an outcast, and the West replaced it in global markets almost without a second thought, and countries which previously toed the Russian line, like Kazakhstan and Armenia, now defy it, or worse, disdain it.

The question before the West now is how best to furnish continued support to Ukraine to ensure Russia’s final defeat.

Nearly all stockpiles of Soviet-style equipment owned by NATO countries like Poland have now been transferred to Ukraine; new deliveries require the replacement of the supplied Warsaw Pact weapons with modern NATO models – and this means that NATO’s own massive military-industrial complex must grind into gear.

The orders from NATO governments, then, will not be for tens or hundreds of new pieces of hardware but for many thousands over years. This represents a serious sea-change: By taking this decision, NATO countries will begin the final conversion of their Cold War stockpiles and will then switch to building, storing, and supplying to Ukraine truly modern weapons.

The significance of this is vast: It may prolong the war, but it will also make the defeat of Russia even more catastrophic.

It will also inevitably result in the admission of Ukraine into NATO – not as a junior partner, but as one of the most powerful and potent armies in Europe, fully trained and equipped with modern capabilities. By then, Finland and Sweden will surely also have joined NATO, and NATO’s enlargement (Russia’s scapegoat) will have been affected.

But most importantly of all – if NATO countries ramp up their defence industries to full capacity, we will then have the solution to the final vexing question Russia continues to pose: That of a solid, responsive action plan to the threat of Russian nuclear weapons, whether in the hands of a totalitarian central government or a fragmented, disintegrated, lawless Russia.

The fields of Ukraine have become a catalyst of world change, and it is our responsibility to ensure that this change sees no room for ageing dictators and their Cold War world order.

For Putin, Daniel’s Biblical warning is clear.

For us in the West and Ukraine, we must look instead to the 20th-century prophet Zbigniew Brzezinski and his Grand Chessboard: “It cannot be stressed enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”

We must ensure that the former prophecy comes true.