Authoritarianism And Critical Thinking Can't Coexist-- Not In Russia, Not In Florida
And Even Today, "Gay" Is Too Much Of A Deviation From The Norm For Tyrants
Dictators can't handle people thinking for themselves; critical thinking has always been their worst enemy. They may not be able to stamp it out and prevent it entirely but they certainly start down that road by banning and obliterating certain words. Putin has decreed in recent days that Russia will jail people for saying "war." Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has another 3-letter word in mind: "gay." And, guess what... Putin is probably cheering DeSantis on in a big way. The state-controlled Russian patriarch, former KGB agent (like Putin), Kirill-- Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev-- is as gay-obsessed as DeSantis... and is actually now blaming the Russian "special operation" on... wait for it... gay parades!
Even Republicans are now fleeing to the exits of Putin-love and anti-Ukraine ideology that has dominated the party since Trump stumbled into the White House 5 years ago. This morning, Jonathan Weisman reported that even a right wing sociopath like Ohio pervert Gym Jordan once defended Trump by whining that Ukraine is "one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet." Heard from Jordan lately? Weisman wrote that "Now such voices are fading, as the bulk of the Republican Party tries to get on the right side of history amid a brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Republicans are among the most vociferous champions for the United States to amp up its military response, and are competing to issue the strongest expressions of solidarity with Ukraine’s leaders. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi has taken up Zelensky’s call for a western-enforced no-fly zone. Senator Rick Scott of Florida said deploying U.S. ground troops to Ukraine should not be “off the table.” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina encouraged the assassination of President Vladimir Putin of Russia to save a nation that many in his party had previously portrayed as hardly worth saving. 'What was sort of a problematic, corrupt place is now the defender of freedom,' Graham quipped about his colleagues’ changing tunes. The Republican center of gravity has undergone what Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a longtime advocate for the Ukrainian community in his state, called a 'sea change,' a swing of the pendulum so sharp that some fear it could lead Congress to unwittingly widen the war."
Weisman noted that "even the far-right flank seems confused," with even an utterly ignorant anti-American. QAnon walking freak show like Marjorie Traitor Greene (GA) cluelessly ranting on Twitter Monday that "Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, is "a 'clown' who was 'clueless about Americans being fed up with sending our sons and daughters to die in foreign lands,' and advise, 'While innocent people are being murdered in Putin’s war on Ukraine, the U.S. response is critical.'" She's lucky her rural Georgia backwood perfectly aligned voters are just as stupid and ignorant as she is.
But this isn't a laughing matter. The tragedy for Ukrainians is beyond belief. And the potential for real life, actual world war keeps growing. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, testifying before the House Intel Committee yesterday said Putin the effective Ukrainian resistance to his aggression is likely to cause Putin to "double down," and possibly even pursue a "maximalist plan to capture all or most of Ukraine." She noted that Putin "did not anticipate... the degree to which the United States and its allies and partners would take steps to undermine his capacity to mitigate Western actions" with the sanctions imposed nor "the pullback from Russia initiated by non-state actors in the private sectors."
She added that U.S. officials assess that Putin "feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference and perceives this is a war he cannot afford to lose" but suggested that what Putin "might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time, given the significant costs he is incurring."
For example, "Fitch Ratings cut its credit ratings on Russia further into junk territory and warned that Moscow was likely to default on its debts shortly. The ratings company slashed its rating on Russia by six notches to a single-C grade, near the bottom of its scale, less than a week after downgrading the country from investment-grade status. Fitch’s action reflects the rapid collapse in Russia’s creditworthiness since it invaded Ukraine. Russia was judged investment-grade by all three major credit-rating companies as recently as Feb. 26... Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings have both already undertaken two rounds of downgrades and rate Russia at Ca and CCC-, respectively."
Yesterday, Thomas Friedman warned how dangerous it is that Putin has no good way out. "We haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until Putin fully grasps that his only choices left in Ukraine are how to lose-- early and small and a little humiliated or late and big and deeply humiliated. I can’t even wrap my mind around what kind of financial and political shocks will radiate from Russia-- this country that is the world’s third-largest oil producer and possesses some 6,000 nuclear warheads-- when it loses a war of choice that was spearheaded by one man, who can never afford to admit defeat. Why not? Because Putin surely knows that 'the Russian national tradition is unforgiving of military setbacks,' observed Leon Aron, a Russia expert at the American Enterprise Institute, who is writing a book about Putin’s road to Ukraine."
In the coming weeks it will become more and more obvious that our biggest problem with Putin in Ukraine is that he will refuse to lose early and small, and the only other outcome is that he will lose big and late. But because this is solely his war and he cannot admit defeat, he could keep doubling down in Ukraine until … until he contemplates using a nuclear weapon.
Why do I say that defeat in Ukraine is Putin’s only option, that only the timing and size is in question? Because the easy, low-cost invasion he envisioned and the welcome party from Ukrainians he imagined were total fantasies-- and everything flows from that.
Putin completely underestimated Ukraine’s will to be independent and become part of the West. He completely underestimated the will of many Ukrainians to fight, even if it meant dying, for those two goals. He completely overestimated his own armed forces. He completely underestimated President Biden’s ability to galvanize a global economic and military coalition to enable Ukrainians to stand and fight and to devastate Russia at home-- the most effective U.S. coalition-building effort since George H.W. Bush made Saddam Hussein pay for his folly of seizing Kuwait. And he completely underestimated the ability of companies and individuals all over the world to participate in, and amplify, economic sanctions on Russia-- far beyond anything governments initiated or mandated.
When you get that many things wrong as a leader, your best option is to lose early and small. In Putin’s case that would mean withdrawing his forces from Ukraine immediately; offering a face-saving lie to justify his “special military operation,” like claiming it successfully protected Russians living in Ukraine; and promising to help Russians’ brethren rebuild. But the inescapable humiliation would surely be intolerable for this man obsessed with restoring the dignity and unity of what he sees as the Russian motherland.
...There is simply no pathway that I see for Putin to win in Ukraine in any sustainable way because it simply is not the country he thought it was-- a country just waiting for a quick decapitation of its “Nazi” leadership so that it could gently fall back into the bosom of Mother Russia.
So either he cuts his losses now and eats crow-- and hopefully for him escapes enough sanctions to revive the Russian economy and hold onto power-- or faces a forever war against Ukraine and much of the world, which will slowly sap Russia’s strength and collapse its infrastructure.
As he seems hellbent on the latter, I am terrified. Because there is only one thing worse than a strong Russia under Putin-- and that’s a weak, humiliated, disorderly Russia that could fracture or be in a prolonged internal leadership turmoil, with different factions wrestling for power and with all of those nuclear warheads, cybercriminals and oil and gas wells lying around.
Putin’s Russia is not too big to fail. It is, however, too big to fail in a way that won’t shake the whole rest of the world.