Sitting at the bar in Habana and sipping on my mojito, I watched the spinning ceiling fan keeping time with the subdued Cuban music. An older gentleman to my right was doing his best to convince a married woman that her relationship with her husband would be enhanced if she only consented to begin one with him. To my left a solitary man in a suit stared at his old fashioned, contemplating some inner demons. The bartender seemed affable enough to all of his parishioners, but he had that distant look in his eyes suggesting he was living in some undefinable future.
This scene reminded me that all human relations, especially international human relations, have motivations that may be secret, undefined, or even irrational. Look long enough, though, and a relative predictability begins to emerge…
…except in the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa… those places are seriously disturbing. This discussion, though, is on a far more understandable geographic region: Eastern Europe
and, more specifically, Ukraine.
As you all know… because the Biden Administration demands you know, Vlad the Putin has amassed his army on the border of Ukraine. He did this a number of months ago, and the fear of an invasion rose gently, but not dramatically.
Then Biden was forced to look at his poll numbers and come to the realization that his creepy whispering campaign, his dismissal of reporters, his Afghanistan withdrawal, inflation, supply chain disruption, the border crisis, increases in crime, etc., etc., etc., were threatening his presidency.
The typical solution: Look to foreign threats to distract and scare the population at home.
Vlad, with his boys and girls running exercises on the border of Ukraine, was everything he needed. After all, Trump became president because of Russia meddling. Putin sees the dissolution of the USSR as a catastrophe, and one could assume he wants to build it back again. (At least, that is what the Administration, as well as their publicity division, the legacy media, wants us to believe; international media does not necessarily paint the same agenda.) To a limited extent this is kind of personal for Sandy, Carolyn, and myself. Chaney is in Latvia right now a few miles from the Russian border. She is a double major at West Point: Defense Strategic Studies, as well as Russian. This semester she is stationed in Latvia doing a complete Russian immersion program. If Vlad decides to march into Ukraine, there is the real possibility of a second simultaneous action by Belarus (under Russian direction) moving into the Baltic Republics.
So, for us this is not purely academic.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
Putin has a calculus to deal with. When he first began amassing troops on the border in the fall, there was little likelihood of an imminent invasion. Far better to wait for the permafrost to settle in around February or March to allow for easier movement of heavy armor.
Well… here we are.
One thing Putin realizes is that the United States, more specifically the Biden Administration, needs this conflict more than he does. Even Ukraine realizes this as they screamed at the Biden Administration to tone down their rhetoric (not normal for a country that is theoretically about to be invaded).
Vlad’s original calculus was to be paid (literally) by the Biden Administration to move the troops back towards the Russian interior so President Biden could wave a piece of paper in the air and declare “peace in our time”, explaining to the American people why his brand of diplomacy was so much more effective than… ”the other guy”.
It may be that Putin is reevaluating his position though.
He is well aware of Biden’s longevity, and the longevity of the Democratic Party in the United States. He’s maybe looking at this as being a legitimate opportunity to gain some real estate. The most dangerous person in the world is a weak leader, for he can spur cataclysmic conflicts.
Joe Biden has proven himself to be the “most dangerous man in the world”.