There has been a wide range of attempts to pathologize Russian president Vladimir Putin to explain the Ukraine war. It is surprising that otherwise rational and highly educated observers assume that the Russian system suddenly operates without an elaborate strategy.
Putin’s Russia has always been similar in its geostrategic behavior to the former Soviet Union, i.e. calculating and cynical. Now these analysts seem to believe that President Putin has suddenly undergone some kind of metamorphosis and become a so-called “madman”. Does President Putin have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) as has been alleged? The reason these “diagnoses” are put forward as explanations for the war is that those analysts simply do not understand why Russia is trying to conquer Ukraine. Certainly, personality disorders do not debut in the late sixties and personality disorders are also an insufficient explanation for the simple reason that not every person with NPD or ASPD is a monster, demon or devil although some surely are.
Russia and China have for the past decades been busy building their gargantuan military machines. They diplomatically pretend to be “friends” but both are keenly aware of the looming conflict between them over Siberia and Central Asia. China has for thousands of years expanded by means of Han colonization and still does so in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Both know that the gargantuan natural resources of the almost uninhabited Siberia are irresistible for China and both are building their military machines for future confrontation. China however is geostrategically very patient and never acts rashly. Russia has been building its military machine for the purpose of first taking over Europe to gain the economic strength to be able to build the kind of military power that will be able to defend Siberia against China.
What then about Ukraine, did not Russia militarily miscalculate? Yes, but the United States miscalculated in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is very common in ground wars that things do not work out as expected. There is no doubt that the GRU has a very detailed invasion plan for Europe. While Russia may potentially test the waters in the Baltic states, the most likely next target is Poland which Russia will invade after it has conquered Ukraine. Poland is the way to Germany, France and the United Kingdom and then Europe will lie at the feet of Russia. That at least is the Russian plan. There is reason to believe that Russia will use tactical nuclear weapons against a NATO country (probably Poland) and Putin no doubt fully expects that the “weak” Biden will not respond in kind. Russia is fully aware that it has a time window of three years to conquer Europe before undoubtedly Donald Trump returns to the White House in January 2025. Russia is convinced that it can deter the isolationist Biden administration by means of using tactical nuclear weapons to compel him to abandon his European NATO allies.
What then about Putin’s rhetoric and writings? These are mere psychological warfare propaganda designed to frighten Europe and cow it into submission and refrain from resisting Russian aggression. The purpose is also to create an impression that Russia is only interested in Ukraine when in fact Ukraine for Russia is merely what Czechoslovakia was for Nazi Germany, the beginning of a much larger war of imperial conquest.
What then about the international sanctions against Russia and the collapse of the ruble? Russian intelligence is highly sophisticated and surely anticipated this. This is a natural transition to a war economy. However, what is far more worrying for the Russian leadership is that the Russian military has been revealed to be incompetent and inefficient. This suggests that the Russian conquest of Europe will not be the clinical Blitzkrieg that the GRU expected but will rather be long and gruesome.
Europe finds itself in the most dangerous situation since 1939. EU governments would be particularly well-advised to immediately form a unified European military.