Russia’s war against Ukraine may have been started with some intentions – blitzkrieg, quick victory due to alleged military superiority, lack of resistance, and weak weapons.
Moscow may have planned an operation aimed exclusively at military sites. If the Russians believe that they are one nation with the Ukrainians, waiting to be liberated by the “selling elite” that rules, it is likely that they planned to be cautious and precise. It is possible that everything went wrong, the operation failed, the resistance was unexpectedly powerful and effective, the Ukrainians refused to be released, the West supplied the necessary weapons, and the operation degenerated into a full-scale war involving civilian targets and casualties, either to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to seek peace, or to demonstrate determination and a reckless will to win.
However, some signs suggest that the operation was conceived from the beginning as a full-scale and protracted war. The puzzling actions of the Russian military (the limited use of aircraft, the ridiculous 60-kilometer tank column that never went into battle, and the lack of decisive offensives against Kyiv and Kharkiv) suggest that Russia was in no hurry to win.
Putting Ukraine, and through it, both Europe and the West, at war is an essential goal in itself. The war, as a lasting, hitherto unthinkable status quo, disrupted 77 years of peace in Europe. War crimes, shootings, rapes, and tortures create a disgusting image of the Russian military, but at the same time play the role of a time machine, returning Europe and the West to supposedly irrevocably past epochs. It is possible that Putin and his strategists initially aimed at staging the war as a new status quo, pre-modern authenticity, a pre-virtual reality in which the human reveals itself in its immutable baseness. War is a grim conservative challenge to all democratic and liberal inertia; it renders meaningless the ideas of progress, civilization, justice, and law.
So war is both an ideal and truth about human nature, according to Putin and his security forces. But even if it has spiraled out of control, it is now functionalizing all participants and making it increasingly difficult to stop. Deliberately sought after as a permanent condition or structural effect of unforeseen circumstances, war is now more important than the causes, preconditions, and goals pursued through it. From the continuation of politics by other means, it becomes an end in itself and self-sufficiency, which abolishes politics, diplomacy, and dialogue, or at least postpones them indefinitely.
Therefore, it no longer matters whether the development of the war is an unexpected or a sought-after effect: Ukraine, and through it, Europe and the West, are put by Russia into a protracted war in which the expulsion and killing of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure turn into an unwanted collateral strategic goal.
In the same way, it no longer matters what Putin and his entourage intended to take: all of Ukraine, eastern and southern Ukraine, or just the secession and eventual accession of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Why Russia stood behind Putin, why Europe and the West united in support of Ukraine, why we and Hungary are closest to the world outside the West, which remained indifferent, if not sympathetic to the Russian aggressor – this also remains secondary.
Did Russia’s ruling circles initially aim to initiate a rift between the West and the rest of the world by leading an uprising against an already anachronistic world order imposed by the West and the United States; whether Putin hoped to create a rift within the West as well, whether he relied on the support of anti-liberal, conservative and anti-democratic forces in Western societies and institutions, or whether he envisioned their unification and consolidation, which in turn allowed him to, in addition to the fate of the oligarchs and Russian accounts in foreign banks, to update the mantra of the West as hypocritical, false and even violating the sanctity of private property – this is also currently a secondary issue. Whether he intended to blackmail China into choosing a country through this war, whether he sought to deepen the rift between the United States and China, whether he dreamed of a multipolar world – probably, but that’s not so important. The important thing is that the war has entered a phase in which the winner will be determined by the West, and it seems inevitable that he will not be Russia.
This war is strange. Russia is attacking Ukraine, which it previously claimed to be historically and spiritually Russian, but has sold its soul and body to the devil in the West. From a Russian perspective, it is waging a civil war, something between the North and the South, except that here the South is punished for choosing the West, and the North presents itself as the primordial East, the savior of the Western West, as in its authentic pre-Americanized version. Ukrainians are said to be under attack because of the degenerate nationalism of some of their elites and military, but this is a blatantly false pretext. They have been attacked for their betrayal and infidelity: for betraying Russia with the West. Russia’s war is in fact against the West, but it is possible precisely insofar as it presents itself as a war against Ukraine, as the latter is not yet formally part of the West.
An even greater irony is that Russia is at loggerheads with its southern neighbor after Russia and the West persuaded Ukraine in the 1990s to hand over its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal to Russia in exchange for Western and Russian guarantees. Ukraine cannot help but feel cheated by Russia and deceived by the West. However, she chose to oppose, relying on the West. Indeed, initially, Zelensky and his entourage urged the West to intervene more actively, to close Ukraine’s airspace, and get involved. To wage war in the West with its weapons, but without its people, provided they do not allow themselves into its structures and institutions, is a bitter irony that Zelenski pointed out. Other Ukrainian politicians have more openly argued that the thesis of preventing a third world war is untenable because it is already a fact.
Until a month ago, the development of the war gave indications that Putin seemed inclined to lower his stakes, that he was looking for a way out of life that he could present for domestic use as defeated. At the time, the West and the United States could be expected to encourage Ukraine to allow Putin to step down as a sham winner, such as ceding areas partially to separatists in 2014 to preserve both his country’s integrity and infrastructure.
But this did not happen: Ukraine stopped insisting on open involvement of the West but instead took on the role of a “proxy” of the West in its war against Russia. And Putin, Lavrov, Austin, Blinken, and even von der Leyen are getting harder and harder. The West and especially the United States have taken the position of God the Father towards Ukraine. To the protest question of the Ukrainians “Lama, Lama, sabakhtans ?! God, why did you leave me ?!” and at the request of being spared the bitter cup, the West and the United States promise us no more, no less resurrection, as long as Ukraine endures with dignity the whole of Via Dolorosa and Golgotha.
Moreover, through armaments, her resistance increases, and her suffering and agony increase. Ukraine accepted its bitter share in response to a promise of resurrection from above (the EU rather than NATO). She agreed to be the human, infrastructural, territorial proxy agent of the war between Russia and the West. The West’s current goal is to show Russia through Ukraine that the latter has no chance in a conventional war against Western weapons and that it is economically insolvent. And the West is about to succeed.
But what follows from this?
Two scenarios are possible. The first is that once Russia is shown to be uncompetitive in conventional warfare, Ukraine will still be forced to accept defeat or, if it refuses, abandoned by the West to allow Russia a victorious outcome. From the very beginning, Radev also predicted a Russian victory. That is why I call on Lavrov and Karaganov to suggest neutrality as a national interest, which already implies leaving NATO in pursuance of Putin’s ultimatum from December.
The current cries of Lavrov and Putin to the West to stop arming Ukraine are indicative. They are de facto pleading for what Radev did: the West should let them defeat Ukraine after they have already learned their lesson. Because if they are not left, they will be forced to resort to the second scenario.
Austin, Blinken, and Biden are currently gravitating towards him. He suggests going all the way, which will mean that Russia will be defeated by Ukraine, ie. from Western conventional weapons, as well as from sanctions. If this happens, a development that may have been initially pursued by the Russian side may have been envisioned as possible, and may have been admitted as a lifeline from a possible negative development of the war is becoming more and more inevitable.
This is not World War III. This is to avoid it by inflicting a tactical nuclear strike. He, of course, will not be against Ukraine: that would humiliate Russia. It is more likely to be inflicted on a European country on the periphery of NATO and the EU. The first goal will be for the West to force Ukraine to accept some form of defeat: territorial and political concessions, neutrality, etc. The second goal would be to prove the insolvency of Article 5 of NATO’s charter: Russia believes that neither the United States nor nuclear countries NATO would dare to reciprocate. The tactical nuclear strike against a weak link in the alliance is increasingly crystallizing as the only alternative to Russia’s military, economic and political collapse in the war against Ukraine. He will warn the West that Russia is ready to go all the way. Thus, both scenarios suggest that Russia be given a victorious outcome.
From the very beginning of the war, Western Russologists have insisted that Putin be given a decent outcome. However, their proposals sounded like wishful thinking: they would have believed that Russia was pursuing rational goals, economic (secession of the energy-valuable Donbas and Luhansk, the Azov and the Black Sea coasts) rather than ideological (restoration of imperialism). Russia, the inclusion of all Russian-speaking on the road to eventual Eurasia). But from the very beginning of the war, Russian political scientists close to the Kremlin, such as Karaganov in interviews with The New Statesman and Corriere della Sera, did not hide what Lavrov admits today: that for Russian elites this is an existential war against the West. ed. The war is likely to lead to a nuclear inevitability if the West does not abandon Ukraine at an earlier stage precisely because of fears of escalation.
At present, however, it seems that the West, and especially the United States, is showing a growing determination to help Ukraine win on the conventional front, knowing that they are pushing Russia into a tactical nuclear strike. For the United States, such development has a significant benefit: a tactical nuclear strike, allegedly against a former satellite, would permanently discredit Russia and allow the West to attract significant players from the non-Western world, as well as deal with domestic anti-liberal opposition.
Russia, for its part, is behaving suspiciously unconvincingly on the conventional battlefield. She would naturally prefer to be left to defeat him, but if that doesn’t happen, the war and escalation will be the “only way out.” Russia started this war to restore and establish its position as a great power in the world. However, it does not appear to be capable of gaining this status conventionally.
If a great power in terms of current indicators has not been like that for a long time, what is left for it? After Yeltsin’s chaos and decline in the 1990s, Putin returned Russia to fifth place in GDP in 2000, but the country has been down since the financial crisis and is now 11th behind Italy, Canada, and South Korea in terms of GDP. half of Britain and France and slightly below that of Texas, a state that is not even the first state in the United States.
What is left of a country that is weaker than its adversary in everything, including conventional war? What is left for the former great power, longing for revenge for its humiliation and catharsis from its tempting infiltration of the despised and repulsive West? It would have foreseen its failure in the conventional war, which is directly dependent on the economic, managerial, and organizational potential of the country. Russia is unequal in all but one thing – nuclear weapons. Her only chance to keep up with the power of the day is to resort to tactical nuclear weapons.
But here we come to the most important thing: Russia’s failure to prove itself as a great power in a conventional way has not only put it in the role of a world pariah; resorting to tactical nuclear weapons will automatically throw Russia into the role of a global suicide terrorist: not a gas station, but a church with nuclear missiles.
As a rule, the suicide bomber carries out his assassination attempt to attract attention, to make his cause and justice audible and visible to the public the world. Indeed, Russia, which we have stopped caring about for decades, has achieved this. We dusted off our Russian, but only to find that either the level of Russian political thought has not moved since the time of social propaganda, or that our thinking is already irreparably indoctrinated by the schemes and obviousness of the West, which seems to us the only capable to confess his sins and learn from them.
The suicide bomber directs his blow against the alleged adversary, but his determination is both in his willingness to die and in his willingness to sacrifice civilians, innocent and possibly “his own”: it is this radical recklessness that gives strength and persuasiveness to his shouting. Ukraine’s choice of its supposed land with its people fits into the implicitly terrorist scheme of the Russian war. The possible future victim of the tactical nuclear strike is also likely to be someone “own”, “close”, or “born”. Russia, like bin Laden’s Islamic terrorism, also insisted in the first place that “its lands” should not be desecrated by foreign forces, by NATO and Western presences. Of course, Russia’s motive is not religious in the narrow sense; however, it is deeply conservative and patriarchal, anti-liberal and anti-democratic, authoritarian, and state-civilizational.
So, the course of the war today is such that instead of regaining its status as a great power, Russia is increasingly being overthrown as a terrorist state. Whether it’s the effect of confusing plans or pre-calculated development, it doesn’t matter: Russia’s behavior is increasingly taking on the characteristics of suicide terrorism, the ineffectiveness of which is forcing it to escalate. It does not matter whether Russia’s transformation into a terrorist state has been calculated or is a structural effect of the country’s economic and organizational weakness.
A tactical nuclear strike, not followed by a reciprocal Western response, has some theoretical chance of achieving its goal – a quick end to the war, concessions to the peace talks, a crisis of liberalism and democracy both in the world shaken by the Western complex and within Western societies, where undemocratic and anti-liberal movements can be expected to rise, and right-wing populism are increasingly inspired by ideas akin to Russian criticism of the Western West, a radical overhaul of the rules of globalization, and so on.
However, the possible escalation is more likely to mean that the Russian side will embrace its role as a terrorist, ie. to abandon its ambitions to gather under its anti-liberal flag all those “humiliated” and “offended” by Western arrogance, Western economic, political and cultural expansionism. Even the most limited nuclear escalation is likely to force major countries that currently sympathize with Russia, such as China, India, South Africa, as well as Turkey, and Israel, to withdraw. However, globalization will be replaced by a multipolar world with relatively closed states-civilizations such as the United States, China, Russia, India, and Europe (which will have to unite in the United States).
Thus, Russia’s war against Ukraine, either as an intention or as a structural development, could lead Russia to become a world terrorist of its own accord. Putin, who, like bin Laden, has justified his war from the outset by complaining about the arrogance, hypocrisy, and injustice of the West, has no other useful move than that of the Church of the Nuclear Towers. Putin, the KGB officer cornered 33 years ago, is now enjoying the happy impasse that will allow him to use the nuclear dagger hidden in his shoe, to paraphrase Fleming’s “From Russia with Love.” It will be followed by the post-war hot peace of the states-civilizations.
The question remains who is the most likely candidate for such a tactical nuclear strike. From the terrorist’s perspective, this must be someone hostile and close, foreign and domestic, both in NATO and the EU, and with loose support from both. Poland is too big a bite, Hungary is, but Orbán is a partner and an important bar in the wheels of the EU. The country that owes two of its liberations to Russia, which has a hesitant government, a pro-Russian president, a pro-Russian ruling party, and another fiercely pro-Russian parliament, with 30% support for Putin’s Russia, is the ideal candidate from the perspective of a suicide bomber. . It is unlikely that Europe and the United States would retaliate against Russia if it hit us right. The West will swallow the blow against its shaky periphery and even reap the dividends: it will finally discredit Russia as a global terrorist.
The rule is not to negotiate with terrorists. However, if they cannot be simply destroyed, the West will give way in the name of world peace. Bulgaria, along with Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, northern Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro, is likely to be left to “choose” Russia. It is from this perspective that the President is urging us to embrace neutrality towards this war, which means neither more nor less to accept the suffocating embrace of Russian love.
But there is still an alternative to escalation and defeat of Ukraine. The terrorist is a hostage of a potentially sympathetic audience, of seductive public opinion. In Russia’s eyes, she has potentially more chances as an anti-Western radical terrorist than as a rebellious great power. Russia can try to ascribe a heroic halo through a combination of weakness and suicidal determination to go all the way, to bury loved ones with themselves, to incarnate in a new Medea.
It is existentially important for Russia that its complaints that it is threatened by a militarily, politically, economically, and culturally expansive West be heard and taken seriously. It doesn’t matter if they are real; the important thing is that they are intimately shared by the non-Western world: Shi Jinping and Erdogan have long been waging a cultural war against the superficial temptation of Western values and life forms. What Russia is advocating is the right to self-determination beyond its borders. But the real question is about the interpretation of borders. According to the Russian perspective, the larger a country is, the wider its borders should be. But this is an absurd claim coming from a country with common borders with China and separated from the United States by a Bering Strait.
The only chance for Russia to fail as a suicide bomber is to be deprived of a potentially sympathetic and supportive public. This means that Russia will be revealed right now as a secondary force that has degraded to a suicide bomber. There is no way a country with all of it can accept to be a neutral buffer of a terrorist state because the closer and potentially sympathetic it is, the more likely it is to become a victim.
Therefore, the way out today is for all countries with hesitant public opinion to recognize Russia as a weak terrorist state, ready to drag them to the grave. It also means stopping treating Russia as a rational player with legitimate pretensions and recognizing it as mad with ideology and a mania for greatness.
Publicly declaring Russia a terrorist state has a chance to change the attitudes of sympathetic or neutral governments. The West and the world are trying to stop paying attention to it, to be its audience, while helping Ukraine with all its might to win.
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