Putin’s Endgame to End All Endgames

Russian state television, aka the official propaganda wing of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, is openly “advising” Putin (whose official message this is) that “the time has come for us to hold drills for practising scenarios in which Russian tactical nuclear weapons are used,” on the pretext that “We will soon be issued with a direct nuclear ultimatum from Nato [sic].” 

In other words, just as Putin’s propaganda machine used allegations of a “Nazi” threat in the Ukrainian government as a pretext for invading that sovereign country, so now the official line is that NATO is about to use “nuclear blackmail” against Russia, thereby necessitating preemptive or defensive measures to protect the Russian people against this direct aggression from the West. It is self-evident that this is one hundred percent poppycock, and that the Russian propagandists are simply playing out scenarios concocted in their own imaginations (or rather their leader’s), fighting an imaginary optics war for the eyes of the Russian people, who are never supposed to see what their government really is, and what it is really doing.

In short, Russia, in desperation and about to suffer the most humiliating military defeat since the United States scurried away from the Taliban like the frightened rats they have all too often turned out to be, is ramping up its doomsday solution for saving face — at the expense of destroying itself and everyone else — by starting a nuclear war in Europe, while pretending that they are merely responding to supposed provocations.

If you watch Fox News, you will of course hear the opposite interpretation, namely the Kremlin’s, from the friendly fellow travelers on Tucker’s Traitor Hour, with his usual band of expertikov guests, from sultry-voiced Aloha Rose to Colonel “We’re done for, we’re done for” MacGorgon.

And no, this does not justify the fashionable talking head resolution of the moment, namely to stop helping Ukraine win, lest we make Putin desperate. This is unfortunately the situation that the world has created with its decades of enabling Putin’s tyranny. You cannot solve such an immediate problem by covering your head with a pillow and hoping it goes away. God knows the West has experimented with that method long enough to write a research paper on its ineffectiveness. It is time to face the music and deal with the threat, ugly as that prospect might be. If you willingly ignore your cancer until it is in stage four, you have no one to blame but yourself. Putin is on the march to expand Russian territory westward, and the only way to stop him is to stop him. Let Ukraine stop him, or rather help them do it. 

“Not our war,” say the populists and libertarians. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, “Not our war yet.” Understanding that fact, the proper question is why wait until it becomes your war, and a far more universal and terrifying war at that, if the means to nip the inevitable in the bud are right there in front of you? 

“But China is the real enemy,” say the Putin apologists, who were never willing to do a damn thing about China either, and won’t be in the future. Fine. But what lesson is China learning right now? And what lesson, by contrast, would they learn if America and the West backed away now in order not to upset Putin too much?

There is no good solution, because the West has spent the past thirty years frittering away whatever was left of its principles, its moral high ground, its practical wisdom, and its sheer will to survive in any way more meaningful than as spiritually hollowed-out slaves seeking comfort through compliance. But there is certainly a worst outcome, and the populists, libertarians, and Putin apologists seem hellbent on willing that outcome into reality through their self-serving avoidance of realities they prefer, for their various reasons, not to see.

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