By Rich Kozlovich
Okay, I'm going to cover what I've been reading regarding the Russo/Ukrainian War in this piece, but I'm going to go back in time and lay more foundation, and I think my six rules about understanding geopolitics, which blend naturally, are essential in such a discussion.
- My First Rule of Geopolitics: All geopolitics is about geographics, demographics and economics.
- My Second Rule of Geopolitics: Everything is about the basics.
- My Third Rule of Geopolitics: History is everything.
- My Fourth Rule of Geopolitics: People are like nations, and will act in their own best interests, unless they don't.
- My Fifth Rule of Geopolitics: Nothing is ever as it appears. Look behind the curtain.
- My Sixth Rule of Geopolitics: Everyone lies.
There's been all this talk about Putin using nuclear arms in his war with Ukraine. Initially I thought that was never going to happen. Then as the war turned against Putin, I thought maybe he will use them in a small strategic way. Then, as it got worse, I began to think if Putin's rationalized using them in a small way he might adopt the mentality, "in for a dime in for a dollar", and go all out, although even China and India, which are considered allies of a sort, have warned against such an action.
One of the things I wrote about 10 years ago or so was Russia's very real and primary problem. Demographics! Russia believes it has seven defensive gaps it must maintain, and two of them were around Ukraine. Ten years ago they only had the manpower to maintain three of them. At that time it was estimated by 2040 ethnic Russians may well be a minority in their own country, and strange is it sounds, I think Putin loves Russia and wants to save Russia. But there's the rub.
There's a reason they call Russia "Mother Russia". In the United States you've never heard the terms Father America, or Mother America because in America the people are America, and America is the people. In Russia they don't have that mentality, and most assuredly Putin most certainly doesn't have that mentality now, and Russian rulers never have going back to Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Russia, as a land and a nation is what's sacred, and the people merely have the privilege of occupying that nation, and would be used as they saw fit.
That's what Putin loves, Russia, not the people of Russia. We find that kind of thinking to be totally alien to us, and that's why we make so many mistakes in dealing with Russia, and China for that matter, as their leaders have much the same mentality.
“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.” Joseph Stalin
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1991, the collapse of the Warsaw pact, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and long before Putin came to power the Russian leadership knew it needed Ukraine to be part of Russia in some form for a number of reasons, but the number one reason was demographics. Russia's demographic decline is dramatic and with so many fleeing Russia to avoid conscription, it's worse than ever. They're allegedly planning a new push, which I don't think will happen, and in order to meet their needs they've been using non-Slavic migrants. But the fact remains their army is demoralized, ill trained, ill equipped, and worse yet, led by an incompetent corrupt military hierarchy.
Napoleon once noted:
In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.
If that's true, and considering he fought and won more battles over more diverse terrain than anyone in history, I think we can be assured it is. That can only mean one thing. Any future Russian initiatives will be in trouble.
Ukrainians and Russians are of the same Slavic ethnic stock, and the Russian leadership at the collapse of the Soviet Union, attempted to form a "New Soviet Union" out of the 15 former Soviet Republics, but they didn't desire to have the non-Slavic nations become more powerful in this "New Soviet Union", so they needed Ukraine. Yeltsin, a typical communist thug, thought they could intimidate all these Republics into agreeing to this new "looser" tyranny, but they needed a Slavic Ukraine to agree to this new tyranny. While President George H.W. Bush tried to persuade Ukraine to accept this new union, they didn't. All the threats backfired.
"Bush delivered his infamous “Chicken Kiev” speech as a result, hoping to prevent Ukraine from pulling out. “Freedom is not the same as independence,” Bush lectured the Ukrainian parliament. “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism.” The irony of the speech was sharp: a U.S. president was actively trying to prolong the existence of the country that had been, until recently, the United States’ greatest foe."
So, with Ukraine refusing to join Yeltsin's "new and improved" Soviet Union, he realized other republics would do the same, so, what to do? All of a sudden Moscow and Washington were allies, what in the world would cause such a scenario?
Ukraine had a massive stock pile of nuclear arms, the third largest stockpile in the world with 1,900 nuclear warheads and 2,500 tactical nuclear arms, large uranium deposits. They also had a large technical and production capacity to manufacture such missiles. In fact every one of the ballistic missiles delivered to Cuba in 1962 were manufactured in the Ukraine. There were also nuclear arms in Belarus and Kazakhstan, and in short, and according to Secretary of State Jim Baker, that amounted to:
“A Yugoslavia-type situation with 30,000 nuclear weapons presents an incredible danger to the American people—and they know it and will hold us accountable if we don’t respond.”
The last thing the U.S. wanted was more nuclear armed independent nations and no one controlling the switch, so they supported Ukraine giving up their nuclear arms to Russia, even offering....sort of....some kind of NATO assurances, which the Russians would have never agreed to. We'll come back to that.
What followed? Negotiations, lot's of negotiations!
They argued over denuclearization, Crimea, the Soviet Black Sea fleet, financial compensation, formal recognition of Ukraine’s borders, security guarantees, and eventually what followed was what has been called the Budapest Memorandum, where if Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons they would get "assurances" for their territorial integrity. No "guarantees", just assurances, and the Russians agreed to that!!!
That's important to remember. Secretary of State Baker agreed not to expand NATO, but that agreement was with the "Soviet Union". It no longer exists. "Russia" made "assurances" to honor Ukraine's borders, that agreement still exists.
So, after all the bickering and bargaining why did Ukraine agree to this? They were broke, badly broke. They signed away much to avoid isolation and bankruptcy. While this agreement, now signed by Bill Clinton, seemed like a triumphant moment as a final end to the cold war, and peace in Europe, the Ukrainian government had no delusions about Russian compliance with any agreement, but this agreement gave them time!!!
Also, Yeltsin made it clear they would never accept Ukraine joining NATO, which shocked Clinton, effectively ending the Partnership for Peace initiative, but efforts to expand NATO went ahead.
That's important to remember.
As for the Ukraine government, it went it's merry corrupt way, and the consequences of only having assurances of their border security and independence has now come to fruition, all of which the Russians understood all during those negotiations. And what exactly did Russia understand? Ukraine belongs to Russia, and nothing must stand in the way.
All this clabber about how Putin had to attack because of NATO expansion, and their need for "much-needed strategic depth" justified this invasion as "an act of premeditated self-defense." That is nothing but a load of horsepucky.
- Russia Was Scared, So They Had to Attack Ukraine! Part I
- Russia Was Scared So They Had to Attack Ukraine, Part II
So, will Putin resort to nuclear war? As I said, Putin loves Russia, but cares little for the Russian people. But he has to know if he resorts to nuclear war, he will have destroyed Ukraine, and he will have failed in his primary objective, that being gaining the Ukraine population. In the course of this he has seriously undermined his own demographics, as he's probably lost up to 200,000 young Russians, he cannot possibly rebuild the Ukraine's infrastructure and cities he's destroyed, since he's broke. If he wins, he loses.
Also, Putin must be convinced the west will retaliate with nuclear weapons. He lives in a bubble of isolation, hearing only what he wants to hear, and what he wants to hear is what he believes, and anyone who detracts from his "visions" is eliminated. All the upper military ranks in Russia are nothing but Putin's yes men, flunkies and sycophants. So, I'm not convinced Putin believes that.
However, I do believe Putin knows if all these failures continue to mount, he's personally doomed. If he's overthrown, it won't be a kind overthrow as it was with Khrushchev, who didn't play the monster role Stalin did while in power, which is what I think saved him.
Putin has been vile, and modern Russian history is replete with coups and the violent elimination of political opponents, and I'm of the opinion there's a Colonel
Claus von Stauffenberg cabal within the Russian military. If he
attempts to go nuclear, I think that may well trigger a coup.