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PARADIGM SHIFT | There is no leader to keep President Putin in check 

DR. ALAND MIZELL

THE West failed present a united front in the face of a Russian power grab in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. Putin thinks he can get what he wants by showing off his muscles because that is how strongmen did things in the last century with their authoritative political rule, such as Mao Zedong or Fidel Castro. Under Putin’s leadership Russia has expanded from the Baltic states through Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Syria, the Middle East, Venezuela, and now Ukraine  Known primarily for its Kremlin, vodka, rich literature, and Matryoshka dolls, Russia has been rallied to a point where the country has effectively challenged Western and American leadership. This is all happening because of the absence of good leadership in the West,including in the United States. As the United States itself has withdrawn its historical role from some of these regions in the years under the administrations of both Barak Obama and Donald Trump, now Putin is essentially telling the West and NATO that these regions are under his sphere of influence so others should keep their hands off; in other words, I have full authority and capability to intervene here in whatever way I want. President Obama’s pivot to Asia policy and his leaving the Middle East were geopolitical gifts to President Putin. By withdrawing its influence from these areas, Obama left a power vacuum.

President Biden came into power wanting to follow Obama’s policy, focusing on the rising power of China, but President Putin has halted those plans. That is not to say that the US should not take the threat of China seriously. China is a real menace to American interests, but what I am saying is that this is part of the ongoing pattern in which the USA gets distracted by tensions elsewhere, such as on its own border or in Syria, while China is building itself into an economic and military superpower. 

Perhaps separately but in tandem, President Trump and the Democratic Party boosted the ego of President Putin, stroking his self-importance and self-conceit while simultaneously losing the charisma of the United States. The former constantly touted what he perceived to be Putin’s virtues. Meanwhile, for more than four years the Democrats repeatedly came up with evidence that President Putin was meddling in the United States’ elections. The composite of these two forces weakened the image of the US, revealing its flaws and, in particular, casting the country as one so weak that it cannot even deal with Russia’s interference, both its overt and covert influence in the elections. Because it was generally understood that the Russian Presidentauthorized his government organizations to act in such ways to influence American perceptions, his public persona became  very powerful. In March 2021, the National Intelligence Council, under Biden’s presidency, assessed foreign threats to US federal elections and concluded, among other findings, that Putin’s proxies pushed narratives against Biden and for Trump in the 2020 elections. The American icon of “saving others” became more tarnished.

Also, of course, far leftist protests increasingly declared war on America and its values, including rule of law, chiefly denigrating the police and using statistics and tragic stories to fuel the flames of disorder, leading to a reactive invasion of Capitol Hill. These scenes played out on American networks, chiseling away at America’s image of being strong and leaving the world with a picture of the superpower as weak and unable to manage its own affairs, thereby encouraging Putin and others to invade neighboring countries. Presumably to reclaim a former empire, as he recalls the Soviet Union, and to cement his legacy, Putin has amassed military equipment, large numbers of troops, and even medical units to the border of Ukraine. Reportedly, he has gathered 100,000 troops near its eastern and southern borders.

Not only is America no longer policing the world, but America, with Sleepy Joe at the helm, is demonstrating its weakness, most spectacularly in its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan that caused a great  shock around the world, especially in Asia, in Eastern Europe, and in the Middle East. Many nations realized that relying on the West to recover is hopeless. This reality will be the biggest loss in the 21st century for America and other Western powers. Now, we see that a similar scenario is materializing in Ukraine. 

The West and NATO have been divided on how to respond to President Putin’s threat. The newly minted German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wants, will visit President Biden in hopes of being “united and decisive” if Russia invades, and he wants to go Moscow to talk to Putin. The Turkish President, Recip Erdogan, said that it would be “unwise” for Russia to invade and that Turkey would do what is necessary as a NATO member, even offering to mediate between Ukraine and Russia. He went to Kiev and signed several  agreements, including a trade agreement with a possible drone factory in Ukraine. He assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that as a member of NATO, Turkey would support his country, but last year Ankara purchased a missile system from Russia in spite of NATO’s warning that the deal would destabilize security. If NATO and the West have a clear stance and want to help Ukraine, they should also commit to whether or not they will make Ukraine a member of NATO. If they plan to invite Ukraine to join NATO, then they should begin the process and immediately ally fully behind Ukraine. However, the US and Europe are provoking all front countries against Russia. Yet, Russia is taking full advantage of the West’s disunity and insecurity in pursuingits new expansion and aggression.

The Ukraine crisis is not limited to the conflict with Russia and its defense efforts or only with Putin‘s desire to invade. It is part of a much bigger game, a vaster and longer lasting fight. Russia, which invaded Crimea  and annexed eastern Ukraine, is trying to solidify its position in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe. Russia will likely not go to war with Ukraine because the invasion will not help Russia, but at some point Russia will divide eastern Ukraine and will take full control of it, and the West will not protect Ukraine against Russia at all costs. It will give some support but then abandon Zelenskiy. 

President Putin is convinced that Russia is defending its vital interests in Ukraine, while the West believes it is defending its own principles. If Putin goes to war with the Ukraine, he will make one of the greatest mistake in his political life because now days war does not help any nation.it will help America’s and the West’s economic plan If Russia moved in to conquer Ukraine, then the West would help Ukraine to start guerrilla warfare against the Russians, using the Ukrainian resistance fighters to bring bloodshed to invading Russians, and once Russian deaths increased, the public would rise against the Putin for going to war with Ukraine because many Russians already do not support Putin going to war with Ukraine. Putin will also open other fronts like Syria, the Middle East, and Chechnya.

I think that President Putin’s goal is to make the West and America listen to “Russia” and realize that the Russia is a very powerful country. It has a new confidence that has tapped into the language of the former Soviet Union. What we have is an economic war going on around the world. Russia sells gas to Europe, and if there is war, Russia cannot sell the gas, handing off to America to be an alternative source of gas for Europe. Consequently, I do not think Russia will go to war with Ukraine, but if Putin proceeds, then when Russian casualties rise, the West will establish sanctions against the country, and war will not be cheap causing economic loss as well as lives. Military spending would worsen the socio-economic plight of Russians, who are already suffering, and possibly cause Putin to lose control and his opposition to start protests that would push Russia into political chaos that could impact other countries in the region.  Plato is credited with the observation, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Our leaderless world awaits to see how much Putin loves Russia’s earlier days. 

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the MCI, SETBI and is a regular Mindanao Times columnist. You may e-mail the author at aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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