Our esteemed BQ gave an excellent account of how Putin must have totted up the scores before making his fateful move (BTL here). It all looked so promising: almost a no-brainer!
Clearly enough, seventeen days in, we can safely say he made at least three monstrous miscalculations: and I'm going to suggest a fourth
- he thought the Ukrainians wouldn't fight, such is his contempt for them (but instead he's got a re-run of Finland 1939-40 on his hands)
- his own troops would fight - at least to some basic standards (on which more below)
- Europe wouldn't react in any material fashion
Closely bound up with 3 is what I take to be his assumption that all European politicians understood the degree of Europe's dependence on fossil-fuel energy.
Well, as the man with possibly the world's biggest vested interest in fossil fuels, he knew that - so surely they did, too ..? Boy, was that wrong. Can we seriously imagine they'd all have rushed to support the kind of really quite striking responses we've seen, if they had half a clue just how bad our upcoming energy crisis is going to be? Maybe they did: maybe they knew they were staring down the barrel (pun intended), at very least of a re-run the 1973-4 Oil Crisis and all that followed, (but maybe even worse). Didn't really come across that way, though.
Instead, I think we may credit the Greens with having drummed it into empty heads that we don't need fossil fuels at all, really. As recently as Wednesday we read George Monbiot saying that, seeing how the USA came up with the atom bomb in 4 years, we can dispense with fossil fuels now in the same kind of timeframe. And there are people with a strong inclination to believe this crap, this utterly misleading analogy: you can see it peddled everywhere.
I can see only one simple & decisive way this could get resolved without deep & serious economic pain for Europe - via an energy crunch - and I'm not suggesting it's plausible for a nanosecond. It would be a putsch against Putin, and a new Russian regime that unilaterally restored the status quo ante. Then, however quickly / enthusiastically attempts were made to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, it wouldn't matter too much when it turns out to take decades rather than months.
Just very expensive.
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By the way, on the mystery of how badly the Russian military has been performing (and wow, what a disgrace on them: the sheer contempt Xi must be feeling. No lack of respect intended for the outstanding Ukrainian defiance, naturally) ... the Beeb interviewed what seemed to be a fairly ordinary Ukrainian front line soldier the other day. They asked him how the Russian were fighting. He replied, in English: "Like 1941 - only attack from front - make no manoeuvres".
This (which we have seen with our own eyes) is astounding stuff for an army with even the merest acquaintance with Red Army doctrine, which I certainly assumed they must have. Several days ago I summarised what we might have expected in that case (second part of this C@W piece). The essence of that whole offensive doctrine is summed up in the three must-haves the Red Army was based around: speed; firepower; manoeuvre. Well, I guess we saw a bit of haste, if not proper speed. The firepower is not really in doubt (though as noted before, they seem to have withheld their air force). But the complete absence of manoeuvre is just amazing. Because it's winter? FFS, that's what Russia specialises in! Because the terrain is mountainous? Not last time I looked. Because they only brought two-wheel drive family saloons? Plenty of perfectly adequate tracked vehicles in evidence, even if now charred wrecks smouldering on the tarmac. Because Russian soldiers don't like bumping along off-road? No, I suspect they'll do whatever they're told, at least for a few days & weeks.
Nope: it has to be down to very poor generalship - whatever crazy instructions they got from Putin. ("... and stay on the roads, comrades: take care not to drive across the fields ..." - Seriously??) Yes, that's a bit of a surprise.
PS: how about we try to avoid covid, hmm? BTL, that is - as well as out in the big wide world.