Many vital and strategically related events are going all but unnoticed or unmentioned by the mainstream media while we Americans and the rest of the world watch the unfolding events in Ukraine.
If we step back and view events impartially from a broad perspective and reflect, what would we know and what would we see?
Without a doubt, Ukraine’s resistance and geographic challenges have surprised Putin and his planners. It is widely understood that after first contact with the enemy, the massive planning sessions, PowerPoint presentations, predictions, and forecasts on what the enemy would do must be changed to adapt. Once the firing starts, only war’s brutality is capable of this slap in the face of reality. Putin, on the other hand, is nimble on the battlefield, and his command structure and capacity to adapt are far superior to those of the West, which wages limited wars by committees from the safety of bureaucratic cubicles and think tanks thousands of miles away. Russia is adapting.
The mobilization of reserves and soldiers from throughout Russia is an important event that demonstrates intent. How long will the conflict in Ukraine last? As long as it takes Putin to destabilize the country and seize everything. After only nine days of fighting, it’s becoming clearer what Putin plans to accomplish; the balance shifts in Putin’s favor after the Russian army enters and destroys Kyiv. When the power goes out, the internet goes down, and all contact with the outside world is lost or seriously hampered, Ukraine and its people will be left in the dark. Putin’s will to conquer won’t be found on Facebook, TikTok, or iMessage.
At this point, media commentators and a parade of government “experts” who declare Putin is insane, out of control, must be stopped, and so on are just like a candle in the wind. Putin is a KGB intelligence officer at his core, one who is extremely capable. He isn’t insane or out of his mind; he’s calculated and astute, always thinking on what he sees and making adjustments on the field as a result. He is surrounded by specialists that are mature and have a great deal of experience; he and his system are driven by timely intelligence from reliable sources. He is familiar with the United States, our government bureaucracy, and our systemic flaws; more importantly, he has had 50 years to observe how our current president and team would likely make choices, and he understands how to exploit weaknesses and avoid falling victim to our strengths. His knowledge and influence in Europe are equally impressive.
History is also important. We can look to Muscovy, the original name for the area that is now known as Moscow. After destroying Kyiv in 1240, a Mongol-Tatar force built a colony in the wetlands of north Rus lands. Moscow absorbed and created the Kyiv Rus legacy through centuries of misinformation and active measures; this ruse has been passed down across generations. History shows us that, for a long time, Russians have been killing Ukrainians.
In a recent conversation with Charles S. Faddis, the former chief of the CIA’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Unit, I was told that war is messy and can often quickly spiral out of control. Not the weapons themselves, but the lack of communication between the warring nations tends to be one of the deadliest components of war. Soldiers and civilians do not want to die, but things spiral out of control when those in charge fail to engage in meaningful dialogue with their adversaries. Faddis was able to shed some much-needed light onto the complexities of war.
When asked as to whether there were any similarities between what led up to the former world wars and this current conflict, Faddis stated, “Without question…[in the former world wars] nobody sat down and said ‘Hey, here’s my plan I think we should fight this war and get a whole bunch of people killed’; it got out of control really fast—and conflicts do that. So, we need to manage this…when you’re talking about force and national security, it is no time for emotion, boast, chest thumping, and all of this nonsense. You’ve got to get really clear eyed, very sober, very rational, and be very careful.”
The world looks to be set up to witness land combat in a way that the contemporary West has never seen before. A conquering and annexation conflict. When it comes to a man like Putin, there isn’t much that can stop him. Our optics continue to be used in the United States and Western Europe to assess impact and risk. We continue to be profoundly inadequate at assessing impact and risk from the perspective of our opponents. Yet rather than truly understanding how Putin perceives the risk vs. benefit and consequences equation, we base our actions and judgements on how we would behave or respond.
We appear to have learnt nothing from the previous 20 years of abysmal military failure. With another world war looming, we must utilize our knowledge and interconnectivity to make sensible and wise decisions in the coming months to prevent a catastrophe.
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