Opinion

Reading Putin’s mind

What must the Russian dictator be thinking?

Image of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: TPYXA_ILLUSTRATION/Shutterstock.
Image of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: TPYXA_ILLUSTRATION/Shutterstock.
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Clifford D. May
Clifford D. May is the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), as well as a columnist for “The Washington Times.”

I’ve begun talking to myself. Not good. But who else can I talk to? I’m surrounded by fools and incompetents. Yes, there are those who defend me and the special military operation I initiated a year ago next month to restore Russia’s dignity, power and glory. But how many of them are just hungry for crumbs from my table?

Half a million young Russians have now fled rather than fight for the Fatherland. There was a time when traitors were not allowed to just pack up and leave. Maybe it’s time to enforce such rules again.

I need to be honest with myself: The Ukrainians have surprised me. When I took Crimea back from their sweaty hands nine years ago, they just whined and licked their wounds.

This time they’re fighting like grizzly bears. And my generals—they failed me. I should have shot a few right away to encourage the others.

I do blame myself for not remembering how stubborn Ukrainians can be. Stalin found that out when he began collectivizing agriculture. The peasants didn’t like that. So, Stalin took away their grain and let a few million starve to death. That taught them a lesson! It’s time to give them another.

I also underestimated Zelensky, that comedian, that Jew. I thought as soon as he saw my tanks rolling toward Kiev—not Kyiv, dammit!—he’d run crying to the West, where he’d give speeches for gelt.

Perhaps I should have limited myself to what Biden called a “minor incursion.” The problem is I’m not getting any younger. I don’t have years to spend slicing the kolbasa.

Russia isn’t like Britain and France. They resigned themselves to the loss of their empires, to being has-beens, vassals of the uncultured, decadent, mongrel Americans.

We Russians are too proud to accept such a fate. We’ve always been an empire, not a nation-state. Yes, during the Soviet era we claimed to be anti-imperialists, but only idiots believed us.

Our imperial possessions still stretch over 11 time zones. Vladivostok means “conqueror of the East.”

But I see a problem there. Vladivostok was Chinese before we Russians annexed it. Xi Jinping is my friend, but he knows that if Russia weakens, he’ll have an opportunity to expand his empire. He has hundreds of millions of people he can send north to take our lands and exploit our resources. But that problem must wait. For now, I need him. And for now, Taiwan is at the top of his to-conquer list.

I’m encouraged by last week’s meeting of senior Western defense officials in Germany. They’re divided.

The Germans are still refusing to send their Leopard 2 tanks to the Ukrainians. Herr Scholz, mein alter Freund, fears me. With reason.

I’m told quite a few Americans—mostly Republicans, which seems odd since I thought they were the tough guys—want to cut support to Ukrainians and even reduce military spending. And I’m hearing that the French are reading a novel about me called “The Wizard of the Kremlin.” Nice title!

German pacifists, American isolationists, French appeasers—they’re helping me decide what to do next: Refuse to negotiate and plan a spring offense that will finally force the Ukrainians to submit. The Ukrainians may think they want freedom but what they need is order—the order a czar provides.

Biden has surprised me, too, frankly. When he was vice president, he and Obama gave me Syria on a silver platter. Then, as president, Biden surrendered to those medieval barbarians in Afghanistan.

After that, his highest priority was “waging a war” against fossil fuels. Which didn’t prevent him from telling the Germans to go ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have made them more dependent on my fossil fuels.

So, it only seemed logical that he’d respond to my special military operation by just wagging his finger and imposing some new sanctions.

But when the Ukrainians refused to submit, Biden felt compelled to send them weapons—up to a point. I get it: His strategy is to show restraint—stopping short of giving them weapons that can strike inside Russia—in the hope that I’ll show restraint, too.

Nuclear weapons are my trump card. If I didn’t have them, Biden might have done what Bush the First did after Saddam swallowed Kuwait.

But my strategy is cleverer than his: I threaten to play the nuclear card, but I don’t. I hold it because to use it is to lose it. And if this strategy brings me victory in Ukraine, I can play it again.

Moldova would be the lowest-hanging fruit. It’s not a NATO member. After that, maybe I’d invade Lithuania from Belarus. Even if I only took the southern part of that country, I’d then have a land bridge to Kaliningrad, where my Baltic fleet is based.

Yes, Lithuania is a member of NATO, but which other NATO members are going to send their troops to die to liberate southern Lithuania—especially after Ukraine and Moldova have been ceded?

From there, I could move on to reclaim other breakaway provinces of Russkiy mir. “The hen pecks grain by grain,” as my grandfather would say!

Of course, if my nuclear blackmail strategy fails, I’ll have to lower my sights. I’ll have to ask Scholz or Macron to arrange a ceasefire—freezing the conflict but with me still in possession of Crimea and at least some of Donbas. That would give me time to prepare for another round of fighting.

What would Peter the Great do?

I have so much to decide. And the only one with whom I can have an honest and intelligent conversation is me.

Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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