Putin’s Next Move; Winter in the West

The coming winter will be pivotal in the world order, perhaps leading to a renewed division of the world between east and west. If Putin uses natural gas as a weapon,  Europe will, after a few very difficult years, replace Russia by the U.S.  The immense infrastructure of a natural gas liquefaction plant (LNG) is already under construction in New Orleans.

This would, truly, be equivalent to a “new world order”, with North America and Western Europe in one camp, once again. Russia would suffer the fate of the male spider after mating, the conglomerate with China forming an immense inland power. India might finally align with the West. Oceania would cower in fear. Perhaps Putin is not as intelligent as we would hope.

A shark cannot swim in reverse. Putin also seems incapable of this maneuver. Different opinions have been expressed as to why. Some Russian commentators attribute it to Putin’s personality, while I see it rather as a consequence of the power structure he has ascended (“Putin, rodeo bull rider.”) The actual cause does affect the estimate of his degree of working intelligence. If he can’t back up because of a personality flaw, then estimates of his actions must substantially consider options which we, as external observers, consider self-defeating. If he can’t back up because of political constraints, then we may more anticipate elements of surprise and creativity.

Although not decided between the two, consideration is given here to the second possibility. Realizing that the world order he could usher in is not conducive to the survival of Russia, he looks for a creative way to swim in reverse. So here is an open source intelligence solution to a prediction problem. It is not based on secret cables, confidences, or spies, or mind reading, but is an independent creative exercise that could approximate Putin’s thinking:

  • Donetsk is about 40 miles from the Russian border.
  • The Russians have moved small units and rocket batteries with the range to hit Donetsk to the border.
  • As the Ukrainian Army attempts to encircle Donetsk, the huge rates of fire of these weapons is used to establish a salient that includes part of Donetsk. The situation is  unfavorable to the Ukrainians, with high casualties and inadequate logistics.
  • The salient becomes a semi permanent part of the situation.
  • Putin keeps the gas flowing and everybody warm, except, of course, for the Ukrainians.

The salient would have several uses. It would provide the rebels with a feeling of accomplishment. The gradual reduction of the salient in return for the lifting of sanctions would provide time to reprogram the tiny brains of the rebels into thinking they have done something for Russia. It might also become a permanent feature, a “Berlin Corridor.” Those rebels who resist reprogramming could be properly disposed of.

Were the U.S. to provide the Ukraine with targeting information on Russian tactical weapon emplacements, the cost to Russia of maintaining the salient might reach an impractical level.  Here, it can only be noted that, in the history of U.S. Presidents, there has never been a President who was tops at both domestic and foreign affairs.