We consider the possibility of a Ukraine holocaust, and a strategy that may avert this. Postulates are provided in lieu of unknowables, such as Putin’s state of mind, his capacity for cruelty, or his grip on power.
Readers may have wondered at my absence. What I now write troubles greatly. Ukraine; Let’s Make a Deal; Suggestion to Vladimir Putin offered three forks in the road to the future. Ukraine and the U.S. courageously chose the most perilous path, leading to freedom, flanked by merciless dragons of fate. A lot of Russian deaths were anticipated; that Ukraine’s valor would rival the Greeks at Thermopylae was a surprise.
Until recently, fear of provoking an unpredictable Putin was a brake on arms transfers. This fear is an asset that can be cultivated. One could, by amplification, be an unwitting agent of the Kremlin. Zelenskyy warns the Russians may use nuclear weapons; just a month ago, this might have inhibited Western support. So I remind the reader that I have no official associations, and my fear is my own.
A month ago, there was a single trajectory with a single endpoint: A valiant Ukraine would lose. Only the details, such as a possible rump state, were in question. Now there are many trajectories, which can be sketched from a few postulates:
- Putin can’t back up. If he does, he becomes vulnerable to Russian nationalists. See Trump-Putin Summit; An Executive Summary; The Oldest Russia Analyst. His personality, having drifted towards totalitarian, also forbids this.
- A Mandatory goal. There has been a lot of speculation on what is optional, what is mandatory, what has changed. Plug in your own assumptions.
- Perceived tacit acquiescence by European consumers of Russian gas. As interpreted by Russia, continued purchase outweighs everything else.
In ascending order of aggression,
- Local atrocities, which have become the Russian norm.
- WMDs. If the mandatory goal is not achievable with conventional weapons, WMDs may be employed within the territory of Ukraine: chemical, biological, nuclear, resulting in local extermination.
- Holocaust. In the event that selective application of WMDs fails to eradicate resistance, total extermination of the populace is undertaken, a Ukraine holocaust.
The postulates are not facts. You can replace them with your own, but you really should run the simulations before you do. Correlation of Ukraine success with a holocaust:
- Strong positive.The postulates activate sequentially, in dynamic response to the battlefield, in an almost mechanistic way. The better things get for Ukraine, the worse for Russia, the greater the likelihood of Holocaust.
- Weak negative. Russian reaction to casualties, except for kin, has not been noted. It has been proposed as a future effect.
What of sanctions, which are forms of external pressure? They may have a bipolar effect on the Russian psyche. Ineffectual sanctions may inspire fortitude; severity may result in the conversion we want, to internal pressure, anger at the Kremlin. We pin a lot of hope on this. Obstacles:
- Patent support of the Russian Orthodox church, so extreme as to possibly embrace genocide.
- Effectiveness of Russian state media, rivaling the credibility of closed totalitarian systems, which now depicts a proxy war with NATO, setting the stage for further escalation.
- The willing uptake by Russians of a new totalitarian conformity.
So striking is the picture that we may add a postulate:
- Russian public opinion would favor unrestricted use of WMDs in Ukraine.
Avoiding a Holocaust
We seek a condition where internal pressure, with inhibitory effect, outweighs the positive correlation of external pressure with progression towards a holocaust. Severe sanction, total cutoff of hydrocarbon exports, have these potential effects:
- Objective. Andrei Illarionov thinks this would result in total collapse of the ability of Russia to finance the war. (CNN) Putin’s ex-adviser says one move could end his war in a month. Maybe. Governments have resorted to scrip and barter.
- Subjective. Conversion to internal pressure, anger at the leadership, which may potentiate the effects of casualties.
- Inhibition of the use of WMDs that would create the conditions of a holocaust.
The inhibition is rightly questioned. It results from the assumption that Putin is not mad like Hitler, that he is instead a captive to a Russian romantic myth, that he retains some concern for how he will be judged. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Which nation has the power to prevent a Ukraine holocaust? Modern Germany has transformed into a society guiltless of the sins of their forefathers. No one suggests that Germany today has anything to atone for. The main obstacle to avoiding a holocaust is that shutting off Russian gas would throw 300,000 people out of work and cause a deep depression.
Germans, ask this question of yourselves. If a year from now, ten million Ukrainians are dead from the combination of tactical nukes, sarin, and novichok, how will you feel about saving 300,000 jobs?