It is important as we start out this blog post that we acknowledge a couple of things. I am not a retired military officer. I have not had conversations with anyone at any intelligence agency or the White House. Neither President Zelenskyy nor President Putin has acknowledged or responded to interview requests from me. So, this is all conjecture and opinion, and it all came about as a result of something I wrote on Facebook. I'm going to expand on that post, and talk about some other things, because this is how my brain works. It's important to note that in my original Facebook post I was attempting to create an insane conspiracy theory and poke fun at the continued downward trend of intelligence and critical thinking in the United States, but as people read that Facebook post it seemed like maybe I had some thoughts that weren't insane. So here we go. I live in a country where the insane conspiracy theory is mainstream, spouted by people with megaphones, or people in positions of power. I've heard people say (some greatest hits here) that JFK Jr. is alive and a Trump supporter (died 1999 in a plane crash), that Joe Biden stole the election (40% of people chose 'stole the election' in a recent survey, even though they can't give you evidence of how), and the former President of the United States regularly shared Twitter posts from the mythical "Q", who said Trump would be inaugurated as the 19th President of the United States on March 4, 2021. This came after the actual inauguration day was supposed to be a trap that would see Donald stay in power and all the Democrats arrested. Let's just say I have little faith in large swaths of the American public these days, and I was trying to make shit up, but now let's talk about that stuff. (This is not the exact text from Facebook, I'm adding here from other posts.) This invasion of Ukraine was planned by President Putin with the knowledge of President Trump. Trump is a long-time Russian asset who was used by the Kremlin to weaken the United States in the eyes of the international community. Once Trump had been placed in the White House by the Kremlin, and once Trump did the work to weaken international alliances, Putin began planning the invasion of Ukraine. A military invasion isn't easy. It takes time to plan, and that plan has to change constantly as the situation in country changes. Look at D-Day, it took years to plan, then train for those plans, and all the time you knew you were making an amphibious landing on fortified beaches, but you weren't going to be exactly sure of those fortifications because things can change. So the moment Trump is elected he starts on the NATO warpath. He complains privately that he wants to pull the US out of NATO, and then goes to a NATO summit and says 'fix your spending or the US will leave.' This is the signal for Putin to begin invasion preparation. This means laying in the supplies you need of food, fuel, and ammunition, and training the troops. The last step is harder in Russia, where approximately 400,000 men are conscripted into military service every year, and 400,000 more, who were conscripted last year, leave the service. Continuity of training is difficult like this, when people keep leaving the service.
(Random aside, go back and look at the accusations Trump made at the 2018 NATO summit, where he said Germany was beholden to Russia and couldn't oppose her. Then remember that guilty people frequently try to move their guilt to others.) While this is going on, other things don't go Vlad's way. The American public, either more motivated to vote, or less gullible than four years earlier, does not give Trump a second term. This is very hard on Putin, who has been planning this invasion for two or three years at this point and still plans to go forward. He was planning on a second Trump term to mean a disorganized West, unable to unite on anything, that meant he was able to take Ukraine with no one paying attention. I don't think Ukraine was the end-game though for Vlad, who I believe wanted to add Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine back to Russia, either as colonies/territories, or just as client states with a sworn allegiance to Russia. I believed this even before there was a recent report circulating on non-American news sites that Poland would also be a target for 'de-nazification', whatever the ever-loving hell that means. So now, nothing is the way it is supposed to be if you're Vlad. You don't have a Russian Asset in the White House. You don't have a broken NATO. So, you cancel your invasion, right? You go on your joint training exercise with Belarus, your favorite client state, and then you go home...right?
Wrong, but why? I have theories. Theory One - Vlad is Sick My first theory, something is wrong with Vlad, and his legacy is in jeopardy as a result. He's been in charge of Russia since about 1999 as Premier, President, Premier, President, whatever title works to let him do whatever the heck he wants. Since 2000, what has Putin accomplished for Russia? To answer that question I want to go back farther. Putin held some power under Yeltsin, but as Yeltin's power ended and Putin's rose, he came into office under ideal circumstances. The rouble had been devalued, which kept Russian labor cheap and drove up exports; people wanted Russian goods because they were cheap, and because Russia had oil and natural gas. These things contributed to a decade of real economic growth; poverty in Russia was halved, GDP was growing more than 6% annually. In short, it was a good time to be Russian, and Putin looked like a great leader as a result. To keep himself looking good though, Putin had to do some things, and had to make sure to tell the right story while he did it. In 2001 and 2002 he seized control of several TV stations. They had belonged to oligarchs, and it was a great deal of fun to paint those people as thieves who had stolen from the Russian state during the fall of the Soviet Union to make themselves rich, and now they were using their newfound wealth to steal some more. It was a great story. (During this time he also seized the largest oil producer in Russia, its owner was a traitor too, according to Putin.) But it was mostly downhill from here. Putin failed to manipulate an election in Ukraine in 2004, but he tried really hard and learned valuable lessons he could use in America. In 2006 a journalist who was critical of Putin was shot in apartment lobby. Of course he didn't do it, right? In 2008, unable to run for a third straight Presidential term, Medvedev won the Presidential election, and immediately named Vlad the First Minister... Yeah...you read that right. Later in 2008 Russia recognized the breakaway republicx of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I'll wait while you go find them on a map. You back? Yes, those are actually parts of Georgia, and does this sound familiar? Of course it does, it's the same pretext used for war with Ukraine. Back in 2014 Russia annexed Crimea. They don't say they annexed though. They say that they moved Russian troops in to keep people safe while they held an election to determine their future. Did they want to be Ukrainian? Russian? Independent? The results are disputed, but the people of Crimea became independent, and then immediately asked for admittance into the Russian Union... So we've been here before. But what if we're back here because he's sick? Is Vlad dying of cancer and this is a play to cement his place in the history of the world as the man who put the USSR back together? I can see it. Theory Two - Russia is Broke If you believe everything you read, Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, and the largest oil-shale reserves in the world. In theory, Russia holds an enormous amount of foreign currency reserves, is the 11th largest GDP in the world, and has one of the lowest external debt loads in the world. I believe the last one, it's easy to track. Russia does have one of the lowest amounts of foreign-held debt in the world, as measured by debt to GDP ratios.
But what if the rest is a lie? What if the Russia was the largest exporter of wheat in the world by shorting what it needed itself? For all of the talk of the Russian Mil-Industry Complex, we've mostly seen chain-link fences strapped to the top of tanks, like that will stop a Javelin Missile.
This "pergola" move on the top of a tank was developed in response to issues had during the Vietnam War. Sadly for people driving a Russian tank, missile technology has changed from then as well, and this doesn't work very well. The Javelin Missile fires a two-stage rocket that is designed to penetrate this cute little pergola, and then explode underneath it. They also are fired from as far as two miles away from their target, and then they just go there. They're expensive AF (I'd guesstimate that Ukraine has fired about $50M worth of Javelin Missiles), but they're effective as heck too. If you're bored, go YouTube a Javelin in action. So is this war about money? In March Russia sold off 3 million tons of gold bullion, which could be a short-term play to acquire foreign currency and pay their bills. The rouble is as close to worthless right now as any currency since Continental Dollars, and despite the belief that Russia held one of the largest reserves of foreign currency in the world, it's hard to say where it was held. Foreign currencies held in foreign banks may be very difficult for Russia to use right now, so selling gold on the open market to acquire foreign currency or directly pay their bills might have been the reason for this. We keep seeing pictures of Russian tanks without diesel, Russian BMPs without soldiers, soldiers without ammunition and food. I find it very likely that this was motivated by money. Ukraine holds more than 27M tonnes of gold, and the equivalent of about $27b USD in various foreign currencies and gold. Pillaging Ukraine would be good for the Russian checking accounts. Ukraine has a growing GDP, access to nuclear fuel raw materials, and is the breadbasket of Europe, as the 3rd largest corn exporter in the world, the largest producer of sunflower seed, and as a major supplier of wheat, potato, sugar, barley, tomato, cabbage apples, pumpkins, carrots, rye, and buckwheat. (I'm sure I'm missing some things.) Ukraine has value, in its long-term ability to feed the people of Russia, and in the short-term pillaging of its wealth and resources, and I think that's why Putin is there. So How Does This End? I honestly don't know, because the rhetoric has gotten fierce. Yesterday President Biden said, at a speech in Poland, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." Was this an off-the-cuff ad lib, or is that just what we're being told because the line was being tested in public to see what the reaction would be. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced last week that the government of the United States believes that Russia has committed war crimes. "Russia's forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded." The combination of these two statements mean there is no end to this war without Putin losing power. More and more it appears to be the opinion of the world that Putin must stand trial at The Hague, or must be dead, for this war to end. I do not see Ukraine surrendering, and have no problem imagining the people Ukraine killing Russian soldiers every day they remain in Ukraine for however long it takes. I also can't see Ukraine invading the Russia, seizing Moscow, arresting Putin, and transporting him to The Hague for trial. So, I can see this war ending in one of three ways. Least likely, if Putin does actually involve any NATO nations by invading Poland, or accidentally bombing something too close to a border, Article 5 will be invoked, and we all get to see what Fallout 5 looks like. More likely, Putin eventually realizes he can't win and asks for peace, saying he'll remove Russian troops and everything goes back to how it was. Ukraine will ask for money to pay for damages, the West will flip their shit, and nothing changes. This won't play well in western Europe, where the populace will be angry AF, but will see the rapid growth of NATO as Boznia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine all join in short order. All three had expressed interest before this invasion, and this can't make them feel more comfortable without the alliance. I can also see Sweden, Finland and Moldova expressing interest. This will all make the leadership is Russia uncomfortable, which brings us closer to that first thing I mentioned. Finally, the thing I see most likely. (Please understand that in no way do I endorse a violation of Executive Orders 11095, 12036, 12333, which all state that the no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States should engage in the assassination of a foreign leader.) But that's probably the only way this ends. And, besides, there are exceptions in recent EOs that allow you to assassinate leaders of terrorist organizations, and that's what Russia most seems like right now.