Readers of my book Creating Chaos should have a good bit of the background needed to fully appreciate the current crisis in Ukraine. In researching the book I utilized a number of excellent sources from contemporary Russian journalists and investigative reporters who had followed Putin’s path to power and the transition of from the era of “charm diplomacy” with Europe – especially with Germany and Italy – which leveraged Russian energy exports to present the new capitalist Russia as a strategic global geopolitical power. Ultimately almost all of those journalists ended in either in flight as Putin’s oligarchic friends purchased control of the Russian media, or ended up in jail or worse.

Regardless, the work of the Russian journalists allowed me to present the full context of Putin’s opposition to the “color revolutions” in the Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics. An involvement in which Russian money and political operatives faced off with money from western NGOs as well as from the Bush era global democracy initiative and spending. Amazingly the true details of those contests, and the victory of democratic election practices is no longer much covered (which is especially interesting now that the United States is generally moving to the sorts of voting controls and restrictions that directly contrast with that democracy initiative).

Its also amazing that Putin’s personal involvement in the Ukrainian elections – in which he directly campaigned for a Russian backed candidate in 2004 – is not currently not much discussed in regard to his apparent obsession with Ukraine. Putin is not a good looser, he does hold a grudge, he does get even – all of which has to be factored into what seems to be a virtual obsession with Ukraine regardless of the potential economic and personal loss it may bring to Russia as a nation.

Creating Chaos also explores the broad scope of Putin’s political warfare – which came to include combined arms and military action – both overt and covert, as demonstrated from Georgia, though Crimea and in Ukraine. With that context of what can only be considered brilliant tactics, it is somewhat shocking to me now to see Putin apparently abandon much of the finesse which he employed in his former activities – including weaponizing energy via Gazprom though the covert use of the Russian military to establish Russian enclaves to project political power (something which succeeded in Georgia well before he applied it in east Ukraine).

In fact his new blunt force tactics to create what he describes as a “Union State” (read Soviet Union but this time defined by race and culture rather than political beliefs) with Belarus the most recent example take Putin’s plain speaking to a new level – perhaps explaining now why virtually the entire world is forced to recognize the danger of his actions rather than taking a pass as they did most recently in 2014 with Crimea.

The following reporting on the response to Putin’s current moves against Ukraine illustrates the fact that both his timing and management simply don’t seem to show the sophistication associated with his earlier, very successful regime changes moves against several of the former Soviet republics and Ukraine itself, where he did successfully topple two earlier governments with a mix of economic and military action:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/19/europe/surprising-unity-in-europe-ukraine-crisis-intl-cmd/index.html

If all that sounds as if I have an opinion on Putin and the Ukraine – that would be correct. It and its based not in opinion but in the context of the extensive work I did over some years in researching and documenting the material in Creating Chaos. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to express myself on the subject in more depth and if you are interested you can find that in the following discussions:

Money Maze Putin Olympics

6 responses »

  1. John F. Davies says:

    Perceptive article.
    It should be mentioned that Vladimir Putin himself was once a Soviet KGB Officer. It’s also obvious that someone with his background would resort to deceptive methods and propaganda for political gain.
    During the Cold War, one of the tactics both sides engaged in was brinkmanship, that is, going right the brink of overt war. The Soviets engaged in it over Berlin, and later the Americans over Cuba.
    With the disaster that was last years’ Afghanistan withdrawal, (And the bungling by the Biden White House.), Putin would see this moment as an opportunity.

    Make no mistake, Putin may be scheming and power mad, but he is not a fool.
    Like any Head of State, he does want to start World War III. However, he will do anything short of that to get what he wants. And as skilled as he is in using covert means, Putin will undoubtedly continue using these methods.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      The thing that troubles me most is that this represents a major change in his level of finesse and tactics, – earlier circa 2005/6 he very adroitly leveraged gas shipments perform regime change in Ukraine while managing to blame shortages to Europe on Ukraine itself when it was totally his orchestration.

      In Georgia he used Russian speaking enclaves, separated them from the central government and cultivated terror attacks on Russia which made that regime look weak – then he supplied artillery to the separatists and provoked a military response which led to major military formations embedded covertly in the separatist region to crush the Georgian military and perform regime change.

      Now he has elevated the same tactics to a level of covertness and bluntness that can only cost him economically in scaring Europe to newly emerging and local sources of liquefied natural gas. Bottom line, his skills seem to be evaporating as he returns to the same playbook.

      I would also seen this as a terrible error in timing and not related to Afghanistan. He is using the same playbook in Ukraine he began several years ago and if anything it would have been far more successful with NATO effectively put at arms length by Trump during his administration….its much more coherent now than it was a year to two years ago when Putin could have launched a credible false flag in the East with few objections being raised, at least not in time to likely once again engage and destroy ill equipped Ukrainian troops. The recent supply of anti-tank and likely anti-aircraft weapons won’t stop the huge Russian force gut it will be far more costly now and sending conscript troops in to garrison a vengeful Ugranian population is unlikely to create the extended type of “Union State” Putin just praised in Belarus.

  2. John F. Davies says:

    It appears the other shoe has dropped.
    You were indeed proven correct that Putin would go over the line.
    While I was expecting that Putin would keep his involvement limited, as happened earlier this week, I find this all out assault to be way beyond what most anyone expected.

    With the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the ongoing political turmoil in the West, Putin saw an opportunity and took advantage.
    In many ways this reminds me of forty two years ago, when another Democratic administration was awash in foreign policy disasters and another Russian Government used our misfortune as an opportunity to gain advantage.

    However, I also hear that within Russia itself there are demonstrations happening in opposition to the Ukraine invasion, and a determined Ukranian resistance has the possibility to turn the Russian public against Putin. I have even heard from a number of commentators that Putin’s domestic power may be on the line if things go bad.
    In any case, whatever international respect Vladimir Putin may have had, he’s just gone and s*** it down the toilet.

  3. larryjoe2 says:

    In my view Afghanistan had little to do matters as this is just one more step in a campaign Putin committed himself to a very long time ago. I detailed the beginning of that obsession in Creating Chaos, with his low key campaign in what amounted to a series of fishing expeditions to turn the smaller and more exposed former Soviet republics into staging areas for applying force further west – a campaign that began circa 2005. Those efforts got very little media coverage in the West – possibly because the Russian military involvements were small and relatively minor before Crimea.

    Russian interventions and essentially take over of small regimes were just not important compared to what was going on in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan etc.

    And Putin played it with great sophistication, incrementally increasing overt military pressure step by step – the real key for him was when he openly used uniformed Russian military (little green men) who were really Russian Special forces without insignia (which he admitted later). That combined with his follow-on blunt force moves in the Black Sea convinced him that nobody was going to step up and equip or defend Ukraine.

    At that point he only needed one more stop to complete encirclement – Belarus. We should all have realized what it meant when he literally bought the government of that nation.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/belarus-election-russia-int/putin-throws-1-5-billion-lifeline-to-embattled-belarus-leader-idUSKBN26521Z

    With that success I think he considered himself unstoppable – and of course so far he is correct. As to consequences, he is paranoid and obsessed, consequences are not a concern. He told us all this years ago, we just didn’t listen and he plays the long game really, really well.

    Will he survive it, maybe not – will Russia suffer – undoubtedly. But that’s not way drives him, at least not since around 2004, when he began this obsession with righting the terrible wrong done to Russia.

  4. AnthonyM says:

    A very prescient article. 24th Feb 2022 may well go down in history as a geopolitical turning point. Putin seems to have succeeded in shaking much of Europe out of it’s state of denial that it has been in in recent years regarding Russia. Germany’s move to finally begin to upgrade her armed forces and begin moves to diversify energy supplies may well turn out to be highly consequential, for example.
    I must admit I have been very surprised by the course of the campaign so far. I was expecting very fast moving all arms forces to sweep across country, supported by intense air operations and airborne forces to create depth and prevent Ukrainian forces manoeuvring as a co-ordinated force. Perhaps I am too influenced by historical examples such as the Gulf war and even WW2.
    We’re not getting much informed discussion on Russian military doctrine and what on earth they think they’re doing getting bogged down attempting to take cities in the media over here. Not sure if you or any other readers would have views on that or good sources?
    Thanks again for interesting posts

    • larryjoe2 says:

      I did a radio show last night which discussed tactical doctrine in some detail. I think the explanation is that Putin truly had/has such a woefully unrealistic worldview of Ukraine that he truly expected little resistance – that is seen in an article which went into print early on (pulled now) which described Ukraine as a new Union State (read Soviet Union) like Belarus and which went to press the day of the invasion. It was written as if regime change had occurred within 24 hours.

      Its also clear now that there was a definite plan to send forces into the capital and literally decapitate the Ukrainian government – as the Soviet Union did in their invasion of Afghanistan) and that plan was defeated by Ukraine very early on. If that had worked the huge caravan going south out of Belarus would have made perfect sense – otherwise it does not in any military scenario.

      It just appears that Russian command was giving Putin’s set of assumptions, that proved faulty and when decapitation failed their planned surgical tactics imploded and they are now forced into a totally nonsensical scorched earth campaign – if anything it looks like Hitlers move east against Russia where his assumptions failed in a similar manner.

      Putin himself still appears to be in denial, with no realistic end game in mind – which leaves his military staff floundering – an increasingly deadly situation but it also appears Putin is totally unwilling to listen to his intelligence or military staff, having chewed out his senior intelligence guy in public right before the invasion.

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