You heard it here first.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has always seemed dangerous, and somewhat demented, to Western eyes, and his invasion of the Ukraine seems to bear out that impression.
Commentators delight in explaining how deluded the Russians were at every level, expecting to find Nazis on every corner and a hero's welcome from the Ukrainian people. How is it that they had only pre-Chernobyl disaster maps and thus had no idea what they were walking into when they dug into highly radioactive soil? Why do the soldiers and officers so often act like poorly trained recruits? And why is their military equipment so old, sometimes almost half a century out of date?
Everyone knows by now that COVID isolation has driven mental health crises through the roof, and anyone who watched the Olympics knows that Putin has taken those recommendations to the extreme. Is it possible that the president of Russia has simply been driven batshit crazy?
On the other hand, there could be another explanation.
Suppose you're the president of a country with expansionist ambitions and a burning envy of Western military technology. What do you do?
- You could pour a lot of money into developing and building modern equipment for your own military
- You could ramp up your espionage network and steal the technology and then build your equipment
- You could buy captured American military equipment from the Taliban
Maybe your economy won't stand up to a large increase in military spending. Maybe you don't have the resources to build what you need. Maybe you resent the time it would take to do the job well. So what do you do?
Maybe, just maybe, you invade a nearby, relatively defenseless country. And you do it very poorly. Like the Duchy of Grand Fenwick,* you aren't hoping to win. At least not yet.
You send in your greenest troops and your vehicles and guns otherwise destined for the scrap heap. You lose no opportunity to tweak the rest of the world with your arrogance, your obvious incompetence, and your crimes against civilians, thereby raising the hackles of countries with the greatest array of the most advanced military technology in the world. You allow the war to drag on and on, giving these countries plenty of time to pour billions and billions of dollars worth of advanced technology and powerful equipment into the land you have invaded but not yet captured.
Then you bring out your A team, your first string, your best and most experienced soldiers, along with the most modern equipment you can muster, all of which have been held back just for this moment. In one fell swoop, you crush the opposition and capture all that lovely best-in-the-world military might.
You lost some inferior soldiers and a bunch of scrap-metal tanks. So what?
Well, okay, you didn't count on the damage a massive embargo would do to your economy. In the end it might have been cheaper to do the work yourselves.
Then again, with all that captured equipment and intellectual capital, the next invasion is going to go a lot more smoothly....
*No relation to Fenwick, Connecticut, as far as I know