Professor Mark Edele of the University of Melbourne provides his own perspective on the possible outcomes to the present conflict in Ukraine.
From Putin’s point of view the campaign has been a political, economic, military, diplomatic and logistical disaster. The pride of his army
“got stuck in traffic jams, mud and incompetence. It was harassed by surprisingly well-organised and supremely motivated Ukrainian forces. Comedian turned president Volodymyr Zelensky transformed into an impressive wartime leader.
And the democratic world reacted with untypical unity, imposing sanctions with the potential to cripple Putin’s war effort and undo nearly three decades of economic development after the disaster of the Soviet breakdown in 1991.
As the Russian joke has it, we’re now in the fifth week of the successful campaign to conquer Ukraine in four days. Casualties on both sides are estimated to be in the thousands.”
The increasingly brutal methods now being employed by Putin and his high command are being driven by a realisation that time is running out for him.
He has underestimated his opponents and things are beginning to bite at home:
“The democratic world – in Putin’s view decadent, flaccid, unmanly, undermined by queers, feminists and democratic squabbles – turned the screws of economic warfare remarkably quickly. Russia lost access to its foreign currency reserves, imports stopped and foreign companies left.
By the start of the third week of the war, with the rouble tanking, all kinds of items became scarce or unavailable: dental equipment and supplies, computers and mobile phones, plastic for banking cards, paper for book publishing, even prosthetic devices. By the fourth week, stores were emptying of staples such as sugar and buckwheat. The population was stocking up for a long conflict.”
The country is now closer in character to North Korea than to any other:
“Fearsome-looking police in riot gear beat and arrest anti-war protesters. They stop young people on the street to flip through their mobile phones. They crack down on known opposition figures. Russia is cut off from Facebook and Twitter. The last independent news outlets went off the air, and spreading “disinformation” about the “special military operation” became a crime threatened with up to 15 years in prison. Russia had not been so unfree since the early 1980s, under the pre-Gorbachev Soviet regime.”
In summary, Professor Edele sees five options currently open to Putin: persistence or escalation of the military conflict; annexation of parts of Ukraine including the Donbas; a negotiated cease-fire or, the least likely – assassination or forced resignation in the manner of Nikita Krushchev after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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