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John Bolton: Putin’s 30 or 100 Year War For Ukraine

Putin Ukraine Russia
Russian anti-tank weapon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Six weeks into Russia’s second invasion of modern Ukraine, Moscow’s stunning military failures dominate the West’s attention. Unsurprisingly, therefore, basic misperceptions are becoming conventional wisdom, thereby potentially distorting future U.S. policy, making it even less effective than at present. The following corrective effort is only illustrative, not exhaustive.

This is not Putin’s war, it’s Russia’s war: Western leaders are deluding themselves to think that Putin alone is responsible for the invasion. As Russia’s president, he obviously makes the final decisions, but he is far from alone in believing passionately that Ukraine (not to mention Belarus and other once-Soviet republics) should be returned to the rodina, Mother Russia.

This is certainly true for the siloviki, the “men of power” forming the core of Putin’s advisors, from several of whom I once heard personally their message that Ukraine is a failed, illegitimate state.

Kremlin leaders have a thirty-year obsession with reabsorbing their lost empire. News reports on today’s war often read eerily and confusingly like 2014 news accounts of the Crimea annexation and Donbas invasion, reflecting the West’s historical ignorance and short attention span. The siloviki have many egregious, bloody faults, but short attention is not one of them.

No wonder America’s media and the Biden Administration are surprised by independent polls showing increasing Russian public support for Putin, even in the face of Western sanctions and Moscow’s flagging war effort. Not all Russians feel Putin’s irredentism as deeply as he does. A sufficient number do, however, so that whatever else endangers Putin’s regime, public opinion is not only not a threat, it is for now a pillar of regime strength.

Putin does not have a screw loose, nor does he suffer from insufficient, inaccurate information: Not all of Putin’s advisors grovel and snivel, fearing telling him the truth.

Contrary analysis by unnamed Biden administration sources may be elements of our information war against Russia, but they do not describe Kremlin reality.

Even in autocratic regimes, there are always advisors more than happy to point out their rivals’ failures and to provide fulsome evidence to put them in a bad light.

Like America, Russia has multiple intelligence agencies that vie bureaucratically for influence and attention. Besides, Soviet embassies don’t need the SVR to communicate back to Moscow what Western media are reporting. There is no upside for every fawning Putin advisor to cover for those who can easily be blamed for evident failures.

The Pentagon offered the most absurd lyrics for the “Putin is uninformed and a little nuts” mantra, speculating that his lack of information could impede ongoing Ukrainian-Russian peace negotiations.  For Moscow, these negotiations are merely a propaganda exercise, something affording a patina of reasonableness to its belligerent position.  Ironically, it was President Biden who brushed this chatter aside, saying “I don’t want to put too much stock in that at this time because we don’t have that much hard evidence.”

Westerners may not understand how much Putin and company value Ukraine, but that is our problem, not his. We heard this same psychoanalysis in 2014. Angela Merkel among others reportedly believed Putin was “out of touch with reality.” Andrei Illarionov, a former close Putin advisor now in the U.S., corrected her:  “People in the West think Putin is irrational or crazy. In fact, he’s very rationale according to his own logic, and very well-prepared. It is not Putin who is out of touch with reality  —  it is the West.”

This rings true. More than once, Putin has said to me, “you have your logic, we have ours;  we will see which prevails.”

Part of the problem may be Putin himself. not his advisors. He may have dismissed hard facts contrary to his preconceptions, a common human failing. It would be an equally grievous mistake, however, for America to think Putin has not by now recovered. Moreover, Russia’s battlefield failures may result from still-endemic corruption and incompetence throughout its military.  “Ghost soldiers” whose salaries, weapons, rations, and supplies found their way into black markets, as lower-ranking officers submitted false reports on unit strength and readiness up the chain, have now been laid bare. Despite twenty years of trying to reform and modernize Russia’s military, the Ukraine conflict demonstrates that these efforts were far from successful.

Russia’s strategic mistakes have cost it dearly, but it has not yet lost the war: Russia did not launch this invasion with only one goal.  The Kremlin was likely considering several options, depending on how the war unfolded.  With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, the top-line strategic objective seems to have been capturing Kyiv, overthrowing Zelensky’s government, and replacing it with a Quisling regime under Moscow’s control.  This strategic blunder cost Russia numerous opportunities elsewhere in Ukraine that might already have been achieved, in turn enabling Moscow to pursue additional priority objectives. By trying too much at once, however, Moscow’s reach substantially exceeded its grasp, and it failed broadly.

Broadly, but not fatally.

The cliché tells us generals always fight the last war. In 2014, Russia seized Crimea almost without firing a shot. Indeed, significant portions of Ukraine’s navy defected to Russia’s side. Fighting in the Donbas region was not so successful for Russia, but neither were the military costs high nor subsequent Western sanctions effective. One can easily imagine Moscow’s leaders envisaging a similar scenario in 2022. They were obviously wrong.

Even more importantly, on and after February 24, Russia violated the fundamental military doctrine of force concentration. Instead of aiming at a small number of key targets with overwhelming forces, Moscow attacked broadly with inadequate manpower, firepower, and logistics. Ukraine’s heroic resistance was totally unanticipated. The result was a failure to win most key objectives:  Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and more. Russian arms have had relatively greater success in southern and eastern Ukraine, but even these advances are far from overwhelming.

Now, Russia is belatedly trying to get its act together, withdrawing from areas around Kyiv and other northern cities of Ukraine, perhaps back into Belarus and Russia, to regroup, reinforce and resupply. Moscow will either try again in the north or redeploy these forces to the east and south, where reinforcements are arriving from existing deployments in Georgia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The media report Syrian soldiers returning Russia’s earlier favors to Assad’s regime by coming to Ukraine, likely without crash courses on the Geneva Conventions.

The Kremlin’s goal now will likely be maximizing its military and political control throughout southern and eastern Ukraine. Russia’s overarching goal of fully conquering Ukraine is almost certainly out of reach for now, but there are many alternatives, subsidiary objectives.  If Putin could accomplish significant elements of these lesser goals, he would be well-placed to persuade Russia’s public that the war was worthwhile and to induce all-too-many Westerners to turn the page and return to “normal” economic and political relations.

Almost certainly the critical second-tier objective is control over Ukraine’s substantially Russophile areas, effectively splitting the country in two. The Kremlin’s targets are southern Ukraine, particularly control over the Black Sea’s strategically important northern coast, and eastern Ukraine, east of the Dnieper River to the city of Dnipropetrovsk and then north to the Russian border. Broadly speaking, eight Ukrainian oblasts (in addition to Crimea) are involved: Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa.

These oblasts are predominantly or substantially Russian-speaking and Russian Orthodox, as compared to areas more Ukrainian-speaking, Ukrainian Orthodox, or Catholic. This, of course, is the Kremlin’s view, not an exercise in Wilsonian self-determination. Because Ukraine’s demographic distribution looks like a bad case of measles, and citizens are often ambivalent or conflicted in their religious loyalties, these characterizations are not bright lines. Russia may well fail to conquer all this territory, but the more it seizes, the stronger its bargaining position when negotiations actually turn serious.

For now, Russia’s military position in eastern Ukraine is relatively strong, and “victory” is entirely possible. Along the Black Sea, however, Moscow had been blocked, and Odesa seems beyond its grasp at the moment. Nonetheless, if Moscow reconstitutes its forces, coordinates its land, sea, and air efforts, and Western support for Ukraine’s military is insufficient, taking Odesa is still feasible.  With the east and much of the south secure, Russia could make territorial “concessions” by withdrawing from areas it still holds in the north, but which are no longer tenable long-term.  Putin is counting on flagging Western interest and unity. This would make it difficult and costly if not impossible to push Russia from what it holds near its current borders and Crimea.  Uti possidetis remains a powerful form of diplomatic inertia.

Washington needs to step up its leadership, and NATO its performance. Let’s be clear:  NATO is not fully united.

The West must do better in tightening the economic noose around Russia and increasing and speeding its military assistance to Ukraine. Performance to date is mixed.  Despite incessant hosannas about Alliance unity, the West is already fraying. The United Kingdom and the United States have led in supplying hardware and intelligence, but others, like France and Germany, have lagged, starting with Berlin’s pre-war offer of 5,000 military helmets, and continuing later by supplying former East German Strela missiles, over thirty years old, that did not work. Time and again, President Biden has responded to pressure from Congress and the Allies rather than leading himself, acting either belatedly or not at all, as in his refusal to authorize transferring the Polish MiGs.

Remember, every day the war grinds on is further evidence of NATO’s fundamental, unalterable shame: failing to deter Russia in the first place because of shredded credibility (see Georgia, 2008, Ukraine, 2014, and the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal); grossly inadequate threats of future punishment through selective, inadequate sanctions;  and Biden’s early December unforced error, rejecting even the possibility of U.S. force, in exchange for exactly nothing.

This pattern must be reversed, and quickly. Given Russia’s mistakes so far, it would be a fool’s errand to bet it can successfully reculer pour mieux saute, but it is at least possible.  We are likely therefore in a slow-motion race to see whether Moscow can get off its back before Ukraine’s military breaks under the strains (incompletely reported by Western media) it has felt.  Time is on Moscow’s side, so slow or inadequate Western resupply efforts could be ruinous.

The Western is not unified on sanctions. Europe’s purchases of Russian oil and gas continue, and China, India, and others are providing financial lifelines keeping Russia’s economy afloat.  Looking ahead, the real efficacy of sanctions turns on rigorous enforcement and enhancement to close loopholes as Russia creates them. The best day for any sanctions regime is the day it is announced, dropping rapidly if the sanctioning powers are not as least as creative as their target. Historically, U.S. sanctions enforcement and enhancement have been decidedly mixed, and the Europeans are, to be polite, far from diligent. Modern history’s most effective and comprehensive sanctions were imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Enforced by the U.S. and allied militaries, even these were not enough to oust Saddam’s invading forces.

The Alliance’s biggest test will be maintaining diplomatic unity at the inevitable moment when Moscow decides on serious negotiations. The siloviki see the West’s weakness for money not for the ideological reasons of their Communist predecessors, but with at last equal clarity. Already, France and Germany are searching for ways to end military hostilities before one side or the other scores a decisive victory, thus freezing the conflict without materially resolving it. This would certainly be the typical European approach. If, however, Russia emerges from its current military debacle with anything even remotely smacking of victory, the reverberations in Europe and worldwide, especially in Beijing, will be enormous. Nattering on about NATO unity may warm hearts in elite Washington circles, but all that talk is worth what you pay for it. American leadership and NATO performance to date have been inadequate. Face up to it.

The clear lesson is that Americans should not bliss out prematurely. This is a European conflict. Think Thirty Years War or Hundred Years War. Putin is.

Ambassador John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Donald J. Trump. He is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” You can follow him on Twitter: @AmbJohnBolton.

Written By

Ambassador John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Donald J. Trump. He is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” You can follow him on Twitter: @AmbJohnBolton.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Alex

    April 4, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    Of the 3 stages of the special military operation for the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, the first stage is over. The second stage begins. Of course, people with experience and education understand that the US war in Ukraine against Russia is lost.

  2. Peace-keeping nukes of US arsenal

    April 4, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    The US, after announcing a raft of sanctions on Russia and threatening numerous other nations against trading with Russia, CONTINUES to purchase Russian oil due to inflation fears on the domestic front.

    US won’t stop buying Russian oil before April 22 2022, that is US firms or brokers will continue shipping Russian oil for the next two weeks.

    But back to ukraine.UKR is the proxy war waged by Biden administration in Europe and it could well turn into a NUCLEAR PROXY WAR. Before 2022 is out or before this fall’s midterm elections.

    Thus readers or people visiting this esteemed site should be smart and wise enough to stock up your larders.

    Think of crazed crowds raiding shopping malls and smashing store windows and bank facades and ATM machines.You don’t want to join them if given a choice.

  3. Zerm

    April 4, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    I see the Russians have discovered this website. And their paid minions are here, making ridiculous comments. Alex is sort of out of his mind, it is a wonder that the Russians employ him. The others are detectable by their bizarre musings, spinning out scare scenarios that seem to have been written by a very bad Russian novelist.

  4. Commentar

    April 4, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    The destruction and chaos in ukraine are the direct and end results of zelenskiyy wanting to join world’s premier fascist force.

    But more than that, Russia’s military will for sure stay in eastern ukraine for at least the next twenty years.

    In 1945, after kicking out Germans from Austria, the Red Army stayed put in the country until Austria was ready to declare it’s policy of permanent neutrality.

    There’s no chance ukraine’s banderitist leader zelenskiyy doing same thing, so Russia’ll continue to be in ukraine.

    Until the next 20, 30, or even 100 years.

  5. monlfelonious

    April 4, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    Whatever you say, grandpa. “Part of the problem may be Putin himself. not his advisors”, ya think? I don’t know why you afforded this imbecile the ink time.

  6. Jacky

    April 4, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    It’s really no surprise the Russian public supports Putin’s actions in ukraine.A no-brainer, really.

    In 2022, the deep state’s presstitude media blanked out news about hunter’s lost laptop or water-soaked laptop. It was Russian disinformation, they alleged.

    But experts today have concluded the laptop is real and indeed, once belonged to the first prodigal son.

    Information stored on the laptop indicated work done to represent foreign interests, lobbying for foreign officials, receiving millions in shady payments and possible money laundering.

    No wonder the public has little sympathy for US.

  7. Alex

    April 4, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    It makes no sense to remain Russian in Ukraine. All that is needed is to leave Ukraine within its borders until the gifts of Russian tsars and communists. And in the primordially Russian territories to create their own administrations. It’s good that Ukrainians support Russia on them. And we can accept a few thousand remaining Bandera Nazis in Poland. The Poles have their own scores with them.

  8. Jimmy John Doe

    April 4, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Ukraine is a failed state. Fullstop.Period.No arguments ’bout it. US is sa failed state, too, except one that happens to own the world’s reserve currency.

    Since ukraine is right next door, Russia can stay inside it for the next 30, or 100 years.But nobody can do the same in US because it is a land patrolled by gators and rattlesnakes. See places like rikers island, Attica, Folsom and Florence.Full of dangers.

    But Biden and family are safe because they’re protected by the deep state, and they’ll be safe forever.People like hunter, James and old Joe.

  9. Marvin

    April 5, 2022 at 1:43 am

    Russia, worlds largest country, with oil and all the natural recources in the world. How come it is not the richest country in the world? Whay aren’t they the ones that provides products like Iphones, BMW’s to the world. Their economy is of the size of Texas. Makes one wonder why …..is it the people? Culture? Or regime?

  10. MB

    April 5, 2022 at 8:48 am

    for MarvinApril 5, 2022 at 1:43 am

    from my perspective the answer is: russian People are adapted to their Culture based on using military force and domination lead by a totalitarian political regime.

    In opposition I may see a deep transformation of Ukrainians under an exceptional leader, under extraordinary circumstances, but having another culture.

    from my perspective the driving forces are people with their intrinsec education/culture

    In fact what would you like to choose:
    Subordination vs collaboration
    Putin vs Gorbaciov

  11. Eric

    April 5, 2022 at 10:09 am

    The United States has supported allies before against formidable adversaries. South Korea, Great Britain, Israel. We should do the same for Ukraine. In this case I think Mr. Bolton is correct.

  12. Alex

    April 5, 2022 at 10:47 am

    Ukraine is an ally? Ukraine is not even a vassal. Ukraine is just a slave for the United States.

  13. Brian Pendell

    April 5, 2022 at 11:39 am

    I don’t see a “win” being on the table, much as I would like one. The Russian government isn’t going to collapse or succumb to antiwar pressure, neither is their economy going to collapse more than it has; so this war is most likely to end with Russia taking additional territory but not all of Ukraine; it will set up for another try in a couple of years when the Russians have put some obviously-needed work into their armed forces and waited for another time when the western alliance is weak.

    “Victory” is something that hasn’t really been on the table since the first atomic bombs exploded in 1945. As in Orwell’s 1984, the great powers can indulge in proxy wars on the periphery of their spheres of influence, but they can’t directly put each other under existential threat.

    Russia wants a sphere of influence, and 7,000 nuclear warheads say it is going to have one whether we like it or not.

    So I don’t see how Russia can avoid getting something that can be sold as ‘victory’ back home; if they can’t, they’ll keep fighting.`

  14. Sam McGowan

    April 5, 2022 at 11:39 am

    When I saw the article was by John Bolton, I was prepared to be disgusted. Surprisingly, the first part was good then he detiorated to his normal self. If Russia was out to take over Ukraine, we would have seem a much wider war with air and missle strikes all over the country. Instead, we’ve seen a limited war concentrated in Donbas and the Black Sea with an obvious fient toward Kiev to confuse the Ukrainians. We don’t really know how fierce the Ukraine resistance has been since US intelligence and the media is being fed bowls of propaganda. Remember when Zelensky claimed Putin wanted him dead? Believe me, if that were the case, he would be. By the way, the Left Bank and part of Kiev belonged to Russia before the Bolsheviks took over. There was no Ukraine prior to 1990. It should be obvious that Russia is accomplishing their goals and all the West can do is steal from rich Russians.

  15. Boris

    April 5, 2022 at 11:47 am

    Great Russian Bear is rising from sleep. Once the Bear is fully awake the running dog capitalist pigs will tremble in fear. Great is the rodina who defeated the Nazis without help from west. We sacrifice old outdated tanks making Ukraine waste its anti-tank weapons. Germany and west are paying for great and glorious new weapons like hypersonic missile that will put fear in weak, senile, lying old Biden and his corrupt son. Putin is great leader, you will see.

  16. Leon Lou

    April 5, 2022 at 11:59 am

    It is not all the time you will see me write this, I agree with John Bolton. His analysis is on the spot although he is wrong about Kyiv. You do not lose 1500 soldiers just to take over Kyiv and establish a friendly government that may last a decade at max. Kyiv was never the goal because it does not solve the “Ukraine Problem”. Ukraine already lost access to the Azov Sea, it has effectively lost access to the Black Sea. Much of the East is gone and large part of the South in Kherson is gone. Once Odesa is taken, Ukraine as an attractive NATO partner is gone. The rest of Ukraine under Zelensky in Kyiv will for the most part have to cooperate to save Ukraine. Zelensky is aware of this. The West would have to put troops into Ukraine to push the Russians out but this was never going to happen. But the West may be willing to fight for “freedom” to the last Ukrainians but I don’t think Ukrainians and Mr. Zelensky are willing to do this and this is why President Zelensky has addressed every parliament who will listen. But Mr. BOLTON assessment of Putin is spot on. Russia does not have to control Tlibsi to ensure its neutrality, South Ossetia does. Russia does not have to control Chisinau to ensure its neutrality, Transnistria does. Obviously, Belarus is Belarus. Militarily, you really do not even need to storm Odesa if Mykolaiv is taken.

  17. Commentar

    April 5, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    The case of how Ukraine has been handled by Biden is the same as how Libya was handled by Obama in 2011. As a playground for uncle Sam.

    Today, Libya is a failed state with two opposing sides claiming to represent the people, while foreign agents wield great influence with them.

    Ukraine is now walking down the same path, ‘guided’ by the NATO spokespersons, State Dept officials, Biden and loyal sidekick Stoltenberg and deep state outfits like META and twitter, all of them professing to have noble intentions to ‘save’ Ukrainians, but the fate that befelled Libya shows that they are all nothing more than snakes and devils.

    It’s too late now for reflections, the goose’s already been cooked, ww3 in Europe is now a very real possibilty.Thanks, Biden.

  18. Vladolph Putler

    April 5, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    I think everyone here is missing the point. Did Biden stir this up? Well, maybe to some extent. He facilitated a lack of credible deterrence, knowing that the Russians would poop the bed. A strategy that clearly pre-dated Biden.

    So is this a bad thing for Ukraine? Well, yes. Deterrence could perhaps have prevented war. In “theory”. However, appearance of weakness is its own strength. Russia DRAMATICALLY underestimated their adversary and is now in a slow roast far worse than their empire crippling adventure in Afghanistan.

    Ukraine has lost some territory. Some of it highly strategic. But nowhere near as strategic as allowing the Russians *in* to stretch their necks out. Fighting in the East will be harder, but Ukraine will be facing a MUCH weaker army, and wielding substantially improved military capabilities.

    Can Russia hold onto its ill begotten territory? Maybe. Maybe not. And that’s the reality- we will see, because Ukraine clearly intends to take it back. And frankly I don’t see Russia getting its military together to effective modern standards any time soon. Meanwhile Ukrainian full mobilization is in full swing. With hundreds of thousands of DETERMINED conscripts and a steady increase in game changing military hardware being immediately, and effectively employed.

    WW3? Perhaps. But if so, it was unavoidable. And it is entirely possible that China will shake Russia off and wipe up rather than suck it back in.

  19. Brian

    April 5, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    If Russia falls back to an “East of the Dnieper” strategy, I would expect them to start destroying the bridges over that river. So far, neither side has done so. Destroying bridges is a tactic used by a retreating army, not an advancing army. Thus far, neither side wants to see itself as a “retreating army”. If Russia concludes that it cannot cross the Dnieper to invade western Ukraine, why would it not begin to destroy the bridges that are essential to the resupply of Ukrainian forces in the East?

    Bridges are not that easy to destroy from the air, but not impossible in the era of “smart weapons”.

  20. Alex

    April 5, 2022 at 2:54 pm

    What is war: first of all, it is the disconnection of the country from electricity, oil, gas, water supply, and the media. Judging by the way the Bandera trolls write here, they are sitting warm and with access to the Internet. War is when you, Nazi bastards, will sit in the basements, as the children of Donbass were. In any case, if a special military operation is not enough, Russia will start full-fledged military operations, as a result of which Ukraine will be destroyed within 2-3 days. But: Russia has no such plans. Russia does not want to repeat the actions of the United States in many countries of the world.
    The staging in Bucha is collapsing: the corpses in the video are in no way similar to those that have lain on the street for three or four days, but according to the sensational and absolutely anti-scientific data of the New York Times, since March 20 in general. Either absolute amateurs or Western propagandists who do not want to listen to anything and have long called black white and vice versa can fall for this fake. It is better for Ukraine not to stop the special military operation, otherwise a war will start, where Ukraine will be destroyed in any way and no one from the West will help Ukraine. This is reality.

  21. Ace Spālien

    April 5, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    Bolton is a Globalist asshat, unworthy of the reading, barely worthy the comment upon his highly questionable lack of good character.

    Neither side in this “ affair “ is good, neither. The worst “ player “ is the Usurper American Government.

  22. Andrew P

    April 6, 2022 at 6:43 am

    Bolton may be right about what is happening, but wrong that we should be more heavily involved. Russia will ultimately win. Russia can’t lose in Ukraine any more than we could lose invading Mexico. Proximity matters. Our Deep State has been heavily invested in Ukraine for years. The goal always has been to use Ukraine to undermine and destroy Russia. They probably fed Putin bad intelligence so he believed that Ukraine would surrender easily and then Russia stepped into a bear trap. But Russia has nuclear weapons and the will to use them. Ukraine does not, and NATO isn’t about to fight a nuclear war with Russia, so Russia will win. It will be ugly and brutal, much of Ukraine will be radioactive before this is over, but so what? That is the Russian way.

  23. Alex

    April 7, 2022 at 8:24 pm

    Russian way – nuclear weapons? Jerk, tell me, did Russia use a nuclear weapon in the won? Did the US use it? Moron.

  24. Anthony Clifford

    April 15, 2022 at 10:56 pm

    But Putin does care about domestic public opinion. Yeltsin only handed power to him conditionally upon his being able to manufacture public opinion favourable to the Kremlin ; immediately at that time, but also for the future political life of Russia itself. Manufacture it he certainly did, from the very beginning. Have a look back though at how he fared after the Kursk disaster, in his early days as President. He at that time didn’t quite understand exactly how important it was to exert full control over how ‘events’ would be portrayed in the Russian media. The lesson he learnt from Kursk was twofold : the Russian military needed to be modernised as quickly as possible, and the freedom of the press and particularly of the TV media, needed to be closed down. He did the latter first, and whilst at it bizarrely blamed media oligarchs for the present parlous state of Russia’s military.
    Up to now, Putin has always had his and the Kremlin’s own answers which have served to substitute, or else fill the void of, alternative explanations put by Russian media before the nation’s consideration. Up to now he has been able to get away with it. But up to now the foreign press and media simply hasn’t been a factor in Putin’s or the Kremlin’s thinking. It never before has had to be.
    Now it does have to be. And probably Jake Sullivan is aware of this. See for instance how tied up in disinformation knots the Kremlin now is about this battle ship having been lost ; lost due to a fire they say on the one hand, but on the other they say they’ll make Kiev pay dearly for its loss. Why should Kiev pay dearly for some mysterious fire having broken out on board?
    John Bolton thinks that Putin can be, or will be replaced, most likely with someone else who thinks and acts as he does ; as a Pan Russian nationalist . In this he may be right. But it is highly unlikely that anyone could act as audaciously as Putin has done, either generally or particularly in relation to Ukraine. The Russian people will need to be fed a completely different set of lies to the ones they’re being fed now. That completely different set would almost certainly be a better set with which the world might live — and so too the Kremlin.

  25. Anthony Clifford

    April 17, 2022 at 6:28 am

    A day ago when I first read this article by John Bolton, I was about a quarter way through reading Steven Lee Myers’s book ‘The New Tsar’. But before I came upon Bolton’s piece here, I first read Condoleezza Rice’s comments, about Putin having gone a little nuts of late perhaps ( to paraphrase of course ), made I think back in early March, at the start of the invasion. Rice hasn’t said much on Ukraine or Putin since her comments were reported. Quite wisely, probably.
    It is heartening to believe that Russians will hopefully sooner rather than later depose or relegate Putin and that peace may be achieved. To think this way is to perceive the current war as in large measure a mad modern Tsar’s frolic.
    Having now got nearly two thirds through Myers’s really excellent book, which I can’t recommend too highly, I’m left to wonder whether Condoleezza Rice hasn’t forgotten rather a lot since her time in office. Putin has been thinking about doing what he’s doing now, for about eighteen years. Who now remembers Kuchma? He was Ukraine’s President until 2004 and was poisoned with dioxin which dramatically disfigured his face. Why was he poisoned? Probably because he threw his support behind a campaign, in the context of a presidential election, for Ukraine to join the EU and NATO.
    We need to hear more, more often, from John Bolton about what’s going on in the international politics surrounding this war. Russia is energy rich ; extremely so. Western Europe is energy dependent, largely on Russia God help them. How many analysts in the west have really cottoned on yet to what these basic facts herald? Sanctions such as have so far been imposed against Russia by the west are not going to be effective. Russia has India and China on side to help circumvent them. Our resolve in the west is yet to have been even remotely tested.
    So far the Biden Administration seems to have been pretty well on the ball though, but they will have to stay on it for a much longer time to come because the Siloviki we’re all up against are an unknown quantity and their patience hasn’t been tried yet.

  26. AC

    April 17, 2022 at 6:34 am

    A day ago when I first read this article by John Bolton, I was about a quarter way through reading Steven Lee Myers’s book ‘The New Tsar’. But before I came upon Bolton’s piece here, I first read Condoleezza Rice’s comments, about Putin having gone a little nuts of late perhaps ( to paraphrase of course ), made I think back in early March, at the start of the invasion. Rice hasn’t said much on Ukraine or Putin since her comments were reported. Quite wisely, probably.
    It is heartening to believe that Russians will hopefully sooner rather than later depose or relegate Putin and that peace may be achieved. To think this way is to perceive the current war as in large measure a mad modern Tsar’s frolic.
    Having now got nearly two thirds through Myers’s really excellent book, which I can’t recommend too highly, I’m left to wonder whether Condoleezza Rice hasn’t forgotten rather a lot since her time in office. Putin has been thinking about doing what he’s doing now, for about eighteen years. Who now remembers Kuchma? He was Ukraine’s President until 2004 and was poisoned with dioxin which dramatically disfigured his face. Why was he poisoned? Probably because he threw his support behind a campaign, in the context of a presidential election, for Ukraine to join the EU and NATO.
    We need to hear more, more often, from John Bolton about what’s going on in the international politics surrounding this war. Russia is energy rich ; extremely so. Western Europe is energy dependent, largely on Russia God help them. How many analysts in the west have really cottoned on yet to what these basic facts herald? Sanctions such as have so far been imposed against Russia by the west are not going to be effective. Russia has India and China on side to help circumvent them. Our resolve in the west is yet to have been even remotely tested.
    So far the Biden Administration seems to have been pretty well on the ball though, but they will have to stay on it for a much longer time to come because the Siloviki we’re all up against are an unknown quantity and their patience hasn’t been tried yet.

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