We’ve seen it from both sides in this conflict: military build-up and aggression, propaganda and censorship. And now the full out invasion (or is that liberation?) of a sovereign state by Russia. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is characterized by many things. However, we should turn our attention to the leadership (or lack thereof) that made this situation so intractably messy in the first place. What is it that Jocko Willink says about leaders taking “extreme ownership” over the outcomes of their decisions? We have some leaders right here in the US that would do well to read this former Navy SEAL’s book.
Nobody wants war. It is the option of last resort. That’s why we need to understand the decision-making and actions of the leading players. Something that is crucial to figuring out where this situation could end up as well as diverting it from the worst possible calamity.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in several international crises the likes of which have left a lot of people spellbound. And many fearing the worst. With this in mind, let’s get a rundown on how the top players have gotten themselves into this Ukraine fracas.
In the immortal words of military strategist Sun Tzu: “know your enemy.” To truly get to know Putin, we need to understand his worldview. Ex-KGB spy who rose through the ranks to become the Russian President in 2000, Putin has held onto power ever since. Putin has previously been called “an imperialist of the old Soviet school”. But his empire-building ambitions are rooted even further back then that. In fact, Putin is a Russian imperialist who wants to re-establish the Czarist Empire to its former glory. He blames the early USSR regime for handing traditionally Russian lands over to Ukraine.
For nearly a decade, Putin has authorized Russian state-run media to portray Ukraine as run by neo-Nazis that receive their backing from Western imperialists who want nothing more than to hem Russian expansionism in on all sides. To counteract seeming NATO military buildup in the region, on the 24 February 2022, Putin announced that Russia was conducting a “special military operation” in the Donbas, before beginning his invasion of Ukraine.
The 46th President of the US, and successor to President Trump who had his own way of dealing with the Russians, Sleepy Joe entered the saber-rattling contest on 19 January 2022. During a press conference, Biden made a “guess” that Putin would “move in” to Ukraine. However, he also warned that the Russian President would pay “a serious and dear price” for any invasion and “would regret it”. Western leaders’ passivity in the face of the looming Russian-Ukraine crisis was now ended. Much could have been done earlier when around 100,000 Russian soldiers were amassing at the Ukrainian border in October 2021. And more leadership could have been shown from November 2021 when Russian officials continuously denied that an invasion was on the drawing board, despite evidence to the contrary. Let’s not deal too much in counterfactual history. Yet it’s important to learn from it. Former President Trump warned the world as well as Putin himself about what an invasion of the Ukraine could mean in January of this year. Telling Putin not to mistake perceived weakness from Biden as emblematic of the weakness of the US military. Many pundits are saying that Putin would never have dared invade Ukraine under Trump’s watch as he wouldn’t have got away with it. Under the sleepy gaze of Biden, he dares do all that he can.
What are the odds that a former comedian who played a role on a TV show as a history teacher unexpectedly thrust into the Ukrainian presidency, would actually one day end up becoming the Ukranian President? Not very high. In a country wracked by corruption, it is widely reported that his presidential campaign was bankrolled in large part by Igor Kolomoisky – a Ukrainian oligarch who has been implicated in corruption scandals previously. Zelensky’s lack of political experience, combined with his conviction to have Ukraine admitted to NATO, acted as a red flag to a bull for Putin to invade. Geopolitically speaking, it is not in Russia’s self-interest to have a new NATO member nation on its doorstep. That way it could end up militarily contained, and it fought hard against this occurring during the Cold War.
Interestingly, his showbiz past has seemingly helped Zelensky act with conviction and show some leadership both before and after the Russian onslaught. His heartfelt speeches have been televised to both Russians and Ukrainians alike, yet these have not stopped the military might and intent of Putin to take reunite what he considers to constitute “one people” – the Russians and Ukrainians. As well as writing history essays on the matter of Russo-Ukrainian unity, Putin has been especially incensed by Zelensky’s movements to pursue a path of cooperation with the West. This is regarded as both a betrayal and a threat to Russian authority in the region. At the time of writing, Zelensky seemingly has walked back his intention of having Ukraine join NATO, and is open to talks with Putin about giving back control of Russian-aligned separatist regions in the Donbas.
Could an end to this war be in sight?
Possibly. However, decisions made by business leaders and leaders of countries alike do much to prolong the fighting. Biden’s decision to ban imports of Russian oil and gas to economically wage war on Russia, leaves us here at home in a precarious situation. And it shows Russia our hand.
For America we are just swapping dealing with one bad guy for another. Now we must go hat in hand to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and Venezuela for the oil we rely upon to drive our economy. Americans are already suffering at the pump from historically high gas prices off the back of this government’s inflationary policies. It wasn’t enough that our President shut down the Keystone Pipeline that would have significantly reduced our reliance on foreign oil, he showed his hand too soon that economic sanctions would be the only measure imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Putin is now given carte blanche to continue his push to overtake all of Ukraine. And it would be a very precious gem in his crown indeed. He would acquire all the country’s rich natural resources, including oil and gas reserves as well as food production. And he will find ready-made customers in the fast-growing and oil-hungry countries of China and India for this oil as well as the stuff he cannot sell to the US. Rather than pulling back on NATO membership deals with Ukraine, Biden has effectively fueled Putin’s conviction to go after the entire country. Putin has seen what he believes is the extent of the West’s reaction and knows what prize lies ahead once the war is over. At the end of the day, this move by Biden means everyday Ukrainians will continue to suffer.
However, it would not be wise for Putin to mistake a weakened leadership in the West for a weak military. Coming back to Trump for a second, during the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, the former president called Putin “smart” and our current government “dumb”. Trump also rightly pointed out the sanctions are a “weak” move and will not stop Putin in his tracks.
Certainly, we wouldn’t be in this mess if a leader like Trump was in the Whitehouse. Trump was wrongly accused of being pro-Russian because of his closer-than-normal dealings with Moscow. Far from aiding and abetting Russia, Trump was keenly aware of the enemy, as the enemy was of him. Putin understood that Trump doesn’t bluff and that he doesn’t play games. And this would have been enough to keep Putin’s goals of Russian expansionism in check.
With China warning the world against providing military aid to Taiwan, Iranian missile attack on United States Consulate and of course, Russia attack on Ukrainian people, we desperately need strong American leadership.
What we are seeing now from leaders in the West is a continuation of the indecisiveness that got the world into this mess in the first place. This Russian-Ukrainian conflict could pull other countries into its orbit and cost the lives of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, China’s silence on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been deafening. And revealing. As the second most powerful nation in the world, China has its own expansionist ambitions, namely Taiwan. Biden recently dispatched a delegation of former US officials to the small island of Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just as he previously did in January for the defense for Ukraine.
China claims control over Taiwan, even though the country has been self-governing for decades. Recently, China has ramped up its threats to bring in the military if Taiwan continued down the path of independence. With China tacitly supporting Russia and America openly supporting Ukraine and Taiwan, the stage is set for open hostility to turn into war by proxy for this uneasy
Ruthless tyrants know the window is short due to US elections in the window.
What we need now is strong leadership. Nobody wants war. Weak leadership leads to a weakened America. And a weakened democratic world.