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Putin’s Choices

By Steve Slavin. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Russian Vladimir Putin

Months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it was evident that President Vladimir Putin would either try to slice off a few more pieces of Ukraine to add to the Crimean Peninsula and parts of Eastern Ukraine that Russia seized in the middle of the last decade, or else attempt to swallow the entire country.

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Three Things That Didnt Go According To Putin’s Plan

Within a couple of days after February 24th when the invasion was launched, it had become quite clear that Putin would be going for broke. But regretfully for the Russian dictator, three things did not go exactly according to plan.

First, the Ukrainian armed forces and its civilian population mounted an extremely strong and effective resistance to the invasion. Second, the Russian armed forces – from its top generals down to its lowly conscripted solders – delivered a surprisingly poor battlefield performance. And third, the United States, its NATO allies, and many other nations around the world delivered a surprisingly large amount of military aid to Ukraine.

Putin is well aware that things have not all gone according to plan, and that he needs to recalibrate. This will require making three crucial decisions. First, should he continue trying to swallow all of Ukraine or to settle for a few more slices of territory? He must also decide whether to stop being “Mr. Nice Guy” and once again display his basic tough guy persona. Or should he just declare victory and leave some of his troops in conquered territories such as the land bridge between Crimea and the Russian-held parts of Eastern Ukraine?

These three choices are intertwined. For example, if Putin decides to keep trying to take over all of Ukraine, then he will need to assume his role of tough guy – or, as President Joe Biden has described him— openly proclaim his role as a “war criminal.” He would also need to keep pouring additional troops and weaponry into Ukraine and perhaps even welcome the services of the Belarussian military and Syrian mercenaries.

If he decides to assume his Mr. Tough Guy role. Putin will order the indiscriminate bombing of noncombatants such as children and the elderly, and maybe even the use of chemical weapons like those he employed in Chechnya and Syria.

Perhaps the best outcome we can hope for is that Putin will cash in his remaining chips and leave the game. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Whatever else might be said about him, Vladimir Putin has truly earned the title of War Criminal.

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