Putin needs no Face-Saver to withdraw

Withdrawal of Military takes decades. And demolishing one adversary, invariably raises another.

In 1945, US and Russians finished Hitler and Nazis in toto. But thereafter, both of them stood facing against each other for the next 45 years.

US entered Vietnam in 1965 to stop the communists. Very quickly they knew they can’t win. But it took the US another 10 years, and one roof, to get out of Saigon.
See BBC documentary “Last Days of Vietnam” (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyiVgHw3fE )

US is an experienced cut-and-run power. On the other hand, Russia has a history to provide the conquered, a functional government, albeit a stooge.

The West understands Putin’s angst of a NATO missile next door to Moscow. They have had similar experience in 1962, when Russia (then USSR) decided to place nuclear capable missiles in Cuba, next-door to US. The hue and cry and Hollywood movies still reverberate to this day. But when Russia does the same and warns Ukraine to strike neutrality – see the about-face of the same west.

But international politics (or any power politics) is not about whereaboutary. Its what is possible, and what can be successfully backed. The west has dollars, they have innovations, they have the clout. They will win even if they are not right. They can pull it off. Can Russia?

Russia has advantages. It does not have baggage of Democracy. It does not need “Face-Savers” to withdraw. The ignominy of a retreating force is not going to play in Moscow. Putin is for life.

And till now, Putin has made his point. The west will rethink NATO memberships for past Soviet satellites, particularly those bordering Russia, like Finland.

What the Russians are doing in Ukraine is not what they are cut out to do. This is not how they make wars. Russian wars are scorched earth. But in Ukraine they are intimidating. Probably they expected the government to run away or acquiesce but they found a leader in Zelenskyy who has dug himself.

Its a bizarre situation. Zelenskyy, the newbie, messed up Putin, the KGB.

Ukraine claimed joining NATO, even when NATO does not prefer this as it would offend Moscow. Putin should stop short when NATO still regards the Russian stance. Further push will give a ruse or alternative to NATO to disregard.

What should Putin do now? Should he go in all-guns-blazing? Or should he withdraw?

Firstly, should Putin decide to scorch, he will have in hand a charred territory which he cannot abandon. Otherwise, the west will enter. Either his bulwark is the compliant population of Ukraine, or his occupying troops, or his population planted from Russia. Its a devil and deep blue sea situation. His choices are numerous yet restrictive.

Secondly, should he decide to back off, he will have a disgruntled territory. More pro-west. But Putin can use a few silver lining of this cloud. For one, his sagacity to withdraw early will be taken note of. Now everyone expects at least a decade of strife. Putin can disappoint them. If Putin is intelligent he will self-preserve. He will also surprise the west, who, after few days of glee, mirth and chest thumping may well settle down for business as usual.

This has happened before. It can happen again.

As long as Russian oil and gas is important for Europe, Moscow will be important too.