Saturday, February 26, 2022

Putin’s miscalculation

So, Putin expected Afghanistan in 2021. But he got Afghanistan in 1979. Ukrainians aren’t rolling over or welcoming back an old friend. They, and their president, are digging in for war. Their army is fighting hard. Harsh Western sanctions are targeting Putin and all his oligarch buddies, who were content to keep him in power while it filled their coffers, but who now stand to lose billions.

The Kremlin isn’t orchestrating a relatively bloodless coup in Ukraine any more. It is instead attempting to become an occupying force. And that is a much more difficult proposition for a country, even a large and wealthy one — you don’t need to look much further than Afghanistan to see the problem with external forces (who will, eventually, have to go home), trying to impose ideologies or governments on a people who don’t want them. Add to that those crippling sanctions, and you’re staring down the barrel of a protracted battle that isn’t easily won.

Or, to put it another way: How do you control a country of 44 million Ukrainians who suddenly have something to believe in? And how do you keep your own people on board?

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