bureaucracybusters

DICTATORS AND THEIR HUBRIS–AN UPDATE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2022 at 12:10 am

On February 28, CNN’s website published the following headline: Russia faces financial meltdown as sanctions slam its economy.

The story opened:

“Russia was scrambling to prevent financial meltdown Monday as its economy was slammed by a broadside of crushing Western sanctions imposed over the weekend in response to the invasion of Ukraine.”  

That unprovoked attack opened on February 24, with missile and artillery attacks, striking major Ukrainian cities, including Kiev. 

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin believed that the conquest of Ukraine would be a cakewalk. Intent on restoring the borders of the former Soviet Union, he had swept from one successful war to the next:

  • In 1999-2000, he waged the Second Chechen War, restoring federal control of Chechnya.
  • In 2008, he invaded the Republic of Georgia, which had declared its independence as the Soviet Union began to crumble. By war’s end, Russia occupied 20% of Georgia’s territory.
  • In 2014, Putin invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched only verbal condemnations.

The reasons:

  • Fear of igniting a nuclear war; 
  • Belief that Russia was simply acting within its own sphere of influence; and/or
  • Then-President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on NATO and displays of subservience to Putin.

NATO report says Pakistan wants peace deal in Afghanistan, India against it

NATO emblem

Russia had began massing troops on the Ukrainian border in 2021. 

When the invasion came, the United States and its Western European allies retaliated with unprecedented economic sanctions. 

Among the resulting casualties: 

  • The ruble crashed.
  • Russia’s central bank more than doubled interest rates to 20%.
  • Economists predicted the Russian economy could decline by five percent. 
  • The West—especially the United States—froze at least half of the $630 billion in international reserves that Putin had amassed to stave off tough sanctions.

Then the war bogged down for Russia:

  • In late August, Ukraine, using missile systems supplied by the United States, destroyed Russian ammunition dumps and a Russian air base in Crimea. 
  • By September, Ukrainian forces recaptured much of the northeastern Kharkiv region, including the city of Izium, which the Russians had been using as a logistics hub.
  • On September 21, Putin announced the partial mobilization of 300,000 military reservists. All male citizens below 60 are now eligible to be drafted.
  • This, in turn, led at least 194,000 Russian men to such neighboring countries as Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. 

In short: The war is not going the way Putin assumed it would.

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin 

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This is not the first time a dictator has guessed wrong about the results of his actions.

On September 1, 1939, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered his armies to invade Poland. 

Almost a year earlier—on September 29, 1938—he had bullied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier into surrendering the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

The Munich Agreement whetted Hitler’s appetite for greater conquests—and fueled his contempt for England and France: “Our enemies are little worms,” he said in a conference with his generals. “I saw them at Munich.”

He believed he could conquer Poland, and Chamberlain and Daladier would meekly ratify his latest acquisition. 

Adolf Hitler

So he was stunned when, on September 3, 1939, Britain and France—however reluctantly—honored their pledged word to Poland and declared war on Germany.

“What now?” Hitler furiously asked his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Ribbentrop had no answer.

Knowing that Germany lacked the resources for a long war, Hitler had intended to fight a series of quick, small wars, gobbling up one country at a time. Now he found himself locked in an endless war with heavyweights France and England—and eventually the Soviet Union and the United States.

He stayed locked into that war until he committed suicide on April 30, 1945, and the Third Reich officially collapsed on May 7.

Fifty-eight years later, on March 21, 2003, President George W. Bush’s attacked Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. 

Related image

George W. Bush

The war started impressively, with 1,700 air sorties and 504 Cruise missiles. 

Within two weeks, American ground forces entered Baghdad. After four days of intense fighting, the Iraqi regime fell. By April 14, the Pentagon reported that major military operations had ended.

On May 1, 2003, Bush declared that the war was won.

But then American forces became embroiled in an endless, nationwide guerrilla war. Eighteen years later, the United States was still fighting in Iraq. 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Frightened China and Russia into expanding the size of their militaries. 

And Putin? 

  • A major reason for his attack: To prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. 
  • But it has frightened Sweden and Finland into joining NATO. 
  • After four years of the Putin-appeasing Trump administration, the United States, under President Joe Biden, has aggressively supplied sophisticated weapons to Ukraine. 
  • Through a series of humiliating battlefield defeats and by enraging millions of Russians with a draft, Putin has locked himself into a no-win position. 
  • And NATO is now fully revitalized to meet future Russian threats.

Thus do the worst intentions of hubristic dictators often come undone.

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