The latest rhetoric from Mad Dog Putin is very concerning. He is dangerously escalating, again. The man is Hitlering up, again. If the very recent past is prologue, watch out. The rhetoric is now approaching literal nuclear levels.
“Ukraine, saturated with weapons, poses a threat to Russia, including from the point of view of the development and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” intoned a grim Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Putin’s Russian Security Council.
This, of course, is an outrageous assertion. Ukraine does not have nukes. In fact, Ukraine in the mid-1990s gave up its nukes under pressure from the West to disarm when the USSR disintegrated. Ukraine had seriously considered keeping those nukes, and many Western strategists urged just that as a deterrent to keep the Russian bear at bay. But under intense pressure from the administration of Bill Clinton, Ukrainian officials by 1996 had ceded all their nukes to Moscow.
To repeat, and needless to say: Ukraine is not a nuclear threat to Vladimir Putin. But Putin’s boys are now pushing this latest big lie.
“The danger is serious,” insists a solemn Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s lap-dog foreign minister. “It is real. It should not be underestimated.”
No, it is not real. Nonsense. Bunkum. Codswallop.
What’s the Russian word for “bullpucky?” Whatever it is, it applies here. Even more fitting is the word “disinformation,” which in Russian is dezinformatsiya. Words that also apply are “agitation” and “propaganda,” for which the Russkies during the Cold War dedicated an entire Department of Agitprop.
Those statements from Patrushev and Lavrov came before Putin’s alarming warning yesterday. “If anyone ventures to intervene from the outside and [pose] unacceptable threats of a strategic nature to Russia, they should know that our counter-retaliatory strikes will take place with lightning speed,” promised Putin. Alluding to Russia’s deployment a few weeks ago of a hypersonic missile, Putin added: “We have all the tools to do this. The kind that no one else can boast of right now. And we will not boast; we will use them if necessary. I want everyone to know that. All the decisions have been made in this regard.”
Putin is ramping up the rhetoric yet again, even higher. He is warning the West, with missile attacks, not to intervene in a situation in which he’s now portraying Ukraine as the aggressor, one with alleged weapons of mass destruction aimed at poor Russia.
All of this is Putinesque pretext for more violence, as we’ve seen since the start of his war of unprovoked aggression against a neighboring democracy and independent state that just three decades ago finally pulled its neck from under the jackboot of Kremlin totalitarianism. Recall Putin’s hyperbole when he first moved again Ukraine in February. His justifications for invading were Hitler-like, as he pushed lies about ethnic Russians being persecuted in this or that region. Amazingly, he claimed they were being targeted for “genocide” by the Ukrainian government. This is what Adolf Hitler had charged against countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland in the late 1930s.
And yet, Putin slings charges of Nazism in the other direction. This Russian strongman has dusted off his old KGB dezinformatsiya manual. Among his most shocking claims is that he’s seeking a “de-Nazification of Ukraine.” His surreal assertion angered and bewildered observers worldwide. How did Putin come up with that whopper? The reality is that the Kremlin after World War II labeled pretty much every enemy a “Nazi sympathizer.” It’s standard operating procedure.
It all shows his desperation. And a desperate Vladimir Putin is a scary prospect.
Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born U.S. intelligence expert who worked for the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, and who wrote Putin’s Playbook, speaks of an episode in the life of Putin growing up in the 1960s in a communal apartment in Leningrad. “To get to his apartment on the fifth floor,” writes Koffler, “young Putin had to run up the flight of stairs, infested by hungry rats. Armed with a stick … he eventually decided to observe their behavior.”
Putin spent hours confronting rats. Once, he cornered a huge rat. With nowhere to go, it lashed out at him. A frightened Putin fled, vowing to never back down again. “During his life and career,” observes Koffler, “Putin has had several ‘cornered rat’ moments, which have shaped his thinking and behavior.”
What the world fears right now, of course, is Putin himself becoming cornered. How might he lash out? After all, you don’t want to poke a cornered rat.
As his troops and commanders continue to fail on the battlefield again and again, with defeat upon defeat, could a desperate Putin go nuclear? I think he’s fully capable of it. He’s desperate especially because of how badly he wants Ukraine.
“The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” declared Putin in April 2005 in his annual state of the nation address to the Russian parliament. When Putin said this, those of us who study Russia and the Cold War scratched our heads. What to make of that alarming declaration, especially given that Putin, in April 2005, was not yet the Putin we now know. He had been appointed by Boris Yeltsin as prime minister, overwhelmingly approved by the Duma, and easily elected twice by the Russian people.
What did he mean by this? More important, what was he planning to do?
I’ve been asked about Putin’s 2005 statement many times, in class, in speeches, in media interviews. I’ve always said that we should not interpret it as a sign that Putin is seeking to reconstitute the old USSR. The Soviet Union consisted of Russia and 15 “republics,” all of which by December 1991 had declared independence, including Ukraine, a territorially huge nation with a population of 43 million. In no way does Vladimir Putin want to try to pull together the whole bloody behemoth that was the USSR.
But Putin does care very much, obviously, about Ukraine. How much of it? Answer: he wants all of it. He’s hellbent on getting it. That means conjuring up every pretext for his aggression. It means rapes and war crimes and sickening human-rights abuses. And it very well could mean using WMDs. Doing so for Vlad means inventing another outrageous excuse — in this case, the need to allegedly defend himself and his Russians from a WMD assault by Zelensky and the Ukrainian people.
Mad Vlad is getting madder, angrier, more vitriolic. This could get far worse, very soon. I’ve long expected that it will.