“The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out.”
— Sen. Lindsey Graham
This is not World War III.
Despite their indoctrination, Russian military leaders do not share Putin’s archaic siege mentality, that Russia must defend against a perennial attack from NATO — which has proven itself, at best, entirely defensive. With no Communist Politburo to restrain or oust him, Putin nonetheless cannot assume a compliant military. In typical old-line Communist fashion, Putin likely will shame and relieve of command some Russian officers, scapegoated for simply doing his absurd bidding.
As I write this, WNBA Star Brittney Griner is being detained in Russia. This is right out of the old Soviet Union playbook: intimidate America by arresting Americans, even to be held and later traded in future negotiations. We’ve seen this movie many times.
We despair and cry as we watch — in real time —brave people suffering against Putin’s evil. But Putin is not Russia! For two decades Putin has wanted this and bided his time; he moved alone against Ukraine (why now?) because our president is Joe Biden, and the next two in line are even worse, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi.
Calibrated sanctions over months and weeks escalated as Putin moved more troops into the region, might have avoided this invasion, its death and destruction and humanitarian tragedy. But that would have taken a real commander in chief, robust leadership, strategic thinking, and a team that believes in America, rather than masochistically tearing down our country regularly, here and in the eyes of the world. Indeed, Biden’s U.S. Agency for Global Media is more likely to apologize for our country rather than tell America’s story; our once creative agitprop is a relic.
Fortunately for us, Putin is a bad liar!
Americans should ask why the feckless and lethargic Joe Biden, the worst president of the modern era, also moved inexplicably, slowly for months in arming Ukraine, just as he was months behind in pursing orderly, phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and opted for humiliating chaos there, as well as leaving behind weapons that could have been salvaged and, in many cases, sent last year to Ukraine. Fortunately: despite the Biden’s Administration’s public ambiguity (as if Putin doesn’t know), U.S. Stinger missiles are arriving, belatedly. It’s likely the Russian helicopters and much of their lower-flying aircraft do not have decoy mechanisms to deflect against the heat-seeking stingers.
Joe Biden and Antony Blinken do not deserve credit for international unity against Putin. The outpouring of support for Ukraine is organic. It’s the shock therapy of Putin’s terror in real time coverage — even CNN is not taking the enemy’s side. Awakened leaders in Europe are leading a timid, dysfunctional American president in sharp contrast to Ronald Reagan who brought the Soviet empire crumbling down.
Nor were Putin’s generals likely supportive privately, except perhaps General Sukhovitsky, now killed by the Ukrainians, unless by his own troops, the unprepared and deceived conscripts.
This terrible situation is inextricably linked to Biden’s absurd economic policies which are not the only but surely the main reason for runaway inflation, and his energy policies pushing the cost of living ever higher while enriching our oil-producing enemies — enabling and underwriting Iran’s terror and Putin’s war. Even Tesla’s Elon Musk questions Biden’s continued, urgent destruction of America’s fossil fuels industry and calls for more drilling here, now. The biggest threat to national security is not, as Biden’s groupies proclaim, “global warming”; it is… Joe Biden.
If we had Hollywood’s Mission Impossible team to liquidate Putin, remember that Biden was the only one on Barack Obama’s team to oppose taking out Osama bin Laden. He has been on the wrong side of nearly every major foreign policy and national security policy for his entire political life. In the U.S. Senate he was amiable but not the brightest bulb. Biden has been generally indecisive, if not solicitous of bad actors, including his courtship of segregationists in the U.S. Senate. Now in his twilight years he became the Left’s reliable “useful idiot” (Lenin’s term). No doubt Biden would object to the most elite team of Navy Seals to neutralize Putin, perhaps because the team might be insufficiently “diverse” or “inclusive.”
This is not a partisan attack on Biden who may owe his presidency most to Anthony Fauci. Yet, absent Trump’s alienating tweets and off-putting theatrics and the election becoming a referendum on Trump, Biden would not be president. I found Trump’s past praise of Putin gratuitous and stupid, and his recent Putin remarks offensive. That said, were Trump president, this invasion would never have happened, as discussed later.
And Putin is not acting out of character, but in character. In zeitgeist, he remains a Communist, KGB, amoral. Yet, a decade ago trendy Hollywood elite celebrated with the schizophrenic Putin.
Nearly seven decades ago, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born in Leningrad, USSR, now its original name, Saint Petersburg. And nearly five months later, on March 5, 1953, the anniversary of which was yesterday, the ruthless Soviet leader for a generation, Joseph Stalin is dead.
A stroke or poisoning? No matter, Stalin is canceled (“de-Stalinization”). Although successor Nikita Khrushchev even declares amnesty for political prisoners, he is no reformer. His ruthless invasion of Hungary (1956) is a precursor for successor Leonid Brezhnev’s invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968), brilliantly depicted in an Academy Award winning brilliant, riveting 14-minute film exec-produced by my dear friend, the late Bruce Herschensohn, the endless tanks an eerie preview of the road to Kyiv more than a half century later.
Putin, who channels Stalin, may face a similar fate. One way or another, Russia’s legally “President for life” will be gone in days, weeks, months, perhaps sooner than later. While assassinating Kim in North Korea would accomplish little because of his intricately detailed line of succession of thugs, Putin’s successor is more likely to be more “Russian” and less “Soviet” and to usher a new glasnost.
Until Putin is gone, boycotts and sanctions will persist, unlike the Iranian situation, where European companies that wanted profitable business with Iran lobbied for Obama’s pro-Iran nuclear deal. Now a nation-state pariah, Russia — post-Putin — will get its house in order and might eventually pay limited reparations to Ukraine. Massive reparations might be too harsh for the Russian people who did not seek Putin’s war. Still, why should the U.S. contribute to reconstruction: Once Putin is gone, Russia should fund.
Putin, with initial support from China, has played the nuclear card to foreclose the West enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Biden’s ill-advised economic policies, his delay for months in accelerating weapons deliveries to Ukraine and delayed imposition of sanctions on Putin, thus limited Biden’s options. But the transactional, linear-thinking Biden could not see this, and who could he turn to — master geopolitical strategist, Kamala Harris?
Wouldn’t it be ironic if Putin’s successor, under pressure to give up nuclear weapons, reduced the arsenal but perhaps yet sufficient to deter Russia’s real enemy, China?
History will not treat Putin kindly.
Consider some of the many other IRONIES.
Putin justified his invasion by saying Ukraine had to be “demilitarized”; the Soviets (and Europe) had long feared a united Germany. Following WWII, there was to be a demilitarized Germany and Japan. But instead of Germany threatening the Soviet Union, Putin now threatens Europe and Germany, which united now sets a new precedent, exporting arms to Ukraine. And meanwhile Japan rearms to protect against Putin’s current allies — North Korea and China. (Ironically, consider that more than five thousand Ukrainian Jewish women and children fleeing Putin — have sought refuge and been welcomed in Germany. So much for Putin’s Nazi justification for the invasion.)
China reconsiders its tacit alliance with the now expendable Putin. Biden has demeaned America even more than Barack Obama’s apology tour; his obsession with exaggerated American racism undermines American exceptionalism. And after Biden’s bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, for which he took no responsibility nor did he fire anyone (he claimed success!), China began planning for a propitious moment to attack Taiwan. The flawed but pro-American Trump had kept Putin and Xi Jinping guessing. In contrast, Biden was nearly certain to acquiesce, so why not strike Taiwan before Biden’s likely midterm election rebuke when national security Republicans would gain influence?
Both Putin and Xi have taken notice that we have buffoons in key positions. Biden remains slow and weak, incoherent and uninspiring. He and his clueless bureaucrats — notably his Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff prioritize flight suits to accommodate pregnant troops and seem to identify “global warming” as the major national security threat. The day before Putin invaded, Biden’s cabinet-level “climate czar” (appropriate Russian term) John Kerry said, “I hope President Putin will help us stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate.” VP Harris, who only last year boasted she had never been to Europe, remains an embarrassment.
These are the clowns that spur our adversaries.
China realizes that Putin has distracted attention from its Olympics fiasco, and its slave labor and internment camps. While China — given America’s declining naval fleet and our reduced Pacific command footprint — might still move against Taiwan, it’s now more likely that China will play down Leader Xi’s cozy relationship with the reviled Putin and wait, because — ironically — with Ukraine’s example, it is problematic for China to invade Taiwan without risking worldwide condemnation and an international boycott of China.
What about NATO? Russia claimed to be threatened by a divided, underfunded, and (some said moribund) NATO. But Putin’s invasion has given NATO a raison d’être — a new lease on life, and with Finland and Sweden seeking membership. Even neutral Switzerland participates in a boycott of Russia.
This is not Russia’s invasion, but Putin’s, and should be so referenced for many reasons, including driving a wedge between Putin and the Russian people who will suffer, although there was no constituency for this war, surely not among the populace. His cabinet was conflicted, if not quietly opposed. Remember how his intelligence chief imprudently expressed skepticism. Other naysayers were conspicuously silent. Putin’s loyal mouthpiece is Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose demeanor misleads, since he always looks like he has an upset stomach. Nor were Putin’s generals likely supportive privately, except perhaps General Sukhovetsky, now killed by the Ukrainians, unless by his own troops, the unprepared and deceived conscripts.
“Ukraine is a country in Europe,” explained Kamala Harris last week, who as Joe Biden’s point person on the (U.S./Mexico) border, was asked last year why she had not visited that border. “I haven’t visited Europe,” she replied, laughing, as usual, uncontrollably. (So Joe credentialed her with the G-7 meeting. Fortunately, the mask garbled her words there.)
And the VP last week continued: “It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia is a powerful country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine. So, basically, that’s wrong, and it goes against everything that we stand for.”
Her staffers say the vice president is lazy and doesn’t read her briefings. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, “Kamala doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.” But the world also is hardly in awe of President Biden. Now Harris, who is going to Poland and Romania, has said, “Joe says foreign policy might sound complicated but it’s just about relationships.” Her most beneficial relationship was with then–California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who launched her career. As one expert on NATO and Russia told me, “Putin is a particularly good judge of character — of strengths and weaknesses or he wouldn’t have been able to gain and maintain power. He senses a weak U.S. leadership, not just Biden but his team.”
It cannot escape Putin that Biden, his Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have seemed more concerned with “diversity, equity and inclusion” than the lethal power of the American military. While Trump imprudently praised Putin in a naive ploy to flatter him, thus lending credence to Hillary’s bogus Russian collusion narrative, the Trump Administration policies toward Russia were actually tougher than Obama’s and (until last week) Biden’s.
We cannot prove, but we can speculate, that with Trump in a second term, Putin would not have invaded.
First: Trump not only made the U.S. energy independent but publicly opposed European and German dependence on Russian oil, while the incompetent Biden curtailed U.S. energy production and raised oil prices, benefiting Russia and Iran. Trump certainly would not be buying oil from Russia. Biden in effect funds Russia’s war because he won’t restart certain oil drilling here, which decision would highlight his stupid policy, and he also fears higher gas prices would foreshadow greater electoral losses in the November midterms, but he may yield to bipartisan pressure to stop buying oil from Russia, perhaps to persuade voters to blame high gas prices entirely on Putin.
The formidable analyst Irina Zsukerman has speculated that Biden’s handlers want a nuclear deal with Iran; a full nuclear weapons manufacturing capability could be a fait accompli before the next president takes office. Israelis fear that Biden will further justify the deal by citing Iran’s oil as a way to lower the price of gas. Choose your devil — Russia or Iran. It’s absurd the U.S. has continued to work with Russia to broker an Iran deal, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the U.S. buying oil from Iran is possible.
Second: Trump was unpredictable. And Putin was nurtured in preferring stability. In 1979, while he was overseeing surveillance of foreigners in Leningrad, his KGB bosses were lamenting the instability in Iran, because they preferred the known quantity — the pro-western Shah to the unknown quantity — the Ayatollah, who could ignite an Islamist uprising within Muslim regions of the then Soviet Union. Now Iran matured into the status quo, while Trump remained a question mark.
Third: Trump had a good team, for example Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, rather than Antony Blinken. The more troops Putin dispatched near Ukraine, the greater the Trump national security team would have turned up calibrated sanctions, not waiting for the invasion. Biden did not lead on this but followed.
It’s clear Putin is off his stride. But the irony is that Biden is hardly at the top of his game. At this dangerous juncture, the U.S. is led by a president in mental decline who does not think clearly. And Russia is headed by a man increasingly isolated, more delusional than ever.
Putin lost family members when Hitler attacked Leningrad, which lost a quarter of its population. His generation was brought up with a siege mentality. A few years after Putin began his KGB career, the Soviet Union, without even trying to contact the pilots, shot down a commercial airliner that mistakenly entered its air space; all the passengers were killed.
Putin was a KGB officer working with East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, its corrupt methods depicted accurately in Bill Buckley’s favorite movie, Academy Award winner The Lives of Others. Putin was there during the fall of the Berlin Wall and devastated also by the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and its loss of the so-called “captive nations” that would become independent … including Ukraine.
A product of the KGB culture in every way except one, Putin is not a classic (KGB) Jew-hater. The enigmatic Putin, as a hungry child, was befriended by a Jewish family. And his favorite high school teacher who taught him German was Jewish, and his German proficiency boosted his KGB assignment to East Germany. Also, Putin and Netanyahu had a good relationship. Despite Putin’s backing of the genocidal Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, the Russian military has looked the other way when Israel bombed Syria-based threats.
But Putin has refused to honor a U.S. court decision to return to Chabad, the orthodox Jewish international organization based in Brooklyn, “The Schneerson Collection” of sixteen thousand books and Jewish artifacts. Instead, he insisted they are Russian property and ordered them housed in a “Jewish museum” he built in Moscow. He has said that he wants and expects Jews to return to Russia, prior evidence of his delusional fantasies.
Israel, worried about Putin enabling Syria to move against Israel, initially abstained on condemning Putin’s invasion in the hope that somehow Putin would come to his senses, then just three days later voted for the U.N. condemnation. And Israel has remained concerned about the Jews in Russia but felt encouraged when Putin years ago appointed Moscow’s Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar to be Russia’s chief rabbi and has allowed even religious Jews to thrive. Lazar cautiously has never publicly criticized Putin to maintain a good relationship. He even supported keeping the Schneerson Collection in Moscow. But Chabad was founded around the time of the American revolution, its roots traced to the legendary Rabbi Israel Ball Shem Tov and his followers in Belarus and Ukraine. Chernobyl (Ukraine) is known for the disastrous nuclear accident, but it is the origin of a Chassidic rabbinical dynasty.
Kyiv Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman, who like Putin was born in St. Petersburg, proclaimed on social media: “I never thought, even in my worst nightmare, that I might have to perish under the shells of Russia…” An outspoken supporter of President Trump, Azman proclaimed about Russians and Russian Jews: “He who does not care … agrees silently … is an accomplice to a crime. A war crime! A crime against humanity! … If God forbid, I will have to die, let the curse be on those who are silent.”
“We, loyal to One G-d alone, should use all our influence … to stop the chaos and prevent further casualties. This is our sacred duty to the One Who created us all and gave us life in this world.”
But Putin demands loyalty not to God or even to Russia, but to Putin. And he could throw a temper tantrum and further encourage Iranian proxies in Syria to move against Israel. He even could return to the Communist persecution of Jews in Russia.
It’s true that Ukraine like other Eastern European countries has a history of discrimination and violence against Jews, and even harboring Nazi collaborators, including the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews, the site of Babyn Yar, where Putin’s missiles hit.
The irony is that Putin is in a time warp … a disconnect from reality. He says the war is to “denazify” Ukraine — where the president and many officials are Jewish, and the nation’s large Jewish population lives without prejudice. Under the czars and then under communism, the Jews were stigmatized and suffered. But Jews also were among (if only a tiny minority of) several million Ukrainians who Stalin in the 1930s killed through forced starvation. Older Ukrainians told their children and grandchildren about Stalin. And why would the Jews not join their fellow Ukrainians — Christians, Muslims, non-believers — in fighting Putin’s invasion?
The irony is inescapable. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, trying to mediate the war in Ukraine, met for three hours in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose roots are in the Jew-hating KGB and whose close allies, Iran and Syria, want to eliminate Israel; yet Putin maintains positive relations with Israel and with Russia’s Jews. Then Bennett flew to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Three quarters of a century ago, who could have imagined this? Is there somehow a way for Putin to stop his mindless killing and for Ukraine to maintain its independence?
The longer the world boycott of Russia continues, the greater the probability that Putin will be gone from power. Europe will not cave, but Biden — who should turn up the screws on Putin — might instead keep buying Russian oil and even relax sanctions, just to get a ceasefire. Biden’s hidden agenda is reliance on Russia to broker a nuclear agreement with Iran. And that’s scary. As for Putin, he will seek a ceasefire in place, agree to allow more people to leave the country safely, but insist on no further rearmament of Ukraine, while Putin can still resupply his troops. There are more permutations, but what happens after a ceasefire? And after Putin’s invasion, how could Zelensky foreclose the option of joining NATO? It’s hard to see how this ends mutually. The boycott must continue and grow. We must stop buying Russian oil. But the very fact that Biden has delegated key decisions to others shows no command presence. Further, that Biden has dispatched Kamala Harris abroad shows he isn’t thinking clearly.
Make no mistake. Ukraine is not a model democracy, nor is it the Fourth Reich. And its government has been corrupt for years, partly a legacy of Communist rule. But the son of the then U.S. vice president leveraged his father there for personal gain. Don’t be surprised when Putin calls out Hunter Biden, and CNN has to report it! And Russian oligarchs close to Putin? What about American presidents who give solar power grants to favored corporations or who legally protect high tech titans from lawsuits? Biden’s populist attack on oligarchs and the illegal seizure of their yachts is all for show. The oligarchs began to move away from Putin once his buildup for war started. Some are more “proximate” to Putin than others. And those that pay off Putin do so as a cost of doing business, though on a far grander scale than major business interests and labor unions in the U.S. who spend vast amounts to elect their favored politicians.
Yes, the Ukrainians fight for self-determination and, yes, freedom. But don’t be deceived by the way Biden and CNN misappropriate “freedom.” Freedom of speech and press, assembly, and religion were once taught in American schools, but these freedoms are under assault by “progressives” who control the bulk of schools and universities, news and social media, arts and entertainment, many corporations and most unions, nearly all our big cities, and two branches of our national government. Ukrainians teach us what is at stake, as well as what the Second Amendment means. Simply put, Biden is as supportive of freedom for Americans as Trudeau is for Canadians. The Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. Do we?
Perhaps the main issue is Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Empire. Always cunning and patient, he now is obtuse and impulsive. While Putin saw Biden as a meek and bumbling incompetent, at times incoherent, and surely with no command presence, Putin has not grasped his own isolation, stuck in a loop. He used the old Soviet playbook — attack based on a contrived provocation. At least the Biden Administration exposed the schemes beforehand, thus disarming Putin’s contrived casus belli.
American “progressives” routinely smear conservatives as “white supremacists” or “racists.” The Communists who mentored Putin routinely defamed dissenters as “fascists … Nazis … Neo-Nazis.” The Nazis killed his relatives in the invasion of Leningrad. Putin has recycled the past. The sordid history of Eastern European collaboration with the Nazis is juxtaposed in his mind, then elevated to the old-line Communist techniques disinformation and lying, as he projects his own violence onto a mythical Nazi menace. He grew up in the Communist culture of lying, the KGB mindset of disinformation, and as with pathological liars, the truth is blurred in his own mind.
Putin deluded himself into thinking he could use primitive psych warfare to persuade Ukrainians to yield quickly. That’s why his military had limited supplies and gas. His military probably knew better but was too fearful to challenge his strategy and some Russian officers may have actually sabotaged the offensive. Once Putin lashes out at the military, he lays the basis for a coup. Consider how our military in Afghanistan privately resented the botched orders they followed, orders that originated with President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. But in our republic we honor civilian control of the military. Russia has no such tradition.
Putin claims, again in typical old-style communist fashion, that things are “going according to plan.” But he held his own counsel, and all his assumptions were wrong. As a result, he has dug himself into a “be careful what you wish for” hole. Like Stalin, Putin has no moral compass; if he did, he could not have supported Assad’s genocide of his fellow Syrians. So increasingly he has moved closer to a “scorched earth” policy, which further underscores the fundamental contradiction: his pitch has been that Russians and Ukrainians are inextricably bound as brothers … but they are Nazis and let’s kill them. That’s part of why the draftees, originally told they were on training missions, then implausibly and abruptly mobilized to defend against a nonexistent Ukrainian attack, are performing poorly, and why billboards in Russia showed Putin with the Russian words, “He had no choice.”
Historically, puppet governments worked very well for Communists. But in the Internet age, it’s a harder sell. Russians became accustomed to the Internet, and when Putin censors social media or blocks Facebook, Russians know there’s something amiss — especially after a bold invasion, rather than an understated putsch. So here Putin is, destroying a country he wants to take over! This makes as much sense as his unfocused military destroying an oil storage depot, rather than taking it over for their use, or his inept commanders assaulting a nuclear plant, rather than securing it.
The unintended consequence of Putin’s war is to reawaken the conscience of the world. Hundreds of millions of people who paid little attention to world affairs are drawn to the courage of everyday Ukrainians. They are seeing evil, and we can only hope they will understand that socialism and communism, like fascism and Nazism, all share a collectivist ideology that devalues the individual. And that “democratic socialism” is a euphemism, an oxymoron, and enforceable only through the heavy hand of government coercion.
Two decades ago Putin in Stalinist mode ordered the complete destruction of the Chechen capital of Grozny, killing tens of thousands of Russian civilians. He enabled his ally Bashir Assad to commit genocide on his own Syrian population. And now, it is a sign of Putin’s disconnect that he tells the world don’t believe what you see in Ukraine, believe what I say: that the death and destruction in Ukraine are fake news.
But, as if we could ever depart from the racism narrative, the Los Angeles Times television critic Lorraine Ali has another explanation: “Western press reveals grim bias toward ‘people like us.’”
Arnold Steinberg’s last book was Whiplash! From JFK to Donald Trump — A Political Odyssey (Jameson Books). He has traveled on U.S. government-related trips to twenty nations, including Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, as well as to NATO twice.