How well you are doing with mindful meditation?
I had another post lined up for you today, but in light of the fact that Hijo de Putin has set the cat amongst the pigeons with his pronouncements, I thought it would be best to try and offer some perspective so we can all remain a little stronger.
Firstly, a number of western leaders have called it correctly, Vlad The Bad has made this declaration out of desperation. He says he’s not bluffing, and he may not be, but those are not the words of someone coming from a position of strength.
And this is where I feel we are benefitting from the wisdom of sound leadership, especially from Biden and his advisors, with kudos also very much to Von Der Leyen and (cough) The PM Formerly Known As Boris Johnson.
However, it’s Biden I wish to limelight. I did a piece a few months ago on Putin’s psychology, and this is not a man coming from a place of rationality, which makes him harder to deal with, because his disposition and manoeuvres are more volatile and less predictable.
So on the one hand, you have to face down such Imperialism with strength and unity, otherwise you invite in wave after wave of ethno-nationalism.
But on the other, if you go in too strong, you force him into a corner, and a cornered animal is a dangerous thing.
It occurs to me this morning, that the way to defeat such a reckless and inhumane individual is to slowly cook him with losses, like one does with a lobster, without him jumping out of the pot.
That way his emotions aren’t inflamed into too much incandescence, and his justification to his advisors, his people, and his allies is all the more difficult, because there’s no smoking gun. The best he’s got is a smokescreen, but one that everyone can see through, and one that nobody really believes, except the gullible viewers of certain state media in Russia and the East.
From that respect, cooking Russia economically has been a fantastic strategy that will slowly but surely erode his power and his capability to act with relative impunity.
Now there may have been noises made about how much Russia is benefitting from high fossil fuel prices, but that’s simply part of the information war to weaken our resolve. The reality is that they are slowly crumbling, as this excellent impact study from Yale has found.
Now when you’re coming from a place of fear, you catastrophise the situation from your side. But the simple reality is that Russia is far more dependent on Europe than the other way round. So, although there have been many headlines about the pain of decreased Russian gas supplies to keep us warm and firing, it is the Russian economy that is hurting most by the shift in natural gas supply chains away from its main market.
So at the same time as Russian expenditures are off the charts with an increasingly draining war effort, fossil fuel revenues are close to all time lows, and they’re having to burn off crazy amounts of their reserves because you can’t just shut these wells off like a light switch.
And it will take years for them to develop pipelines to Asia to compensate, so their funk looks set to continue for some time. A gifted strategic commander would have had those pipelines in place before such an advance.
And that speaks to an important aspect to all this. I said earlier that Putin’s moves will be more volatile and less predictable, and whilst that means the response needs to be more intelligently asserted, it also means that he will be prone to making more and more strategic errors, that will ultimately result in his downfall.
And it’s not just exports that are suffering, it’s crucial imports too. As Yale states, “Russian imports have largely collapsed, and the country faces stark challenges securing crucial inputs, parts and technology from hesitant trade partners, leading to widespread supply shortages within its domestic economy,”
They go on to add that “Despite Putin’s delusions of self-sufficiency and import substitution, Russian domestic production has come to a complete standstill with no capacity to replace lost businesses, products and talent; the hollowing out of Russia’s domestic innovation and production base has led to soaring prices and consumer angst,”
Indeed, their military equipment is increasingly being found to contain superconductors from dishwashers and fridges. Now I’m no technical nerd, but I wouldn’t want to go into battle with key components of my armaments borrowed from my white goods!
Financially, Russia has lost three decades worth of gains from international investment, and many wealthy Russians have fled the country and taken their wealth with them. The Kremlin has been intervening with some very expensive monetary and fiscal policies to try and maintain the veneer of stability, but they are unsustainable, even if he anticipated the need for big reserves in advance.
In my previous Putin related article I pointed out the long term substitution effect that will occur in the energy space which means that Moscow’s dominant product (60% of exports) will be in much less demand going forward, and that will also put downward pressure on fossil fuel prices as more and more renewable energy comes on stream. Indeed many of Russia’s other exports may find it hard to re-establish market share as well.
In summary, Yale concludes that, on its current trajectory, Russia is heading for economic oblivion.
But it’s not just that. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, they are falling apart militarily. And it’s not just the fridge parts that are the problem. In any conflict, military success is a function of leadership, intelligence, fighting capability/prowess, supply lines and the infrastructure needed to connect it with the front lines.
With regards to leadership, it’s obvious that Russian Officers are generally not that well trained and the overall command and control structure is creating massive amounts of sclerosis that is making the Russian Goliath very slow to move in the face of Ukraine’s David.
And with their military bolstered by international aid, particularly it now seems with long range artillery, David now has the slingshot he needs to fire well targeted stones at Goliath’s more sensitive regions, including, it’s rumoured, to Wagner’s headquarters.
By contrast, Russian hardware has been found surprisingly wanting.
And as for the people who are charged with carrying out their commander’s orders, the differential in the training, motivation and morale between the two sides is vast, and growing.
So whilst Putin can announce a partial mobilisation, tragically all he’s doing is signing the death warrants of so many of his people, for a cause they probably don’t really believe in, deep down. And he may well be signing his own death warrant as well, because this move is just SO politically risky. Firstly, it’s an admission that things are not going well, and secondly, it’s one thing to be a nationalist sheep when it’s a far off war you watch on the telly, it’s quite another when your friends and family are heading into oblivion and returning wounded, traumatised, or in a casket.
And they will. Not just because of the above reasons, but because Ukraine has been intelligently hitting their supply lines, and crucial infrastructure, starving the front lines of the oxygen they need, whilst simultaneously eroding morale.
And all this supported by western (mostly US) intelligence that seems light years ahead of Cold War era GRU.
There is also an information war, which Zelenskiy has been absolutely smashing. Russia, by contrast has been fabricating ludicrous stories to explain away their aggressions and their losses, and have often been two steps behind, even with their vast network of online trolls dripping poison from their shadowy disinformation factories.
So my conclusion is that so far, western leaders, and in particular the three amigos mentioned earlier, have played a blinder. It seems that, to some degree at least, holding back from too fierce a response was well specified, albeit a little more, and a little quicker would have probably helped a fair bit. Are you listening Herr Scholz?
And if our leaders have actually done pretty well so far, it increases one’s trust that they will continue to manage it well on our behalf, but only if we stay united in the face of Putin’s energy blackmail and sabre rattling. If we weaken, so will our leaders, and that is Putin’s only pathway to victory now.
I’m quite sure that the US has gamed all the different scenarios, and once the cake has fully baked, I’m sure Ukraine’s incredible leadership will offer Putin enough crumbs to scamper away with his tail between his legs with a little more face than he would have had if he pressed any buttons. Let’s hope so at least.
If not, we will have to respond accordingly. But we can’t let fear dominate us, otherwise the gates of Mordor will fly open and we will be the ones who get slowly cooked in a sea of militant orcs.
So let’s all take a breath, find our centre, and stand in our true power, just like all the wonderful people of Ukraine are doing.
And let’s be honest, whilst I’ve lauded the leaders, the biggest heroes of all this are the Ukrainians themselves, who have fought for every inch of land and pride. They have been resolute, fierce and unrelenting in their defence of freedom and values, and they have carried themselves with total heart.
I don’t think any of us can doubt that they will continue to do their part, and so it falls on us to do our part, which is to suck up the economic cost and keep calm and carry on. For those of us Brits, it’s time to rediscover the Bulldog Spirit. And for those from farther lands, perhaps there are tales of inspiration and cultural motifs you can lean on to keep you strong and steady through a challenging winter.
So let us hold the line. Let’s not over-react, and let’s not lose our resolve. Let us be informed by what is right, rather than succumb to Putin’s narcissistic and rapidly crumbling ‘might is right’.
And let’s take lessons from this into our personal lives too.
Firstly, staying calm and considered in the face of aggression is crucial. However, that also needs to be balanced with firm boundaries and total resolve not to relent to unjustified aggression. Because whilst your weaker self may wish to give up and give in, an ill conceived peace now will lead to more war later, and that applies to the full spectrum of human experience.
Continue enjoying the meditation benefits.
With Love & Resolve
Will & The Team xxxx