Discover more from Economics Matters by Laurence Kotlikoff
Putin's "Victory" -- A Chinese-Russian Mutual Defense Pact Against NATO's Invasion
Putin Can Surrender All Ukrainian Territory and Still Declare Victory
Vladimir Putin needs, it appears, divine intervention or, at least, major out-of-the-box thinking to save himself from himself. Despite firing hundreds of thousands of projectiles and sacrificing over two hundred thousand “comrades,” Putin is stuck in the mud in Ukraine. And there is no sign he will defeat Ukraine before Ukraine receives German tanks, British tanks, French tanks, American tanks, American armored vehicles, Canadian howitzers, American Patriot missiles, Australian drones and a host of other munitions likely sufficient to drive Russia out of Ukraine, including Crimea.
The signs of Russian defeat are growing. They include months of stalemate on the western front, massive casualties, resort to North Korean and Iranian munitions, declining energy revenues, and weakening support at the UN. Russia now holds 17 percent of Ukraine having lost half of the land it initially captured.
Yesterday morning brought news that the butcher, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who heads the mercenary Wagner Group, publicly accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of treason for failing to provide his forces with adequate ammunition. Yesterday evening, the requested ammo was heading to Prigozhin’s “crack troops,” consisting, in good part, of released criminals given the option to go over the top or have their heads smashed in with a sledge hammer.
In defaming Shoigu, Prigozhin is criticizing Putin. After all, Putin appointed Shoigu and is supposed to be supervising him. And in doing this publicly, Prigozhin’s making clear that Putin hasn’t responded to his private appeals and needs to be embarrassed into doing his job. This sends the message that Prigozhin is Putin’s boss not the other way around. It also tells the public that Prigozhin’s forces are not under regular military control.
This sort of thing doesn’t really happen in Russia without someone ending up with a bullet in his head. That’s likely Prigozhin unless Prigozhin pulls the trigger first. Even if Prigozhin and Putin can achieve peaceful co-existence, this is a sign that Putin’s losing internal control.
Time is definitely not on Putin’s side. Before the war, Russia was spending 4 percent of its GDP on defense. Let’s suppose it’s now spending 15 percent. The U.S. is spending 3 percent. The UK is spending 2 percent and the EU is moving from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Given each region’s GDP, Russia’s at a four to one disadvantage in military spending.
Plus, we’ve all read about Russian military technological backwardness. The Financial Times just reported that Russian ground troops have shot down a non-trivial portion of Russia’s air force due to a lack of advanced communications equipment. As for Ukraine’s air force, it’s likely to soon be flying F-16s. They have sufficient range to bomb the Kalinin Nuclear Power Station, just 120 miles north of Moscow. Hence, their acquisition will increase the size of Ukraine’s effective nuclear arsenal.
The bottom line? Putin needs a way out. China can provide it. It can broker a peace deal that entails Russian withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, Russia’s permanent acquisition of its Sevastopol naval base in Crimea, and a Chinese agreement to defend Russia against a future NATO invasion. Russia would reciprocally pledge to defend China against a NATO invasion.
Since the possibility of such an invasion exists only in Putin’s fantasy world, such a pledge by China would cost it nothing. Nor would it cost NATO anything. What it would do is give Putin badly needed cover. He can leave Ukraine and claim that the war has achieved its most important objective — eliminating NATO’s ability to successfully invade Russia.
Crazy? No more crazy than Putin’s invading Ukraine without the slightest idea of the severe consequences Russia’s military, Russia’s economy, and Russia’s people would face.