What the Hell Is Putin Up To? And What the Hell Is Biden Thinking?

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Two questions about Russia vs. Ukraine bothered me all weekend, despite the VodkaWife’s™ longstanding injunction against me worrying about the news on my off-time.

First Question: Why does Russian strongman Vladimir Putin have 140,000 or so troops massed against Ukraine, when occupying and pacifying the former Soviet Republic is almost certainly beyond Russia’s capabilities?

Second Question: Why is Presientish Joe Biden practically egging Putin into an invasion?

Let’s tackle the second question first.

Maybe Biden is hoping that Putin will help him wag the dog to distract from dire economic news, the latest revelations from the Durham investigation into Russiagate, and the near-total collapse of Biden’s COVID restrictions.

The White House warned on Friday that “Russia could choose, in very short order, to commence a major military action against Ukraine” in as little as 48 hours. That was about 72 hours ago. For what it’s worth, the administration issued a similarly dire warning on January 19. Even the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has complained that Biden’s rhetoric has caused needless panic.

In response to Putin’s genuine provocations, the U.S. and NATO are moving around a few thousand troops and some fighters and bombers. It’s almost as though we’re saying, “This is all we’ve got, if you were worried we might be serious.”

If the White House has decided it would be worth it to see a strategic competitor (and Communist Chinese ally) bogged down in Ukraine for the next decade or two, I suppose that makes some sense. Except for all the needlessly dead people and economic ruin. Then again, Leftists never did have a problem breaking eggs, even if they never manage to make a single omelet.

Honestly, I have no idea what the White House is doing and I’m not sure anyone in the White House does, either.

Which brings us to that first question: What the hell is Putin up to, anyway?

I think the answer lies in the West’s scrambled response to Putin’s provocations.

Moving thousands of troops around, as Putin has been doing for weeks, is not an inexpensive enterprise. On the other hand, neither is buying oil these days: Energy ministers fearful of oil prices surpassing $100 a barrel.

International benchmark Brent crude futures soared to a new seven-year high on Monday morning on the elevated geopolitical tensions. The contract was last seen trading at $94.33, down 0.1% for the session after earlier hitting a peak of $96.16.

Russia relies on oil exports for its hard currency needs. When the U.S. was energy independent—way back in 2020—Putin didn’t enjoy the ability to pressure us like this. Under Biden, he does.

Move some troops around, jack up the price of oil, hurt the West, profit.

Putin is also testing. He needs answers to questions of his own.

Is Biden so beholden to enviro-radical domestic interests that he can’t wage an effective foreign policy? Would NATO agree to withdraw weapons and troops from former Warsaw Pact countries close to Russia’s borders? Can the West be coerced or conned into recognizing Putin’s illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea? Will Ukraine succumb to threats and return to a government more friendly to Moscow? Or could Europe go full Munich 1938 and agree to a de facto partitioning of eastern Ukraine and the Finlandization of the rest?

A “Yes” to any one of these questions would make Putin’s game of mass chicken more than worthwhile.

Even better, so far as Putin is concerned: He can always move the troops around some more in a year or two and see what he can wrangle out of us next time.

No matter what the White House claims, I don’t see an all-out shooting war happening between Russia and Ukraine. Putin can gain too much profit, or at least for now believes he can, through simple bluster. Sending in the Russian Army risks too much, including perhaps showing for all the world to see his military’s real limitations.

What I do see, however, is Biden giving the farm away at the negotiating table—all to avoid a war that Biden, himself, seems to be drumming up.


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