Part II: Russia Is Fighting the Ukraine War on Five Fronts: Where Are They Winning?

AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

Russia, despite reducing its military efforts in Ukraine to a single front, is actually fighting the Ukraine War on five fronts: Military, Propaganda, Diplomatic, Domestic, and Economic.

In Part I of this three-part series, I showed you how Vladimir Putin’s aggression is paying off (or not) on the military and propaganda fronts.

Now in Part II, let’s look at the diplomatic and economic fronts.

NOTE: There might be a Part IV summing up the overall effort. But since we’re only in the tenth week of what looks like it could be a yearlong war, that seems a bit premature.

And before we begin, a quick update on the military front. Things remain relatively static, with Russian troops making small gains to improve their positions. They’re waiting for fresh and reconstituted units (from the Kyiv debacle) before making the next big push. Meanwhile, the Ukraine Army is keeping the pressure on with strikes like this one: Russian Army’s Chief Of Staff Wounded In Ukraine, Other Officers Feared Killed.

The Diplomatic Front

When Russia’s most notorious propagandist goes on Russia’s most popular TV news show to threaten to “sink” Britain under a tsunami with his country’s nuclear torpedo, it’s a safe bet that the diplomatic effort hasn’t been going very well.

“One launch, Boris,” Dmitry Kiselyov warned, “and there will be no Britain. Once and for all.”

Sweden and Finland are set to deepen their military ties, and both are seriously considering joining NATO.

Sweden has been officially neutral in military affairs since 1812 and will probably get fast-tracked to becoming a NATO member.

Technically, Sweden ended its official neutrality in 2009, when it entered a defense agreement with the EU. But the EU is an economic club, not a military alliance. Joining NATO is a much bigger deal.

Same goes for Finland.

Finland was long a part of the Russian Empire (1809-1918) and if Josef Stalin had gotten his way, it would have been forcibly reintegrated into the Soviet empire in 1940. Following its ill-fated alliance with Nazi Germany (to regain the lands that Stalin took), Finland was under a Soviet-enforced neutrality.

Finland joining NATO — potentially bringing alliance troops practically within shouting distance of St. Petersburg — would be yuge, too.

Meanwhile, NATO members are providing weapons and training for the Ukraine Army, with the only serious dissenters being some cranky German plutocrats on Putin’s oil payroll.

NATO hasn’t been this unified in a generation, and assuming Sweden and Finland join, never larger, either.

As some Twitter wit noted:

Does Moscow still have the capacity to cause diplomatic trouble? Yes, but increasingly at their own expense as you’ll see in this next section.

ASSESSMENT: Putin keeps doubling down on thuggishness, right to the point of trying to depopulate a country he can’t defeat, uniting the West in ways maybe even the Soviets never achieved.

WILD CARD: Russia doesn’t care and might not need to.

Related: What the Hell Is Going On in Russia?

The Economic Front

The West’s problem is this: When it comes to natural resources, Russia lacks for nothing. It’s impossible to sanction a country with Russia’s resources into submission.

We were told that sanctions would deter Putin from invading. They didn’t. We were told that sanctions would crush the ruble and the Russian economy. That didn’t happen, either.

Maybe that’s why despite strong support for the sanctions regime (73% approve), only 42% of Americans give Presidentish Joe Biden a thumbs up for his handling of the war.

Don’t get me wrong: The average Russian is hurting, and the hurt is going to get worse, not better.

NPR reported last week that “the worst is yet to come” as even “some in Russia’s government acknowledged the harder road ahead.”

There is only one form of sanction that might have the desired effect: Russia’s vital oil and gas sales. Germany, one of Russia’s major energy buyers, is only now thinking of reducing their oil purchases in the coming months. But there’s no plan to reduce Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas.

Whatever the sanctions were supposed to accomplish, the salient fact remains that Russia is still in possession of vital parts of eastern Ukraine and much of the country’s Black Sea Coast — with plans to take as much as they can.

But Russians have a long history of enduring hardships — with pride — to do their bit to help prevent outsiders from messing with Mother Russia.

Even if thieving Putin and his coterie of cronies gave a damn about the civilian economy (they don’t), it wouldn’t matter.

ASSESSMENT: Russia’s economy may be hurting, but that hasn’t put a stop to Russian aggression.

WILD CARD: Was it really necessary to make ourselves enemies of the Russian people, when our only real enemies are the Kremlin kleptocrats?

That means the one front where Russia is doing well — at least for now — is the Domestic Front.

I’ll cover that in Part III, coming soon.


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