Regime Change: FOW 2. Mad for MAD
I keep coming back to the biggest threat of this war:
Yeah, it’s a bluff that’s meant to stop the West from intervening, but the assumption is that nothing besides direct military intervention will be taken by the Russian leadership as worthy of nuclear escalation. But it looks like the West/NATO are doing everything short of putting their pilots into Ukrainian airspace.
They are supplying fighter jets to be flown by Ukrainian pilots.
The strongest possible financial sanctions are underway:
Even Switzerland has joined the EU sanctions against Russia
As a result, the Ruble is in free fall (though I am curious who is shoring up the ruble at the very end of this graph):
Never to miss an opportunity, fossil fuel companies are joining the fray (they will extract their pound of flesh back home for sure):
and farce accompanies tragedy:
The best case: Putin backs down, some face saving measure is found that legitimizes Russia’s interests (perhaps Ukraine will be declared a neutral zone? but if I were Ukraine I would want to be in NATO since I won’t trust any promises made by Russia), the sanctions regime will end and the Russian public won’t have to suffer. However, I don’t expect the sanctions against Putin, Lavrov and the oligarchs ending even in the best case scenario. Which means that there’s a structural incentive for Putin to escalate.
The best case scenario is only one of many possible outcomes. What if the Russians start using thermobaric weapons? In retrospect, the Cuban missile could have easily resulted in nuclear war. Serhii Plokhy says in his recent book on the Cuban missile crisis:
So what happens when that fear is no longer a motivation? What if - a big if, though there’s widespread speculation - Putin is grievously ill and wants to go out with a bang?
max seddon @maxseddonRussian state TV: “Our submarines alone can launch more than 500 nuclear warheads, which guarantees the destruction of the US and NATO for good measure. The principle is: why do we need the world if Russia won’t be in it?” https://t.co/hvYkhz9DpE
Is the fear real? Or is it part of a plan to trigger regime change in Russia? Throughout this week there’s been consistent Western messaging that Putin is literally crazy (like the Fiona Hill interview at the top of this essay) the goal of which is to delegitimize his rule. What if he isn’t crazy crazy but merely crazy like a fox. Or a rational actor given his circumstances.
I am totally befuddled