Why Putin May Be Hesitant to Invade
Prior to World War II, the population of Russia, still then called the Soviet Union, was approximately 170 million, plus about 24 million from territories Russia had incorporated. The protracted war, harsh weather conditions, and the falloff in the Russian birthrate conspired — along with poor health choices like significant vodka and liquor imbibement as well as massive nicotine habits — cut the population of this superpower to just under 146 million, according to its last census, in 2021.
The bloodletting during that World War cost Mother Russia millions of men. Russia was left with myriads of unmarried women and widows.
That shortage exacerbated the population's dwindle to such an extent that when we stayed in Russia, a short decade ago, the government was earnestly providing bonuses for babies, even going so far as to provide what, in less formal terms, might be classified as...um, coitus rooms to encourage Russian couples to procreate, no secret, to rebuild the human "rolling stock" severely depleted by the adverse perfect storm of war; the earliest mortality rate in all of Europe, at a mere 50 years for men; and the scarcity of viable marriageable males.
Women in Russia, not surprisingly for a forensic anthropologist to notice in strolling cosmopolitan streets in the major cities of Russia, responded by an energetic upsurge of visible "advertising" in terms of none-too-modest attire, makeup, and quite evident competitiveness for husband material. Russian "girls" became a featured advertisement far afield as prospective brides, sight unseen, for American and British husbands-to-be.
Mail-order brides. The answer to few men in the immediate environment.
Famous river overpasses with heavy locks fastened on the metal pilings and bridge railings were sagging with rusting Russian pledges to remain faithful forever. There were few shiny new locks promising everlasting fidelity: far fewer people were marrying. Or having those much-needed bundles of schast'ye — happiness and joy.
Thanks to constant alerts and bulletins on the airwaves, online, and via social media, we are all too aware of the military manpower buildup along the Ukrainian perimeter of in excess of 150 to 170 thousand combat-ready soldiers. These are very recently augmented by massive blood-banking silos and medical basics, bandages, and ancillary supplies indicating Vladimir Putin may be prepping for combat involvement with the 44-million-strong nation of Ukraine.
Putin is famously horny to reconstitute Russia's stature as Europe's hegemon. He works from the fading but still alluring image of the past puissance of old, considering Ukraine (like Taiwan and Tibet to the CCP's Xi Jinping). To that end, President Joe Biden has boosted Putin's star considerably by crippling the U.S. energy supply and helping Putin regain its premier place as Europe's supplier of gas. As a gift to our rival and longtime enemy, Mr. Biden awarded Severny potok, the Nord Stream1 pipeline, to the growling bear, while oddly canceling our Canadian pipeline along with its 11,000 jobs, on his first, inauspicious day in the Oval Office. A stroke of his Mont Blanc, and poof: President Vlad gains millions of rubles per day from the sale of oil, while the United States loses its energy self-sufficiency in an eyeblink, no particular rationale extended to the untold thousands downstream of those 11,000 initial job-losers and their suppliers and contractors.
Even with the enormous den'gi, the monetary influx from the sale of all that Russkie oil out of Gazprom oil and gas to clients German chancellor Olaf Scholz and his E.U. buddies, Putin is emboldened to make a run for — what? Ukrainian territory, potential husbands for Russian ladies-in-waiting, and those vaunted pink-fleshed bundles of future Russian workers, soldiers, and patriots.
Looked at in the cold stats of human capital, a plausible drain of more than 1% of the Russian populace means 175,000 male soldiers — no small number.
President Biden's priming the pump in consistent ill-timed encouragement of Ukraine invasion has to be a strategic risk: the loss of these men would be a marked decrease of marriages, babies, future workforce. Not a pretty prospect for a tough-guy aspirational leader like KGB alum Putin. And scurrying to erase jumping-the-shark announcements about the U.S. possibly "overlooking" a "minor incursion" or so, the arms and weaponry have been airlifted, pending a commencement of hostilities Mr. 46 himself urged and abetted in awkward spillage he likely did not mean to voice aloud. But. But.
Is the prospect of losing thousands of Russia's finest in olive drab and khaki blue what adorns Putin's nighttime fantasies? Assuredly not, no matter his brawling image on horseback, bare-chested and all.
Yet there it all sits: the ticklish impasse at the border, squatting uneasily in his cool, steely tactician brain. Is the probable loss of men and materiel worth the effort? What, in the end, does he stand to gain if, urged into unwonted premature belligerence by a foreign prod from the albino ghost from Delaware, he vanquishes Ukraine? Aside from a bolus of 44 million angry, non-compliant rebels spoiling for a do-over?
Maybe not ironically, the derivation of the word Delaware, from the French de la werre, or de la guerre, is gender-neutral Norman French for "of the war."
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