What is the strategy to avoid WWIII?

I confess that I am not an expert regarding military affairs or on the war in Ukraine.  But commonsense observation of the events leads one to question all the pundit experts pushing "no-fly zones" (which would be a direct act of war) or NATO's direct involvement.  On the other hand, the appeasers and soft-pedaling Putin apologists (left and right) are also wrong.

Some Western leaders refuse to learn any historical lessons.  The failure to stop Hitler prior to unleashing his war machine helped lead to the death of 50,000,000 people in WWII.  For this, former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain remains a guilty party.  This round of European destruction is dependent upon the Ukrainian resistance for the prevention of WWIII.

The situation is far more complex than the pundits imply.  When Senator Graham (R-S.C.) opined that Putin's inner circle should eliminate him, he was roundly attacked.  He is correct but should have kept his mouth shut.  Our leadership class and pundits spend far too much time talking, giving the enemy something to think about, and creating political problems for our leaders to order secret activities.  If Adolf Hitler had been assassinated, possibly the war could have ended sooner in Europe.  But there were likely up to 40 unsuccessful attempts.  Few will get close enough to Putin to stop him.  Yet we should encourage — privately! — those close to him to try.

It is likely that many of the Russian elite leadership support Putin's attempt to restore the Russian empire.  Ukraine declared its independence after the Russian revolution of 1917.  At the end of WWI, the nation was divided between Poland and Bolshevik Russia via the Peace of Riga.  In 1922, the nation became part of the new Soviet Union.  During the Soviet famine of 1932–33, an estimated 6–8 million Ukrainians were killed by Stalin's policies.  Then came the attack by Hitler in 1941 upon the Soviet Union.  As a result, in addition to the regular army, an underground resistance formed against Hitler and Stalin.  Then, in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence as the Soviet empire was dissolving.

Too much speculation about Vladimir Putin's mental state is foolish.  Just look at his life.  He is a risk-taker.  But his inner circle must also agree with him.  He is 69 years old and learned lessons at an early age.  Stories describe his observation of cornered rat behavior.  He studied judo to sharpen his skills.  He studied law as an entry to the KGB.  With his knowledge of German, he was stationed in East Germany.  The fall of the Soviet empire forced him to find another field (or not).  He became an assistant to the mayor of St. Petersburg.  When reformer Anatoly Sobchak lost re-election, Putin took a job in Moscow in 1996 at the Presidential Property Management Department.  Soon he was on President Boris Yeltsin's staff.  By 1998, he had become the director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).  In 1999, he became prime minister and then acting president when Yeltsin resigned.

Undoubtedly, he was elevated by Yeltsin, who sought to protect himself from prosecution due to the corruption of his administration and family.  But few realize (because they think Yeltsin was a democrat) that Yeltsin was in favor of a restored traditional Russian empire.  Putin was likely a supporter, hiding his ambitions until a stronger military and economy would allow such plans.  Further, he assured the oligarchs around Yeltsin that he would continue their protection, for a price.

National pride was damaged by Gorbachev's failure to keep the empire together.  The expansion of NATO into former Soviet sphere nations was seen as a direct threat by Russian leadership, much as we feared the placement of nuclear weapons in Cuba by Khrushchev.  Putin's propagandists use this fear as a way of galvanizing anti-Western sentiment in Russia among his middle-aged supporters, who desire a strong leader.  The nation has never had real democratic life and ended feudalistic serfdom in the 1880s.  Putin is only the latest in a line of tyrannical strongmen from the tsars to the communists.

The paranoia that the media attribute to Putin extends to many in the nation.  Russia is geographically a part of Europe and Asia.  The population of Russia has been steady at under 146,000,000 for several years, having declined from 148,500,000 in 1993.  Russia's European population is about 115,000,000 (15% of the 745 million total), and the landmass is the largest in Europe.  The royal family of Russia had relatives in Germany and England following historical efforts to maintain friendly relations with competitive nations.  In the 20th and 21st centuries, this did not protect against warfare, as Russia was drawn into two world wars and many regional fights.

Putin, like Hitler, was open about his plans.  Yet our State Department and intelligence officers failed to convince President Biden to assume a more aggressive posture regarding Russia.  Putin has murdered opponents and attacked Georgia, Chechnya, and Ukraine in the past.  How could any analyst not expect how the placement of almost 200,000 troops around Ukraine would be used?  The awful withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin and his military.  We did not give enough weapons to the Ukrainians during the past six months to repel any attack, making the cost too great for Putin.  Putin sees this as weakness, the signal to attack.

Putin misjudged the reaction of NATO nations.  Eight years ago, when he took Crimea, France, England and Germany had different leaders.  The German chancellor, Olaf Scholtz, recognizes the error of trusting and depending upon Russia for oil and gas as a strategic blunder by Angela Merkel.  They will now move to fund NATO at 2% (as Trump had wanted).  Now that Finland and Sweden ponder NATO membership, Putin's gambit has fallen short.  But Moldova is probably next should Putin succeed.  We know now that Putin has financed some of the green movement in Europe and in the USA, diminishing national security.

Putin threatens the use of nuclear weapons.  Rarely does someone make this threat prior to its application.  We did not respond by threatening to use our deterrent, a failure.  As Putin's military is degraded fighting the Ukrainians, his ability to successfully attack NATO nations is reduced.  Now almost two weeks into the war, we are thinking of lending Polish MIG planes to the Ukrainians, despite Putin's threat to widen the war.  It is unlikely that he would strike us, but the cornered rat is aggressive.  We will probably play a greater role as pictures of destruction are distributed.

The ongoing destruction of the major cities and strategic regions by Putin's air campaign and artillery fire demonstrates his sociopathic behavior.  This medieval siege mentality is shocking to us, but it is the stuff of Russian autocrats, especially when hard-pressed.  A Ukrainian insurgency to Russia is the likely condition for weeks, months, or longer.  Only then will the Russian people determine that Putin must go.  Ukraine's President Zelensky must outlast him as a symbol that binds Ukrainian unity that can forestall WWIII. 

Image: Vladimir Putin via FlickrCC BY 3.0.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com