Operation Barbarossa Mistake 2.0 — Putin and his foolish Ukrainian invasion

Maloteka, Evgeniy — AP

Operation Barbarossa has been described by historians as the strategic mistake that led to the eventual downfall of Nazi Germany. The invasion, too optimistic; German high-command overreached on what their Panzer forces could accomplish. The Battles of Stalingrad and Moscow brought-about tremendous loss to the Wehrmacht. Although they had morale on their side, German forces eventual failed in their attempted invasion of the USSR. Therefore, we must now question — is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the beginning of the end for Putin?

A handful of days in to the Ukrainian invasion, President Zelensky has rallied vast support for a staunch and stiff Ukrainian defense. Ukraine, in other words, will not come down without a fight. More importantly, nevertheless, is the coordinated response the west has put out in the face of the Kremlin’s unjustified atrocities. Not only that, the first 5 days of the invasion are a failed attempt at blitzkrieg, the German tactic used in the swift invasion of France in World War Two. Russia has been unable to take control of either Kharkiv or Kyiv, Ukraine’s two largest cities. By February 27, Ukrainian officials claimed that Russia had already lost 5300 personnel, 191 tanks, and 816 armored vehicles. The war, as it is seeming by the fifth day, is not according to Putin’s masterplan.

Furthermore, the anti-war movement within Russia itself is rapidly expanding to all regions. By the fourth day of conflict, more than 2000 had already been arrested at anti-war demonstrations in major cities such as St. Petersburg. Political activists such as Alexei Navalny (even from jail), echoed their calls for the war to stop. Without a mobilized population to support the war itself, Russia’s chances of prevailing from this war at a low cost are thrown out the window. Unlike in Crimea 2014, the Russian people are not uniting for the invasion of Ukraine. Russians across all regions have demanded for “no war,” as the graphic depicts below.

Use of “No War” hashtag (#) in Twitter & Instagram from Feb. 24–27, The Economist.

With diminishing public support, Putin’s war movement is fading after only seven days. Therefore, he is coming to rely on stronger artillery and fiercer military tactics. Not only that, the clock is ticking for Putin himself with ever-expanding harsh sanctions. Days in, Russia has been victim of the economic sanctions themselves. Major multi-billion companies have already pulled out of Russia — BP, Equinor, and Shell have already pulled out from major activity in Russia. For instance, BP has already cancelled all of its fuel-loading from the Russian Black Sea port of Taman, and Exxon Mobil Corp. has already pulled employees from Russia. BP has also exited in its 14 billion USD stake on Russian oil giant Rosneft. On the other hand, global customers of Russian oil have already began seeking alternatives for their supply. State-run Indian refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. which purchases 2 mill. Russian barrels per month have began establishing different supplies for the month of April. Canada, on the other hand, is banning all Russian oil imports, and Malaysia is not permitting the landing of a Russian-flagged oil tanker targeted by American sanctions. Jen Psaki, moreover, has discussed the possibility that sanctions on Russian energy “are on the table.”

Western sanctions have now cut off Russia’s banks from the SWIFT messaging system utilized to transmit information globally. Nations such as Japan have announced sanctions that would freeze assets of Russian leaders and banks as well as freezing Russia’s foreign reserves in yen. Such sanctions have taken a massive toll on the Russian people. The sanctions, according to Emily Stewart in Vox, have already impacted the Russian economy in double-digit economic contraction, and she foresees that the crisis “will grow larger for the Russian economy and common Russian people.” The Russian Ruble has also taken suffering — on February 12th, the Russian Ruble was worth the equivalent of 0.013 USD, by March 2nd, it had already fallen to 0.0099 USD. So far, Putin has only accomplished the following — providing Ukraine with a powerful mythology, enlarging NATO’s attractiveness to Eastern European countries, and it has greatly complicated life for ordinary Russian citizens. Ordinary Russians are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1990s in the end of the Soviet Union. The West’s block of economic opportunity for Russia had dramatically impacted middle and lower class citizens, further lessening support for the war cause.

According to polling data posted by the Leveda Center (2021), 52% of Russians fear repression, while 58% are scared they will be arbitrarily arrested or violently harmed by authorities in the future; such numbers have not been seen in Russia since 1994. Such high numbers as the ones evident in Russia right now are most commonly seen at the end of dying regimes. Compiling such facts with a failing, unsupported war could very well be a signal to the end of the Putin dynasty. Not only that, but a number of Russian oligarch and supposed Putin allies have already spoken out to the war itself. For example, Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has already called for peace and negotiations and Russian Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has stated that he will sell the club, and any net earnings of the sale will be directed towards Ukrainian relief efforts.

Cartoon on Putin, Financial Times.

The world is taking a stand against Putin, and Russia is suffering, badly. Putin will certainly not lose power overnight, but what is certain is that his grip on Russia is more frailer now than it was prior to the Ukrainian invasion. As anger and discontent rises within all Russian ranks, are we seeing the end of Putin’s rule?

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