“Putin Has Misread the West And if He Doesn’t Wake Up Soon, Armageddon Is Upon Us”


    by Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Craig Roberts:

    Question 1—You think that Putin should have acted more forcefully from the beginning in order to end the war quickly. Is that an accurate assessment of your view on the war? And—if it is—then what do you think is the downside of allowing the conflict to drag on with no end in sight?

    Paul Craig Roberts—Yes, you have correctly stated my position. But as my position can seem “unAmerican” to the indoctrinated and brainwashed many, those who watch CNN, listen to NPR, and read the New York Times, I am going to provide some of my background before going on with my answer.

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    I was involved in the 20th century Cold War in many ways: As a Wall Street Journal editor; as an appointee to an endowed chair in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, part of Georgetown University at the time of my appointment, where my colleagues were Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor, and James Schlesinger, a Secretary of Defense and CIA director who was one of my professors in graduate school at the University of Virginia; as a member of the Cold War Committee on the Present Danger; and as a member of a secret presidential committee with power to investigate the CIA’s opposition to President Reagan’s plan to end the Cold War.

    With a history such as mine, I was surprised when I took an objective position on Russian President Putin’s disavowal of US hegemony, and found myself labeled a “Russian dupe/agent” on a website, “PropOrNot,” which may have been financed by the US Department of State, the National Endowment for Democracy, or the CIA itself, still harboring old resentments against me for helping President Reagan end the Cold War, which had the potential of reducing the CIA’s budget and power. I still wonder what the CIA might do to me, despite the agency inviting me to address the agency, which I did, and explain why they went wrong in their reasoning.

    I will also say that in my articles I am defending truth, not Putin, although Putin is, in my considered opinion, the most honest player, and perhaps the most naive, in the current game that could end in nuclear Armageddon. My purpose is to prevent nuclear Armageddon, not to take sides. I remember well President Reagan’s hatred of “those godawful nuclear weapons” and his directive that the purpose was not to win the Cold War but to end it.

    Now to Mike’s question, which is to the point. Perhaps to understand Putin we need to remember life, or how it was presented by the West to the Soviet Union and the American broadcasts into the Soviet Union of the freedom of life in the West where streets were paved with gold and food markets had every conceivable delicacy. Possibly this created in the minds of many Soviets, not all, that life in the Western world was heavenly compared to the hell in which Russians existed. I still remember being on a bus in Uzbekistan in 1961 when a meat delivery truck appeared on the street. All traffic followed the truck to the delivery store where a several block long line already waited. When you compare this life with a visit to an American supermarket, Western superiority stands out. Russian hankerings toward the West have little doubt constrained Putin, but Putin himself has been affected by the differences in life between the US in those times and the Soviet Union.

    Putin is a good leader, a human person, perhaps too human for the evil he faces. One way to look at my position that Putin does too little instead of too much is to remember the World War II era when British Prime Minister Chamberlin was accused of encouraging Hitler by accepting provocation after provocation. My own view of this history is that it is false, but it remains widely believed. Putin accepts provocations despite having declared red lines that he does not enforce. Consequently, his red lines are not believed. Here is one report:

    RT reported on December 10 that “The US has quietly given Ukraine the go-ahead to launch long-range strikes against targets inside Russian territory, the Times reported on Friday, citing sources. The Pentagon has apparently changed its stance on the matter as it has become less concerned that such attacks could escalate the conflict.”

    In other words, by his inaction Putin has convinced Washington and its European puppet states that he doesn’t mean what he says and will endlessly accept ever worsening provocations, which have gone from sanctions to Western financial help to Ukraine, weapons supply, training and targeting information, provision of missiles capable of attacking internal Russia, attack on the Crimea bridge, destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines, torture of Russian POWs, attacks on Russian parts of Ukraine reincorporated into the Russian Federation, and attacks on internal Russia.

    At some point there will be a provocation that is too much. That’s when the SHTF.

    Putin’s goal has been to avoid war. Thus, his limited military objective in Ukraine to throw the Ukrainian forces out of Donbass meant a limited operation that left Ukrainian war infrastructure intact, able to receive and deploy advanced weapons from the West, and to force Russian withdrawals to lines more defensible with the very limited forces Putin committed to the conflict. The Ukrainian offensives convinced the West that Russia could be defeated, thus making the war a primary way of undermining Russia as an obstacle to Washington’s hegemony. The British press proclaimed that the Ukrainian Army would be in Crimea by Christmas.

    What Putin needed was a quick victory that made it completely clear that Russia had enforceable red lines that Ukraine had violated. A show of Russian military force would have stopped all provocations. The decadent West would have learned that it must leave the bear alone. Instead the Kremlin, misreading the West, wasted eight years on the Minsk Agreement that former German Chancellor Merket said was a deception to keep Russia from acting when Russia could have easily succeeded. Putin now agrees with me that it was his mistake not to have intervened in Donbass before the US created a Ukrainian army.

    My last word to Mike’s question is that Putin has misread the West. He still thinks the West has in its “leadership” reasonable people, who no doubt act the role for Putin’s benefit, with whom he can have negotiations. Putin should go read the Wolfowitz Doctrine. If Putin doesn’t soon wake up, Armageddon is upon us, unless Russia surrenders.

    Question 2—I agree with much of what you say here, particularly this: “Putin’s inaction has convinced Washington… that he doesn’t mean what he says and will endlessly accept ever worsening provocations.”

    You’re right, this is a problem. But I’m not sure what Putin can do about it. Take, for example, the drone attacks on airfields on Russian territory. Should Putin have responded tit-for-tat by bombing supplylines in Poland? That seems like a fair response but it also risks NATO retaliation and a broader war which is definitely not in Russia’s interests.

    Now, perhaps, Putin would not have faced these flashpoints had he deployed 500,000 combat troops to begin and leveled a number of cities on his way to Kiev, but keep in mind, Russian public opinion about the war was mixed at the beginning, and only grew more supportive as it became apparent that Washington was determined to defeat Russia, topple its government, and weaken it to the point where it could not project power beyond its borders. The vast majority of the Russian people now understand what the US is up-to which explains why Putin’s public approval ratings are presently at 79.4% while support for the war is nearly universal. In my opinion, Putin needs this level of support to sustain the war effort; so, postponing the mobilization of additional troops has actually worked to his benefit.

    More importantly, Putin must be perceived to be the rational player in this conflict. This is absolutely essential. He must be seen as a cautious and reasonable actor who operates with restraint and within the confines of international law. This is the only way he will be able to win the continued support of China, India etc. We must not forget that the effort to build a multipolar world order requires coalition building which is undermined by impulsive, violent behavior. In short, I think Putin’s “go-slow” approach (your words) is actually the correct course of action. I think if he had run roughshod across Ukraine like Sherman on his way to the sea, he would have lost critical allies that will help him establish the institutions and economic infrastructure he needs to create a new order.

    So, my question to you is this: What does a Russian victory look like? Is it just a matter of pushing the Ukrainian army out of the Donbas or should Russian forces clear the entire region east of the Dnieper River? And what about the west of Ukraine? What if the western region is reduced to rubble but the US and NATO continue to use it as a launching pad for their war against Russia?

    I can imagine many scenarios in which the fighting continues for years to come, but hardly any that end in either a diplomatic settlement or an armistice. Your thoughts?

    Paul Craig Roberts—I think, Mike, that you have identified the reasoning that explains Putin’s approach to the conflict in Ukraine. But I think Putin is losing confidence in his approach. Caution about approaching war is imperative. But when war begins it must be won quickly, especially if the enemy has prospects of gaining allies and their support. Putin’s caution delayed Russia’s rescue of Donbass for eight years, during which Washington created and equipped an Ukrainian army that turned what would have been an easy rescue in 2014 like Crimea into the current war approaching a year in duration. Putin’s caution in waging the war has given Washington and the Western media plenty of time to create and control the narrative, which is unfavorable to Putin, and to widen the war with US and NATO direct participation, now admitted by Foreign Minister Lavrov. The war has widened into direct attacks on Russia herself.

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