Toxic Putin is preparing for a bust. The West must stop it before this contagion spreads | Simon Tisdale

Mrliterally speaking, Vladimir Putin a dead man walks. As dictators always do, he overdid it to death. Bunker bound and insane, he has no way back into the world. At home, he also seems increasingly isolated.

But militarily speaking, he doesn’t give up. To Ukraine, the poisonous president goes to bust. The worrisome question is: What will he do next?

As much as Putin still has a plan, he needs to bomb and beat the Ukrainian people into submission as soon as possible, by any means necessary. If this requires the use of chemical weapons, such as chlorine gas, as in Syria, who can doubt that he will do so. Last week The war crime of the Mariupol maternity hospital was a harbinger of worse, perhaps much worse things to come.

Diplomats and analysts believe that despite Ukraine’s unexpectedly effective resistance, Russia’s grip on the country is growing inexorably. Vitaly Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, the capital is said to have enough supplies for a week or two in case of an attack. Half of the population fled. If the Allies sincerely want Ukraine to survive, time is running out.

The West must now urgently increase pressure on Putin – military and economic. Ukrainian citizens and soldiers cannot be expected to last long without increased and comprehensive support. Ukraine’s future as an independent democratic state could be decided in the next two weeks. There may also be a future for Putinism Russia yourself.

President Putin is setting himself up for failure in Ukraine by trying to bomb the country into submission. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/TASS

The oppressive, corrupt regime in Moscow that has blighted Russian life and spread fear and discord around the world for more than 20 years has never been weaker. This is a huge moment. Europe’s future security architecture may indeed be reshaped, as Russia has often called for, but based on a post-Putin cooperative, legitimate, democratic coexistence rather than a balance of terror.

This tantalizing prospect is counterbalanced by the danger of an all-out conflict with a nuclear-armed tyrant who, embroiled in his own miscalculations, could rage. NATO’s unjustified refusal to grant any form of no-fly zone, as requested by the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelenskyor, for example, creating a UN-mandated safe zone on the ground in western Ukraine, stems from such fears.

So what will Putin do? Three main scenarios are considered: a compromise peace agreement; dead end; or a wider, escalating war. After two weeks of fighting, there is a lot of talk about negotiations, but not about the peace process. China has kept its distance, encouraging the prospect of intervention. Last week, a meeting of foreign ministers took place in Turkey deliberate Moscow exercise. The two sides remain miles apart.

Map of the Baltic region

Ukraine’s leaders will not agree to anything permanent while their cities are under siege, vast swaths of their country are occupied, and brutal war crimes are on the rise – and why should they? It is also unlikely that Putin will abandon his demand that Ukraine remain isolated NATO and the EU, or abandon their claims to Crimea and the recently seized territory along the southern coast.

In the second scenario, the war will drag on, turning into a Donbas-like stalemate or frozen conflict. It wouldn’t work for anyone. This would be disastrous for the citizens of Ukraine, both those displaced and those remaining; for the integrity of Ukraine as a nation state; to stranded, demoralized Russian forces facing determined insurgents; and international relations and stability, endlessly polarized and poisoned by Ukraine-related tensions.

Knowing this and destroying the peace, Putin is actively pursuing a third scenario: “doubling down” of military power, as CIA Director William Burns put it last week, encircling cities, using hunger strikes, freezing civilians as hostages, seizing and threatening more territory. a wider war that could include chemical or even battlefield nuclear weapons.

Herein lies the crux of the West’s dilemma. The US and the UK are pumping more and more advanced weapons into Ukraine on a massive scale. British anti-tank missiles, for example, are reportedly very lethal. Starstreak anti-aircraft weapons are also now deployed, ostensibly for “defensive” rather than “offensive” purposes.

Such sophistication aside, there’s no doubting where this massive Berlin airlift-type gathering is headed. NATO’s rejection of the no-fly zone and the US veto over the supply of Polish MiG fighters to the Ukrainian Air Force cannot hide the reality that the Allies are already de facto parties to this conflict, or, in legal terms, “collaborators”. .

Putin describes the sanctions as an economic war on the West. How much longer before he declares that Russia is also under Western military attack and escalates accordingly? This is a strong expectation in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, frontline former Soviet republics that Putin, like Ukraine, considers not “real” countries. Russian Kaliningrad enclave is another looming flashpoint.

Former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis warned last week that the Baltic countries could be in the next line of fire. “If we do not support Ukraine, it will not stop in Ukraine… Unfortunately, it is likely that this aggression will continue in other countries as well,” he said.

Discussing Putin’s covert nuclear threat, EU Commission Vice President Dombrovskis stated that the West should not be intimidated.

“The question is how much we give in to this blackmail, because it can be used against everything all the time. Putin will continue his aggressive wars, he will always use this blackmail.

Clearly, there is no safe path through this horror. But any outcome that undermines European democracy or rewards Russian aggression is unsustainable in the long term. It will only guarantee more grief down the road. Logically, practically, morally, the West really has no choice.

Its leaders must now use all possible leverage, including the threat of direct military action, to stop Russia in Ukraine, stop the mass killing of civilians and stop the spread of Putin’s deadly contagion.

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