For the last few weeks I was utterly puzzled by Putin’s actions. They make little sense. Why has he built up the Russian troops around Ukraine, why the belligerent ultimatum to the USA (an ultimatum which was predictably hopeless)? Why the relentless propaganda campaign in Russian media about the coming war? Putin seems to be betting all his money on a war with Ukraine. But why?
Why would he want to invade Ukraine? The cost of doing it vastly exceeds all potential benefits to his regime. The invasion is likely to endanger his rule. The human and economic toll will be staggering. Even though Ukraine does not possess a strong military, its troops have enough weapons to make the invasion very costly to Russia. And once Russian people experience the constant flow of dead and wounded, the economic collapse, the population may turn sharply against the dictator. Moreover, people surrounding Putin are not will to sacrifice their quality of life, their expensive palaces and wineries in Europe, shopping trips to the best stores and vacations at ski resorts.
On the other side, Putin’s propaganda made his backing away from his current posture very damaging to his reputation.
Is then Putin bluffing? Has he committed a costly mistake? Is he crazy and irrational?
I was thinking about this situation for quite a while, and here are my conclusions.
Putin is a very calculating man. I remember reading a report by some American reporters who went to Putin’s dacha for lunch and an interview. Among other things, they reported that throughout the discussion, Putin was holding a glass of champagne in his hand, and yet, he has never took a sip. For a Russian, to have a glass of wine in his hand and never take a sip? Such a behavior betrays a man of a very strong will.
But let’s go to the more objective points. Russia has suffered tremendously from the Wuhan virus, reportedly more than a million people are dead. Economy is doing badly, people are disillusioned, the conquest of Crimea is a distant memory. And things are getting worse and worse.
A war in Ukraine may produce a quick jolt in Putin’s popularity, but the excitement will be short lived, who,eu the war won’t. So why is Putin doing it? What’s the back up plan?
I think I found a logical solution. I believe Putin made a deal with Xi, the Chinese dictator. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be followed by the Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Note that invading Taiwan with its leadership in computer chips as well as computer manufacturing is a much more debilitating strike to the world economy than the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Does Xi want or even need to invade Taiwan? For one, it has been widely reported that Chinese economy is doing badly. The Chinese debt crisis, malinvestment, housing bubble are a well known issue. The Wuhan virus has devastated the Chinese economy. Moreover, Chinese exceedingly harsh methods to contain the spread of the virus seem to be going on in perpetuity. I find it hard to believe that Chinese people are not grumbling about it. And let’s not forget that it’s becoming more and more clear that it was China which is at fault for the virus, the lab leak theory is now well accepted around the globe. The international retribution is to be expected.
Lastly, let’s not forget that the Chinese Olympic Games will most likely cause an explosion of the virus cases in China, and the country will have to close up again - and even then its ability to deal with omicron is very questionable, as well as the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine.
If nothing drastic is done, China will face multiple crises on different fronts, which the regime may not be able to resolve or even survive. A Taiwan invasion will unite the county though, and allow the government to implement even more drastic measures of population control. Moreover, the conquest of Taiwan has been a long dream of the Chinese politburo. But China needs some diversion - they would rather not do it cold turkey. The Russian invasion of Ukraine would be such a diversion.
For Putin, the Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be god sent - he would be able to position himself as a middle man between China and the west. The sanctions against Russia may be dropped or eased. His control of a large chunk of Ukraine may even be de-facto recognized by the West.
And let’s not forget that Biden is seen as exceedingly weak, and ineffective leader, America is at war with itself (and the mythical “white privilege”), nato is disintegrating, Europe in economic crisis. It’s unlikely that there will be a better time for Putin and Xi to start the conquest.
What do you think? I give about 20% chance to this conspiracy theory to be true. But it is a very logical theory, and it explains some unexplainable things.