Q&A on the Ukraine War

by Bob Schwartz

Q: Will sanctions work?

A: Sanctions won’t work to deter Putin from continuing his taking Ukraine, which will take another day or two. Sanctions won’t work to force Putin to withdraw, which would be a massive embarrassment for him.

Q: Will sanctions backfire?

A. Very possibly. Removing Russia from the global banking system, for example, means that European nations who buy gas from Russia can’t pay their bills. Russia would then be in a legitimate position to cut off that gas.

Q: What is Putin’s plan?

A: Putin will occupy Ukraine, put a puppet government in place, and then claim it is once again a part of Russia. He will then continue his request that bordering European NATO nations stand down their military readiness, which is a security threat to Russian Ukraine. NATO will again refuse, setting the scene for possible—though not anytime soon—Russian action to demilitarize those nations.

Q: What did Putin mean by his threat against any nation that intervenes?

A: Not a nuclear threat. Instead, he can initiate massive crippling cyberattacks.

Q: Does it matter that this war may not be popular in Russia?

A: Not at all. Russia is a dictatorship. Putin’s hold on power is virtually absolute. Even those in his leadership who have long been close to him are frightened by him and, in some cases, want to be his successor in 2024 (not wholly unlike the American case of Trump).

Q: What about American cyber warfare against Russia?

A: Russia will regard this as an attack, no different than a military attack. For Putin, this will justify whatever he subsequently chooses to do.

Q: Putin is now regularly called an irrational actor or, sometimes, a madman. Is he?

A: This matters and it doesn’t. Yes, if his calculations are recognizably rational, it might be a better situation. But if he is following some personal agenda, this is just name-calling. The best surmise, from his talks, is that he is driven by fierce retro-nationalism, willing to do anything to reconstitute the “glory days” of the Soviet Union. Given that a number of Americans, at the highest levels, are driven by fierce retro-nationalism, we have to determine if this is madness.

Q: What about Trump (former Republican President) and Pompeo (his former Secretary of State) now praising Putin as a strategic genius?

A: Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is the definition of treason.