One of the things social media was supposed to do is provide accurate and up to the minute information on events like the war in Ukraine. And while that is often the case, the easy access to social media has also created an explosion of “real” fake news. Fake news to many people is news they don’t like or agree with. That’s not the news to which I refer. I’m referring to news that’s false; that can’t be verified. Fortunately, reporters on the ground in Ukraine are reporting accurate accounts of what’s happening there.
When President Biden accuses Putin of being a war criminal, it’s not necessarily good international diplomacy, but at least it’s truthful. Putin is a dictator, so he can deny the facts on the ground. Truth is insignificant. But there is, one undeniable truth, he attacked a sovereign country, thousands are dead that we know of, and millions have neem forced to flee from their homes, without provocation. Hospitals and civilian buildings have been attacked. He of course can claim it to be an accident; a munition that landed in error. But too many civilian structures have been bombed to believe it’s simply an accident. Innocent civilians have been bound, gagged and shot. That’s a war crime by any definition.
Putin has gone so far as to call the video and photos of dead bodies in Bucha, British propaganda. He has claimed the bodies were fake, and staged, and that “it’s similar to the accusations used against Syrian President Bashar”, when he was accused of using chemical weapons in Syria. “It’s the same kind of fake in Bucha,” Putin said. He wants people to believe that NATO and the west need to make these false claims in order to build worldwide sympathy and to have an excuse to become involved in the conflict. But at the same time, Putin warned “that his enemies will face consequences if they worsen the situation in Ukraine.” He has also threatened to create “waves of migrants” in Europe. Either he’s victim or a tyrant, but he can’t be both.
What will Putin do next? Will he annex Mariupol, a strategic port city and will NATO allow it? The answer to both, is probably yes. But will President Zelenskyy allow it without a fight? Zelenskyy has claimed that he will not relinquish one meter of Ukrainian territory to Russia. But it remains to be seen if he has the ability to actually defend Mariupol. It would be unfortunate and an important victory for Russia even if Russian forces aren’t able to take Kyiv and remove Zelenskyy.
Although he has not yet concluded operations in Ukraine it appears Putin may now have his sights set on Finland and Sweden. Photos, show missile systems and armored vehicles moving towards the 830 mile (1336 km) long border with Finland but those are unverified at this point. It would however be naive to believe otherwise, since Putin has warned both Finland and Sweden to refrain from joining NATO. Both countries have remained neutral and were probably happy to remain that way, until Russia invaded Ukraine. Now both countries assuredly feel vulnerable.
At some point, NATO and or the UN will need to step up its effort to end this conflict through diplomacy since it’s unlikely that there will be military intervention. As the fighting continues, it’s difficult to comprehend the end game for Putin. He appears to have given up any hope of taking Kyiv, at least in the near term, so what was his motive? What are his new goals? One would have to believe he intended on replacing Zelenskyy with a puppet government, thereby neutralizing what he believed to be a threat. But as this war rages on, that looks far less likely. The toll on his military forces might be too great, which is why his troops were pulled out of Kyiv.
Could he have so badly underestimated Ukrainian’s desire to fight or did he have other motives? We may never know but as of this posting, there is still no clear exit strategy for Putin. I believe, he grossly underestimated the desire of his military to fight this war and the determination of the Ukrainian military. Perhaps he overestimated the quality of his military. Soldiers are generally honorable but that is up for debate in this war. Soldiers need a real reason to fight. A real threat or the belief that they’re fighting for their country and their families. Clearly that was never the case in this war and the most important reason why it has gone so badly for Putin.