One of the most military and diplomatic blunders a world leader could ever commit in global affairs is to embark on a military aggression and expansionist policy without proper forsight and strategic planning. Emperor Napoleon Bonarparte of France paid dearly for his strategic blunders in its Moscow Campaign of 1812. His belief that he could easily overrun and defeat Moscow proved extremely costly and that marked the beginning of his downfall after dominating the diplomatic scene of Europe for twenty long years. In the face of the invading French forces, the Russian troops set ablaze anything that could help the French army to survive. There was heavy resistance and ultimately the Russian winter came and the French forces had to beat a retreat. It was a humiliating defeat for Bonarparte.
Perhaps, we might need to remind ourselves that Russia is one of the most powerful military nations in the world. But contemporary realities are changing the dynamics of military campaigns especially if such a military offensive leaves you isolated in the ever increasing globalised world. And it might not be far fetched to submit that Russia might believe initially that its military invasion of Ukraine could be a tea party. A nuclear power and the leader of the defunct superpower, the USSR. But the unfolding realities on the battlefronts in Ukraine might suggest that Vladimir Putin might be suffering from a deep ‘strategic amnesia’ by believing that the size of your military tanks and ballistic missiles alone would guarantee him success in Ukraine. The erstwhile Soviet Union had all the most lethal military machines in all of human history. Yet, it collapsed in 1989. That provided a strategic lesson for any rational world leader that conventional definition of national security is now giving way to a holistic perspective that incorporates meeting the basic needs of your citizens and the enforcement of their fundamental human rights. In the 21st century, autocracy and brute force are now appearing to be outdated and anachronistic.
A pertinent point is: why is it that the former member states of the USSR are now distancing themselves from Putin and seeking economic and strategic solace in the West? The answer perhaps might be that the Russian model needs an overhaul. Putin has been in power for more than twenty years. Largely Europe is now a democracy. He is a ruthless tyrant that has imprisoned virtually all known opponents in Russia. His tribe of leaders in Europe in the 21st century has diminished considerably. He is a major factor in the growing isolation and ostracism of Russia even in Eastern Europe.
Global capital’s iniquity in the international system since the end of the World War II in 1945 is huge. It has overrun close to fifty countries in the world since then. Yet, its oppression of the world is ceaseless and keeps mutating rapidly. Consequently, many Third World analysts might wish to see the its ultimate demise accelerated and soon. But this is not likely to be so. It takes strategic planning and not emotions to defeat Western Capitalist Imperialism. Trying to admit Ukraine into NATO has received widespread condemnation in the literature with many likening it to the Cuban missile crisis. Perhaps they are right. But the situation in Russia today is different. The world today is more globalised and united against Putin and Russia has diminished considerably from the Soviet Union of the 1960s. It’s economy is now more integrated into the world and its vulnerability has increased.
Kiev might ultimately fall to the Russian forces. But the growing casualties Russia is currently facing in Ukraine and the attendant economic sanctions and isolation are heavy prices that Putin never anticipated. The Ukrainean rebellion against Russia is a very popular one at home and the Russian military tanks might not be able to suppress this either now or in the future.
Vladimir Putin is indeed an economic and strategic liability to Russia. His aggression in Ukraine will certainly cost Russia dearly. And of course, Ukraine as well. But the massive resistance in Ukraine to the Russian invasion of their fatherland is a poignant reminder to would be aggressor is that military aggression is a sensitive subject that requires caution and it must be the last option in international relations. Currently, the Russian economy is taking the hit and Putin now is no doubt a more unpopular leader whose growing problems at home are concealed by oppressive Jackboots of a tyrant who is overating the place of military might in global strategic balance. He is a leader that Europe is trying to defeat and remove from its fold. The mere fact that he is now trying to position the Russian strategic nuclear weapons in place in the face of growing conspiracy against him is indicative of a rattled leader under increasing pressure in Europe and other parts of the world. Even Germany now come to realise the danger Putin is now posing to Europe. This year alone it will spend over a billion dollars to beef up its defences.
How will the Russian aggression in Europe will end now and in the future? The world is watching.
Toba Alabi, is Professor of Political Science and Defence Studies.