Brown Trouser Time

Friday, February 25, 2022

Well, wow. 

Shock and awe

First off, I have to say that I was surprised by the breadth of the attack, the shock-and-awe show.

What else? 

I wasn't expecting Russia to attack from all sides. 

When I wrote my last post, I was pretty sure that the focus of any attack would be the east of the country, especially since Russia's recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent earlier this week. 

The idea that Putin would consider it a good idea to invade and occupy all of Ukraine still seems crazy to me, though. Could it really be the plan to knock out Kyiv, occupy huge swaths of the country, and govern the rest of it indirectly through a Ukrainian-born supporter of Putin? 

It could be, I suppose, but it seems very messy, complicated, and potentially destabilizing for Russia, as I've discussed elsewhere. The Crimea was annexed without firing a shot. It seemed like a very efficient use of power.

We're already well beyond that now, and it's just the second day (or the latest round, if you go back to 2014) of actual fighting. 

And for what? How does this benefit Putin and Russia at all? Moscow already has paid a steep price--billions of dollars so far--for the Crimea...but hey, at least that's the Crimea! Why pay so much more--in the form of not only integrating this poor, post-industrial region into Russia, but also through economic sanctions--for the Kharkovs of this world?

If the Russian government really is planning to occupy all or most of Ukraine, then I think their military is going to be quite busy for the foreseeable future. The Russian Army might be a lot stronger than that of Ukraine, but home field advantage counts for something. Successfully defeating a country on a field of battle is one thing. Occupying that country is something else. 

Could it be that, after almost 23 years in power, he just feels invincible? Having so many people kiss your ass for that long can seriously mess up the mind--believe me!  Maybe the leader of Russia is having an "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. 

Or maybe the plan is something more subtle and long term:  convincing Kyiv to pledge fealty to Moscow in the face of a gun, then dig in and wait for Americans to elect a friendlier administration in 2024. And for now, that would mean: get everybody crapping their pants by carrying out an early "shock and awe" campaign, advance on the capital, and then propose negotiations before Russia's army gets involved in block-by-block street fighting in Kyiv. 

So, hold on tight. 

And I hope you're wearing your brown trousers. 


Looking for the Long-Term in Putin's Moves

Moscow Recognizes Two Breakaway Republics: Why do this?


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More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge.     


  1. Russia has been planning this military operation for years. The amount of planning and training for any invasion is overwhelming. I have been very impressed at the amount of armor and coordination they have carried out the last few days and their military isn't even acting at full capacity in this invasion. Putin doesn't seem to be worried about any military retaliation from NATO or his own people for that matter.

    The will of the Ukrainians is also impressive to stand and fight. Without a heavily armed civilian population I do not think they can continue to resist much longer as a military. Will Russia completely blockade and install no-fly zones that will prevent any Ukrainian resupply from the west? How ruthless will the Russian military be against the militia civilian population once the Ukrainian military surrenders? Many questions to be asked in the coming weeks. Food and supplies will start running low in just a few days of heavy fighting. I pity the Ukrainian people and their situation. Hunger is a powerful bargaining tool for bringing a country into submission.

    Will Putin also try and invade the Baltic countries? How far is he willing to go? Are the Russian sanctions going to hurt most Russians enough to want to end this immediately? What about China? Are the Chinese going to make military moves as well?

    Trump is a moron and also very unpredictable. Did his unpredictable personality prevent Putin from carrying out this invasion a couple years ago? Seems like China and Russia are both willing to test how the US will act at the moment. I find Putin and Xi Jinping a terrifying gruesome twosome and things move forward.

  2. Hey Chance,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Putin doesn't fear military retaliation from NATO because Ukraine is not a NATO member. If anything, the events of this past week have underscored the difference between being a NATO and not being one.

    Nor should NATO, or the United States, be sending soldiers to Ukraine to fight Russians. That would mean WWIII.

    I agree with you that the bravery of Ukrainians willing to defend their country has been impressive. I also think that it seems unlikely that the Ukrainian armed forces could hold out for long. But, as the United States discovered in Iraq (and as even as great a military leader like Napoleon learned in Egypt), defeating an army is one thing, occupying a land is something else entirely.

    Unless Putin has totally lost his mind--or gone 100% into 'I'm Keith Hernandez' territory--my guess is he doesn't want to spend the next several weeks watching his soldiers fight street-to-street through Kyiv, Odessa, and elsewhere. Notably, none of the Russian or Belarusian forces have gone anywhere near Lviv.

    I don't think Putin will try to invade the Baltic countries, because they're in NATO and doing so would likely mean war with NATO and the end of the world. I don't think that's want Putin wants. Instead, he wants Ukraine to promise they'll never join NATO and quit fighting.

    However, if NATO were to announce that they would never offer membership to Ukraine, then--as I've mentioned in some earlier posts--I do think that after a year or so, the conversation would turn to the Baltic states. So, I don't think this is so much about Ukraine as it is about NATO--because even if NATO were to do whatever Russia wanted vis-a-vis Ukraine, we'd still be returning to the subject of NATO eventually.

    Sanctions on Russia do hurt. This was something I heard all the time from people when I was in Russia in 2016-17. But sanctions over the Crimea seemed, to a lot of people, worth the effort because obtaining the Crimea was a genuinely popular move in Russia. I don't see that being the case in the current situation. True, Russians don't usually have a lot of options when it comes to receiving news so a lot of people will follow the company line here, but my bet is there will be a lot less patience for sanctions when the prize ends up being Kharkiv.

    No, I don't think China will get involved militarily.

    Trump's 'unpredictability' is something that people sometimes point to as an asset. I understand your point, but I don't think it's an asset in any situation. My sense is that Putin would much rather have someone like DJT in office--someone who doesn't believe in NATO or working with allies--as president, as opposed to a lifelong Cold Warrior like Biden. If anything, Putin would love to have NATO emerge as a wedge issue in the US (in elections this year and in 2024), with the GOP emerging as the America-firsting isolationist party of DJT (or of any of a number of other potential GOP nominees).

    If that happens, no amount of fighting will save NATO.