10:00 AM, Feb 27, 2023
Can Russia Contain its Putin-shaped Loose Cannon?
The military picture of the war in Ukraine is that as soon as the mud dries, Ukraine will begin maneuver-based warfare against which Russia has never had any defense. Putin's forces will be pushed back to pre-2014 lines by mid-Summer.
The political picture is much more open-ended though. After Russia loses its war, and the war will be characterized as a loss for Russia by any metric, Putin will be severely damaged. He might be able to have his internal propaganda channels frame the outcome into a complimentary shape, or even make the history disappear, maintaining support among the elderly, docile Russian population who haven't fled the country. But the rest of the world will see Putin as the leader of a country without the military might to threaten anyone.
The people and governments of Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Scandinavia, the Baltics, The Caucasus, Japan, and any other countries Putin has threatened will have received a clear message that Putin cannot back up his posturing with actions. His allies, vassals, and would-be allies will no longer see him as a valuable ally.
As Russia's global position depends heavily on its primacy, a President who is not valued by allies, and not feared by anyone else is of no use to Russia. As such, I think we're going to see a lot more people falling out of windows in the Kremlin, and the nightmare scenario of Putin incinerating one of his own cities in a false-flag operation may play out, but that's still extremely unlikely to move anything into Putin's favor.
Putin is a wild card, but I just can't imagine any options available to him that will not change what I see as a fact: the future will not have him in it.