Each time that Russian President Vladimir Putin works to convince us all that we are on the brink of Armageddon, I find, for some days, and even weeks, that I am making slightly different decisions, clouded by the awareness that most of us may be dead within coming weeks.
For sure, his latest parade is surely the stuff of nightmares: as he runs referendums in areas of Ukraine his forces have occupied, for them to vote to become part of Russia, which he will effect this week, and then telling the world he will use nuclear weapons if anyone attacks these new ‘Russian states’.
It’s one way to try to stem his losses, as the Ukrainian army first swiftly and now steadily, regains the land his forces invaded. But, the frightening reality is that it isn’t going to work. No one is going to say: ‘OK, Vladimir, well played: you just keep the parts of Ukraine you invaded illegally’. Indeed, it’s now beyond hard to find the rational man or strategist in there, and the fantasy is disturbing.
We are to believe that 93 percent — as reported in ‘early counts’ — of the Ukrainians remaining in invaded areas now want to join Russia, with its jail sentences for words, thoughts, and actions, its forced relocations, and claimed torture, rapes, dead bodies, and disappearances? “Yes please, I want that forever”.
Then, when those Ukrainians vote to become Russian, we are to believe that hundreds of thousands of untrained Russian men, most of whom don’t want to be there, will, in a committed and passionate way, self-sacrifice their lives, as the head of their church put it, to retain that land. Those men even include anti-war protesters, drafted as punishment.
In fact, the chances are so high they will surrender, Russia has had to add a 10-year sentence for voluntary surrender. Moreover, if discipline rests on soldiers being shot by their own side for not fighting, there has to be men willing to shoot their compatriots, who won’t get shot by others for doing so. Who would be the commander shooting objectors surrounded by objectors?
Either way, if they walk, or kill each other, where does that leave President Putin, gathering more men amidst rising unrest at home, and Ukrainian armies still advancing? Of course, the chances of a nuclear bomb are now high. And, of course, that will bring NATO in and retaliation.
It’s all mad, and doubly mad, as we move inexorably towards Mutually Assured Destruction. The United Nations can’t stop it. China won’t stop it. And so we do this dance with discovery, in working out whether one, irrational man can destroy humanity, alone.