Monday , June 17 2024

Mother Russia calls, but no one listens

Everybody including me got everything wrong about the war in Ukraine. The Germans and the French thought it wasn’t going to happen right up until the moment that it did. The British and the Americans thought that the Ukrainians would be defeated within a week or so. The fear was that the Russians would then threaten Lithuania and Poland and that NATO would struggle to defend the countries it had expanded into since the end of the Cold War. It turns out that no one knew anything.

Russia is now pinned back almost at its starting point. Its best troops are gone and Ukraine has counterattacked with such success that it can win the war. It may even be that Ukraine will be able to recapture the whole of the Donbas and perhaps even Crimea, which would make Russia’s defeat complete in a way that was simply unimaginable in February.

It is likely that the world would have accepted a peace deal prior to the war with Russia keeping its territorial gains from 2014. Ukraine would have had little choice but to accept this too. Putin is desperate because Russia faces the prospect of complete humiliation similar to the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 or the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in 1918. This has long term strategic consequences.

Russia has bet the farm on restricting gas supplies to Europe. We will all pay higher prices and we may have some power cuts, but we will get through this winter. But who is going to rely on Russian oil and gas ever again afterwards?

But Russia sells nothing much except natural resources. Russia doesn’t really make anything. There are few if any Russian brands in our supermarkets. We don’t buy Russian cars or TVs. All we buy is oil and gas. But when you freeze your consumer don’t expect him to buy from you again.

Anyway, oil and gas are borderline obsolete technologies. The present crisis will merely hasten our move away from fossil fuels towards renewables and nuclear. In the short term we may burn more coal, oil and gas, but we won’t get any of it from Russia and we won’t burn them for long.

Russia is not China. It did not make the transition to a market economy. Russians do not work like the Chinese. They expect a western standard of living because they border Europe, but they have never worked particularly effectively, efficiently or hard.

The literary character who best reflects Russians is Oblomov. He spends his days sleeping on a divan dreaming about his ancestral estate that is decaying because of his inactivity. His friend Stolz of German ancestry tries to get Oblomov to do something, do anything, but it is Stolz who does everything.

Russia imported its Napoleonic generals from Germany and almost everyone in tsarist Russia who made anything, taught anything or sold anything was from abroad.

Russian success historically has been military. In 1812 Russia defeated Napoleon almost as single-handedly as it defeated Nazi Germany in 1945. Russian military might has instilled fear in everyone because of these two events. Russia may look useless, but just wait, it is merely Oblomov sleeping, when roused he will be a formidable foe.

But Ukraine has just exposed that there is no more Russia to arise. There is no one for Mother Russia to call. The long centuries of serfdom waiting to be told what to do has given us merely Russian passiveness. The tyranny of the Soviet Union waiting for the whispered denunciation and the Gulag has created a people capable merely of consuming vodka and committing acts of barbarism.

The Russian Army has shown itself to be completely without discipline and without expertise. Its weaponry is second rate and the quality of its troops still worse even that that. All it can successfully do is rape women and children and torture people it claims to be brothers. But an army that loses discipline or never had it will struggle against an army fighting because it wants to rather than because it is forced to.

The Ukrainians have shown that they are innovative, well-motivated and with first rate morale. They are equipped and trained by the British and the Americans and are a different order of competence from the dregs of Russian society that it is now recruiting from its prisons.

Strategically Russia is being defeated like it was defeated at the end of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire that had gradually been brought under control from the days of Ivan the Terrible was lost when Gorbachev lacked the will and perhaps even the means to hold it together.

A few machinegun bullets would have been enough to stop the Ukrainian SSSR and the other Republics from leaving the Soviet Union, but by that stage Gorbachev could not rely on the machine gunner doing what he was told. So, Russia lost what it had taken centuries to gather.

Now it is unclear that Putin or whoever follows him has the means to keep the Russian Federation together.

Russia is poor, empty and without effective armed forces. It has nothing to sell and no obvious means to become an efficient part of the world economy. Its people dream of the luxury they see on western TV, but lack the means to gain it for themselves. Any new business opportunity is as likely to be stamped out by corruption or mafiosi who simply steal it.

There is therefore a vacuum. Russia stretches all the way to Vladivostok. But neither the land, the resources nor anything else is properly exploited. If this was the USA every corner would be used for either business or farming, but in Russia the grain all fell on the stony ground. It won’t sustain the population that this enormous chunk of Eurasia ought to sustain.

Outside Moscow and St Petersburg there is poverty, squalor, deprivation and hopelessness and this was before the events of the last year. If you live in a small town five hundred miles from Moscow there are few opportunities. Less even than there were during the tsar, when such towns could be reasonably pleasant and prosperous at least for the upper classes.

We have already been witnessing Russia’s hold on the Soviet Union’s former Republics weakening. They either look to the West or to China or are forced like Belarus to be vassals of Mother Russia.

This weakening will continue. The threats are a sign of weakness.  Russia appears not merely impotent but deranged. It returns to the human wave tactics with obsolete equipment with a mass mobilization of the unwilling. It is the First World War all over again. A disciplined army will defeat the mob in Donetsk in the same way it defeated it at Tannenberg in 1914 with Russian generals responding to disaster with blowing their brains out.

Expect Russia’s neighbours to ask themselves why turn to Russia if it can be defeated by Ukraine?

Worse as Russia’s population declines further because women choose not to bring babies into a land without opportunity and anyone with any talent or money is getting a one way ticket to anywhere, so the vacuum of land without people will expand and the emptiness will become ever more obvious to Russia’s neighbours.

At some point a Russian Republic far far away from Moscow will gradually fill up with Kazakhs or Chinese or Koreans. It won’t be necessary to fight a war. Instead, the takeover will eventually just become a matter of fact.

The Chinese will be the main victor as Russia gradually retreats towards Muscovy.

When Mao first went to Moscow, he was kept waiting and was treated like a beggar at Stalin’s table, thrown a bone or two from the scraps of his Lord and Master. Russia in the 1940s was hugely more developed than China, both militarily and economically. It controlled the whole of Eastern Europe. But Russia slept and as it did so the Chinese first overtook it and then surpassed it.

China today has a better military than Russia, a better economy and a people who are willing to study and work in a way that Russians are not. Russia is already China’s vassal. Xi tells Putin what to do.  Now Russia’s weakness will be filled with China’s strength.

It is impossible to predict what will happen in a war that has already been unpredictable. The Russians didn’t see the recent offensive coming, which is one reason why they lost. It is too early to say whether the Russian Federation will collapse. But it is vulnerable. If Putin is got rid off and there is an attempt to introduce any sort of real democracy then there will not be enough to hold Russia together. It will be the fall of the Soviet Union all over again.

If the Russian Federation continues then the Chinese takeover will more resemble its takeover of African countries and Central Asia. Chinese influence, money and power will quietly gain more than it could possibly have gained by invasion. This is where the Chinese are clever, while the Russians relying on the thinking of past wars and ancient glories have proved themselves as obsolete as their weapons.

This article was first published here.

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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