Putin Laid Down his Penultimate Trump Card

Putin is losing the economic war to the West and the battlefield war to Ukraine.
His last trump card is the "accidental" explosion at the Zaporizhzhia
nuclear power plant. Then he has to flee with his money.

Image by Vitezslav Vylicil/ Pexels.com

At last Mr. Putin told the truth.

In early September, while speaking at the economic forum in Vladivostok, he explicitly stated, that he would not supply oil and gas to the EU unless sanctions were lifted from Russia. There is no more any talks about repair of Siemens turbines for the Nord Stream and that sanctions have no effect on Russia. Oil and gas are the Russians' weapons against the treacherous West. However, it seems that Mr. Putin declared economic war too late - the EU countries already prepared for such a turn of events. Germany, in particular, filled its gas storage facilities by more than 80%. Mr. Putin should have cut off Europe's gas in October-November 2021, when he began to build up his military forces along the Ukrainian border, but apparently he thought it would work out by itself.

The West has withstood the denial of oil and gas supplies with dignity. The main energy consumer and Russia's advocate in the West, Germany, through the mouth of its Chancellor O. Scholz said on September 10 that Germany is ready for stopping the gas supply by Russia. Germans are going to use coal-fired power plants, launch several shut-down nuclear power plants and a few terminals have been prepared to receive imported liquefied natural gas. Germany has finally become convinced of its excessive dependence on Russian energy as the US warned it repeatedly before, and that the Russians were using oil and gas as a means of pressure to achieve their political goals.

In addition, the G7 finance ministers agreed in early September 2022 to impose a ceiling on the price of oil from Russia. This can be called “russophobia” and collusion against Russia (as the Kremlin propagandists say) or the limitation of unreliable, aggressive and politically motivated supplier.

All in all, Mr. Putin's energy blackmailing didn't work. This was his penultimate trump card. The West surprised me by its unified approach to the "Putin problem”. Despite the fact that so many people in the world would very much like a speedy resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, it seems that now almost everyone understands, that the main reason for this senseless war is Mr. Putin’s imperial megalomania and his urge to "gather" lands that he groundlessly claims to be "Russian" ones.

Mr. Putin also has a problem on the battlefield in Ukraine. He lost his second big battle since I consider the first one was his retreat from Kyiv. Now the Russians in a similar way toothlessly surrendered a part of the conquered territory of north-eastern Ukraine.

When the Russian troops left Kyiv region in the beginning of April 2022, there was no battle there. Then Russian military commanders apparently convinced Mr. Putin that they could not attack Ukraine so widely (east in Donbass, south in Kherson, and north in Kiev) and explained their retreat to the Russian audience by the fact that the primary task of their special military operation was “to liberate” the Donbass region.

Now, in the northeast, Ukraine quickly (within 2-3 days) entered with its troops the Russian-controlled territories in the Kharkiv region. Russians did not expect that at all and had to flee in a hurry, abandoning equipment, weapons, and ammunition. Prior to this, Ukraine had long advertised its counteroffensive in the south (near Kherson), but struck in the northeast. With the help of intelligence data received from the US, the Ukrainians determined the right place and time of the counterattack and managed to recapture more than 2,000 square miles of their territory in a few days in the beginning of September, including such important supply hubs for Russian troops in Ukraine as Izyum and Kupyansk.

Mr. Putin can do nothing about that despite he is personally in charge of his "special military operation" in Ukraine since at least May 2022. This is a partial loss of face, which is very difficult to explain to the Russian average man. The final and unconditional loss of face (after which Mr. Putin will have to flee Russia) will be the recapture of Crimea by Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are doing the right thing. This is the only correct way to confront a superior opponent with nuclear weapons.

As a matter of fact it is impossible to defeat a nuclear state by military means alone just because of its possession of nuclear weapons. That is why all the countries of the world are so eager to get hold of such weapons, which greatly adds to the importance of any state. Note how the US began to carefully treat North Korea after it developed nuclear weapons - President Trump himself met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un two times, in 2018 and 2019.

A nuclear state can be defeated militarily and politically by winning big (and small) battles, which is what is happening now in Ukraine's war with Russia. This sets in motion an irreversible process of disillusionment of Russian people with Mr. Putin’s genius leadership and, most important, it destroys the gratuitous faith of Russians in their own greatness and the power of their empire. Mr. Putin has convinced many Russians over the years that they are great and very particular nation, as well as he himself is new Peter the Great, who cannot live free because of the damned West. The Russian philistine simply cannot imagine himself as a stupid oaf, supporting a war criminal in a suit and tie. However, if he does, there will be a great turmoil in Russia and Mr. Putin will have to flee because he is to blame. In an authoritarian state, all victories and all defeats belong to one person. That is why all emperors seek to annex territories and win wars. Surrendering territories and losing wars results in the emperor's removal from power and/or death.

Ukraine's political victory starts from big (like it is now) and small (like it was before) victories on the battlefield which puts the Russian average citizen to confusion – he does not understand why his invincible army is driven out by the army of a country that does not exist as Mr. Putin put it.

Now very many Russians (Russian central television including) simply ignore the information about Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv. They just don't want to know about it. Putin's apologists in Russia who are aware of it explain the major failure of Russian troops by the fact that Mr. Putin has not been given the right information timely. Russian military bloggers and far-right patriots desperately criticize Russia's military and political leaders, especially after President Zelenskiy’s brave visit to recaptured city of Izyum on September, 14.

However, something very unusual for Putin's Russia has also happened. Something that points to the actual enormous moral damage that Ukrainian recent counteroffensive made to Russia and Mr. Putin personally. It is a demarche of 35 municipal deputies from Moscow and St. Petersburg, who sent a demand to Mr. Putin to resign (!!) because of his wrong decision to go to war in Ukraine, which was harmful to Russia. This is unbelievable since Mr. Putin has created a powerful repressive machine to get rid of any dissent in Russia. People really risked not only with their careers and well-being, but perhaps with their lives. In Russia the war in Ukraine cannot be even called a "war," or the one could end up in jail. So it is becoming obvious that cracks in the "Putin's Russia" wall have emerged. A couple more such successful Ukrainian counterattacks (for example, in Kherson and Crimea) will lead to the end of Mr. Putin as the President of Russia.

By refusing to supply oil and gas to the EU Mr. Putin laid down his penultimate trump card. Now he has only one trump card left. Yes, it is nuclear weapons.

I already wrote that somewhere in March 2022 the West via its private channels probably warned Mr. Putin to immediately strike Russia with its nuclear weapons without any democratic delays if he would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and, as you could see, Mr. Putin listened. He probably won't make a tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine, much less any neighboring NATO country (Poland, for example), but... Mr. Putin wouldn't be Mr. Putin if he wouldn’t have some nasty stuff to spare. He could go the way of a hybrid nuclear strike - to make an "accidental" explosion at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Everything is ready for that. I've written about this possibility in some detail, too.

Diane Francis has briefly described the current status quo at ZNPP: “The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine is dangerously close to a meltdown — despite two (I.C. - International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors there — that would unleash a plume of radioactive contamination reaching across Eastern Europe and into the Baltic nations”.

Mr. Putin will give the order to blow up ZNPP and hide in a bunker, which he must have a few in Russia. He will not flee before that moment to personally control the execution and yet it is too early to flee, because it is unclear how everything will go. This is a case when the collective West must have a concrete plan of action, which, I'm afraid, does not exist. There is a nuclear response option in case of a tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine or one of its supporting countries, but what will the West do in case of an "accidental" explosion at the ZNPP? Will they discuss that at the UN Security Council again and send the IAEA commission there? It seems that Mr. Putin's purpose of life is to keep the collective West on constant alert for not resting on its laurels.

So what to do about a possible nuclear catastrophe at ZNPP?

Nothing. Because there is nothing you (like me, UN, NATO, EU, Ukraine and even Mr. Putin) can do about it. This war was really started by Mr. Putin personally, yes, but now it is already living its own life, consisting of many major and minor factors, which no one can manage or even take into account. Not even the "great tactician" Mr. Putin.

Only one thing is certain here for all involved. Everyone - Ukraine, the US, Great Britain, the EU countries, NATO, UN - should choose the war until the victorious end, rather than the shame of negotiations even under the threat of a nuclear strike.

Everyone needs to do everything possible to help Ukraine to win simply because in February 2022 Mr. Putin chose the war over what he considered the shame for him. Without the complete military and political defeat of Russia, the sincere repentance and reparations paid off to Ukraine, the "Putin problem," which is really a "Russian problem," will hang over the world for a very long time.

Anything can happen in life.

Mr. Putin will most likely make an explosion at the ZNPP, and everyone should be morally prepared for that. The Ukrainians, in my opinion, are already ready for any end - they are very angry with the Russians. The West should accept this as a very likely prospect, get ready, too, and... not be afraid that something will get worse. A horrible end is better than endless horror.

It will be as it will be, and no one is able to change it. This is what life is, a Brownian motion. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told recently: “We have learned not to be scared. Now we ask the rest of you not to be scared, too.”

P.S. By the way, the more success Ukraine has in military actions, the more divided Russia becomes, and the more likely that someone in Russian military chain will not follow the order while passing the fatal command from Mr. Putin to the last executor of his evil will.

P.P.S. Dear Reader! I am very much interested in your opinion on the subject of this article. Please, write a comment or ask a question if you want to clarify something.
Igor Chykalov
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