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UKRAINE CRISIS

Vladimir Putin’s Samson option spells disaster of biblical proportions

Vladimir Putin’s Samson option spells disaster of biblical proportions
A Romanian woman passes by a printed mesh artwork depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, part of a anti-war art exhibition in the King’s Square, located near the Russian Federation embassy compound in Bucharest, Romania, where it was launched on 29 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Robert Ghement)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues; the threats to the larger international stability continue as well and the outcome remains in the balance.

Most readers, including those from religious traditions outside the three Abrahamic faiths, and even those for whom religious stories generally matter little in any spiritual sense, can appreciate the drama of the story of Samson.

That would be Samson the Hebrew warrior whose strength derived from his never-to-be-cut hair, but who is, in the end, betrayed by a slip of the tongue to his Philistine lover, Delilah. She then passes along that hirsute secret to the Philistine priests of the Temple of Dagon who, once Samson’s hair has been cut, chain him to the massive pillars of their temple. 

As the story reaches its climax, Samson repents for having turned away from his god and appeals for the return of his powers — just for a moment. Samson does regain that strength and, in response to all his humiliations, pulls down those temple pillars, fatally crushing the priests, Delilah, and — of course — himself in that calamitous structural failure.

It is a satisfying revenge story that has, among other retellings, inspired an opera by Camille Saint-Saëns with its lush vocal pyrotechnics and the music for a bacchanale that has become the inspiration for a thousand movie soundtracks — and leaves little to the imagination. That music must have been a real shocker for Victorian ears.

But some important questions must be asked. Is Samson’s self-destructiveness the right way to deal with disagreements with one’s partner? In the contemporary world around us, before such self-destructive impulses would be allowed to get the better of him and cause pain to all those around him, he would have been referred to clinical professionals to help him with better anger management strategies, with his problems trusting his significant other and a demonstrated inability to deal with criticism from outsiders. And they would give special attention to his difficulties in dealing with his unrealistic urges towards wish fulfilment. 

(Clinician: So tell me — may I call you Samson? — when did you first begin to believe your partner was in league with your enemies and, by the way, where did your obsession with hair begin? Have you always had problems with controlling impulses and anger?)

By now, clever readers will have guessed where we are headed with this short ramble into biblical storytelling. And that, of course, is the saga of Vladimir Putin and his transgressions, difficulties, delusions and disappointments.

His story is one that by virtue of some extraordinary hubris, his desire to make reality conform to his imaginary universe, his hopes to deliver to the West a strategic spanking and his obsession with crushing Ukrainian desires of exercising national sovereignty, he may well be setting the stage for that moment when he pulls down global pillars in pursuit of his goals. 

Yes, it is true there are numerous examples of heroic, outnumbered warriors facing great masses of opponents (and in many cases surrendering their lives to a cause in their outnumbered circumstances). Stories like Sparta’s 300 warriors holding off the Persians until the remaining Greek armies could escape; the Serbian national hero, Stevan Sinđelić, leading his band to their deaths in an explosion created to destroy his Ottoman opponents; the fanatical fighters perched on the Masada mountain fortress in the Judean wilderness, taking their own lives rather than surrender to the attacking Romans; or even that detachment of British soldiers at Rorke’s Drift surviving the onslaught of Zulu impis — with bravery against tremendous odds, at least from the perspective of the British army’s telling of the story — all live on in history. 

But rarely are there accolades from history for a ruler who leads his nation into a disastrous war of choice; causes death and destruction on a vast scale to the nation (and the people) he has invaded; who rallies his putative enemies into a cohesive coming together in an ever-tighter, stronger alliance; and who then, as a terrible bonus, brings disaster upon his own military and wrecks his own nation’s economy. (And parenthetically, his war may well also become the proximate cause of a global recession, food shortages, wild price inflation of vital resources and other calamities not yet reckoned with.)

Collectively, this is fast becoming Putin’s legacy. It is what future generations will understand and learn about him, that this was a legacy that was the inevitable result of following his own inner compulsions and delusions.

The Washington Post — Today’s World View put it this way: “Putin cloaks himself as the bearer of all sorts of mythic, historical legacies that stretch back beyond the Soviet era. As Fiona Hill, former White House staffer on Russia for the Trump administration, detailed in a recent New York Times podcast, he sees himself in a continuum with tsarist figures like Catherine the Great — who expanded Russian imperial dominions to the Black Sea and captured Crimea from the Ottomans — or Nicholas I, the mid-19th century emperor who played a major geopolitical role in helping suppress liberal revolutions all over Europe.

“For Putin, the Soviet era is most important for the memory of triumph and sacrifice in World War II, which he and his allies revive constantly in their rhetoric. That’s why according to Putin, the Ukrainians — including their Jewish president — must be ‘Nazis.’

“ ‘Putin has elevated the memory of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is referred to in Russia, to the status of a national religion and positioned himself as the heir to that legacy, and the tireless defender of Russia and Russians everywhere against their contemporary threats,’ wrote Katie Stallard, author of a new book on how despots in Russia, China and North Korea manipulate history. ‘He calls the Ukrainian leadership “fascists” to remind his compatriots of the enemy they faced, insisting that they are confronting a resurgent menace.’ ”

(Clinician: May I call you Vlad? Good. Let us begin. When did you start to believe everyone around you was ganging up on you and wanted to do you harm, and that your only recourse was to strike back, harder? Could you tell me what it was that led you to believe you were destined to be the saviour of white Christian nationalism and to re-establish the Third Rome? How did you come to believe the inhabitants of a largely peaceful neighbouring nation, the Ukrainians, were not a real country but were instead being misled by a cabal of neo-Nazis, Zionists and drug dealers? Have you ever worried about being a failure in your life? Do you trust your co-workers and friends?)

Back in the real universe in contrast to Vladimir Putin’s imaginings, this is how things stand now in his invasion of Ukraine and the spreading ripples from it. The Russian military is now concentrating its land forces on the eastern flank of Ukraine, hoping to take advantage of the more open countryside, and the closer resupply lines that gives them.

 

 

 

In addition, the Russians continue to fire long-range artillery and cruise missiles and drop not-so-smart bombs on civilian targets in cities across the country. This aerial campaign has little to do with military necessity, but much more with an attempt to inflict terror, death, destruction and, ultimately, resignation among Ukraine’s civilian population. So far, at least, it has largely fuelled a greater willingness for resistance against the invader, despite the odds.  

The Russian siege of the wrecked city of Mariupol is coming close to a terrible end. The remaining Ukrainian military forces there are being increasingly compressed into sections of the now devastated Azovstal steelworks (along with civilians still trying to survive in the underground tunnels and spaces beneath the giant factory zone, although some are finally being allowed out in limited bus convoys). 

Once that final portion of the city falls to the Russian forces, the invading army will have effectively established a zone of control that extends from Crimea and Kherson on through to the Donbas. (Moldovans are worried that they are the next victims, if Putin determines to link up with the ethnic Russian minority in the breakaway, so-called Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic.)

In Ukraine, as this consolidation across the southern region occurs, local quisling regimes are being put into place, and Russian currency, communications restrictions, educational content, flags and other potent symbols are being installed.

All of this seems to be with the intention of setting up an alternative Ukraine that will be shown to the world as the real Ukraine, the one that is essentially a part of Putin’s contemporary version of building that Third Rome in Moscow, and that will replace that supposed neo-Nazi, drug-dealing, LGBTQI-loving, Zionist one, falsely masquerading as a legitimate government in Kyiv.

There is obviously serious self-delusion in that, but, so far at least, nobody in Moscow or Russia seems prepared openly to call out the emperor over his dress sense — or to somehow step on the brakes as the military action continues, as personal, financial and economic sanctions tighten against Russia, and as independent experts begin to predict the sanctions regimen and the war, collectively, will translate into a major hit on the Russian economy.

 

 

 

As Russia begins to cut off access to gas and oil exports to some Nato nations, the effects will become more serious for those nations as well. For its part, Germany is now trying to sort out cutting back on its crucial energy imports from Russia. And agricultural commodity exports such as cooking oil and wheat — especially towards nations with food security issues — are already beginning to bite beyond the theatre of military operations. One should be wondering if those contemporary temple pillars are starting to vibrate just a bit.

Meanwhile, there is a strengthening attitude among Nato nations — as well as with Finland and Sweden, which will soon apply to join that alliance — in favour of supporting Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated and more powerful military aid. A plan already moving through the US Congress, for example, will provide a package of aid worth some $33-billion, and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has led a multi-member delegation to Kyiv and Poland in recent days as well, following a quick visit by the US secretaries of state and defence. 

Even Germany, with its long-standing prohibition on exporting military equipment, is beginning to break with its post-1945 tradition. Any remaining sentiments that the stable post-Cold War architecture had been fixed in place in Europe has evaporated, probably for at least a generation.

One other aspect of this conflict is gaining increasing attention in the West, and that is an evaporating sensibility that the Russian military is a nearly unstoppable force. It is still extremely potent, but instead of being an invincible machine, the massive command and control problems encountered in the failed movement to Kyiv and the relative success Ukrainians have had in destroying Russian military hardware while on defence have fuelled a feeling the Russian military juggernaut has some real feet of clay — lots of firepower, yes, but much less ability to make effective use of it in a strategic way. 

As The Economist put it, “The might of the modern Russian army was supposed to show the world that President Vladimir Putin had restored his country to greatness after the humiliation of the Soviet collapse. Instead, poor progress and heavy losses in Ukraine have exposed deep flaws within Russia. For those threatened by Mr Putin’s aggression, a diminished army is a relief. Unfortunately, it also leaves a nuclear-armed power with a point to prove.

“So far, the invasion of Ukraine has been a disaster for Russia’s armed forces. About 15,000 troops have been killed in two months of fighting, according to Britain’s government. At least 1,600 armoured vehicles have been destroyed, along with dozens of aircraft and the flagship of the Black Sea fleet. The assault on the capital, Kyiv, was a chaotic failure.

 

 

 

“Leon Trotsky wrote that ‘the army is a copy of society and suffers from all its diseases, usually at a higher temperature’. Fighting in the east and the south of Ukraine over the next few weeks will not only determine the course of the war, but it will also determine how much the Russian army can salvage its reputation — and the reputation of the society it embodies. 

“Disaffected troops, fed on out-of-date rations, have deserted their vehicles. Units have tortured, raped and murdered only to be honoured by the Kremlin. Russia has failed to win control of the skies or combine air power with tanks, artillery and infantry. Wallowing in corruption, unable to foster initiative or learn from their mistakes, its frustrated generals abandoned advanced military doctrine and fell back on flattening cities and terrorising civilians. 

“Ukraine’s highly motivated forces are a rebuke to these Russian failings. Despite being less numerous and less well armed, they resisted the invading army by passing decision-making to small, adaptable local units given up-to-the-minute intelligence. Even if the Russian campaign, now under a single commander, makes gains in Donbas, it will do so chiefly thanks to its sheer mass. Its claim to be a sophisticated modern force is as convincing as a tank turret rusting in a Ukrainian field.”

However, beyond those economic questions noted earlier, the increasingly routine, muttered or implied threats from Russian leaders about the possibilities of using nuclear weapons should also make one check the stability of those temple pillars. Although the Americans are understood not to have risen to that bait in upping their own level of nuclear weapons alert status — a change in their “Defcon” — the very idea of a nuclear weapons confrontation or usage should also make senior officials, and the rest of us, worry about the stability of those pillars.

As the war goes on, the threats to global stability continue to rise. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    At some point the free world will have to confront, stop and defeat this hideous criminal and mass murderer that is Putin and his evil regime ie. militarily. A cowardly obnoxious bully like Putin only understands strength and if in his sick mind he believes that he will lose, then he backs away. Expecting the Russian population to rise up is not going to happen – they are too subjugated, too controlled by the barrel of the gun and constantly fed vicious state propaganda, lies and deception. Putin has a warped, false and wicked sense of restoring the Soviet/Russian empire and place in the world. Unlike the Nazi leadership who faced hanging and life imprisonment after the Nuremberg trials, the equally criminal evil and despicable Soviet regime, who in fact murdered more innocent civilians than Hitler, faced no reckoning. Stalin and most of these vile criminals died peacefully in their beds of old age – that is besides the few that Stalin fell out of and were murdered. Putin, the KGB thug and monster has the same DNA from that uninterrupted era. Human life and rights mean absolutely zero and if it means destruction and death of innocents on an enormous scale, then so be it. It is the Soviet/Russian way! Putin doesn’t care about his own people, beats them, imprisons them, murderers them – he cares much less about other people. Time to get rid of this evil mass murderer once and for all.

  • Johan Buys says:

    All Russian exports should carry a 25% import duty remitted by the importing nation to the IMF to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine.

    Urals oil already trades about a third below Brent oil – effectively Putin receives a third less for his oil already. The war tax must continue after the war.

  • anton kleinschmidt says:

    Z

    Letting slip the Orcs of Armageddon
    Hollowed out of every human norm,
    Carnage on a scale imploding reason
    Reveling in guilt free human harm.
    Nuclearized Apartheid – Genocidal
    Kreminals of War – so brute defined
    Optics? See the dead eyes of the Balrog
    Guernica repurposed – PutiniZed.

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