“In a word, corruption”

Sean Bell with Sky News is one of my favorite commentators. Generals Keane and Patraeus are excellent also. Then there is the former ambassador from Bozeman (McFaul). The absolute best, right down to his wardrobe and wristwatch, is William Burns. These people are worth listening to. They know what they are talking about.

This is outstanding. It was written almost two months ago and it is spot on to this day.

I struggled with it myself: why is Russia losing to the point of humiliation? I wondered if corruption and terrible leadership is the same thing. Dead soldiers, depleted families, and “morale,” which is hard to define, are obviously not good. But how do you quantify or explain without free speech?

Russia’s economic situation is horrible, but it is incredibly confusing too. Gas and oil sales are down but prices are up; the Ruble has rebounded to pre-war levels vs. the dollar; for the ships seized and assets frozen, only time will tell, but they will eventually hit home in a huge way. Yesterday–if you search you can find anything–there were reports of the war costing Russia $900 million a day and that is money they don’t have. In the longer-term too, gas and oil embargoes, despite China, India, and even parts of the E.U., will hurt because the war is hastening the move to alternative sources elsewhere. Mostly younger and educated Russians have fled. Some 750 Western companies have refused to do business. Russia is cut-off from the world’s wealthiest countries in the world and that may continue indefinitely without an effort to stop it.

Russia’s army is probably depleted to the level of one-quarter to half its previous strength, and that strength was not as strong as suspected. Hampered by an economy experiencing a 15 percent recession, it will take years or decades to rebuild.

Finland and Sweden are in the news. At this moment that news says when they apply they will join NATO quickly. What a defeat for Putin; they are modern and strong on their own and now it is worse. (Kaliningrad, ostracized and without a train route, reportedly wants out, or in, too.)

Russia is destroying Ukraine but is losing the war every day it is fought. What a disaster. Smart countries and their leaders see it as a chance to hurt Putin and deplete Russia without even shooting a weapon. And why not, the Ukrainians are the best, most prepared and intelligent, and the most motivated fighters any of us have ever seen. It is a brilliant strategy on the part of the West (led by Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, and others). What an insult: ‘just like higher energy prices, we can afford it.’ Putin and his flunkies never imagined they would be facing high-tech U.S., U.K., and even Turkish, German, and Australian arms. They put on a show but looked defeated on May 9 Victory Day. Finally, we are seeing the message that world leadership realizes what is happening because we have seen it before. Putin may very well survive until his death, but in my lifetime at least (maybe thirty more years), Russia will never be the same. Even the flow of visiting dignitaries helps by showing the resolve continues. Painting Z’s on tanks will not scare anyone again.

There are micro and macro issues and arguments. I am a student of corruption: In my view it is the highest, most-overriding factor. It means no democracy, no checks and balances, and no every day/every person rights. It means not getting along with others. It means skimming money and looking out only for yourself. It means lousy, unprofitable products and industries. And in this case, it means clinging to fossil fuels and global warning too.

I wish Anna had been more specific as to what defines corruption. “Little things.”

Leave a comment