I’m sure Vladimir Putin thinks that his economy has withstood Western sanctions. Who wants to be the adviser that tells him otherwise? Meeting with his Belarusian toady Alexander Lukashenko, the Russian tyrant declared economic sanctions a failure, and that he had no choice but to invade Ukraine in the first place:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called the war in Ukraine a “tragedy” but insisted that Russia had “no choice” but to invade its western neighbor.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting in eastern Russia with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said: “What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy, no doubt about that. But we had no choice. It was just a matter of time” before an attack on Russia.
That’s an absurd statement on its face after the last eight years. Putin attacked Ukraine in 2014, seizing and annexing Crimea and attempting to displace Ukrainian sovereignty in Donbas, with only middling results. In the entire eight years, Ukraine didn’t attack Russia proper once — and if they had, Putin would have immediately seized on such an attack as a pretext for exactly this kind of invasion. In fact, Putin tried to manufacture such a pretext in February to justify this invasion, but his regime was inept enough to botch it.
As for the economic sanctions, Putin declared himself the winner:
Economic sanctions imposed on his country have “failed,” Putin added, asserting that the Russian economy is steady despite the blows.
“The sanctions ‘blitzkrieg’ against Russia failed, the country’s industry and financial system are working, but of course there are some problems,” Putin said. “It’s clear that the Russian economy is stable. But in the medium and long term, the risks may increase. Our adversaries are planning to double down on their activities.”
One has to wonder how much of this is just strongman bravado, and how much it might be a bubble-created delusion. If you haven’t already read Allahpundit’s post on the purge at FSB over the disastrous Ukraine war, be sure to do so now. Presumably Putin would be closer to the actual situation in Russia and harder to jolly along on economic issues, but oligarchs and their pals live much different lives than the serfs that serve them. It’s still possible that Putin’s getting sunshine blown up his skirt by his clique of domestic toadies as well as Lukashenko in Belarus and his military/intelligence leaders in Ukraine.
The “blitzkrieg” reference was cute, though. Apparently Putin is a big fan of this Facebook meme, and not in an ironic way. You can’t accuse Putin of failing to commit to the bit when it comes to Nazis, I suppose.
Putin knows that the West will continue to escalate sanctions, but will they succeed in attempts to “double down”? Germany appears about to go wobbly, the New York Times reports this morning. Just a few weeks after declaring their new policy of “Zeitenwende” in regard to Russia, cold feet have emerged. Thanks to a mix of World War II remorse and economic prosperity on the cheap, Germans may not appreciably change their stance toward Russia in the short or medium term:
Even as images of atrocities emerge from Ukraine since the invasion by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Scholz has ruled out an immediate oil and gas embargo, saying it would be too costly. He is dragging his feet on sending 100 armored vehicles to Ukraine, saying that Germany must not “rush ahead.” There are new debates in the ruling coalition about just how to go forward with the massive task Mr. Scholz has laid out, let alone how fast.
Already doubts are building as to the German government’s commitment to its own radical plans. “Zeitenwende is real, but the country is the same,” said Thomas Bagger, a senior German diplomat who will be the next ambassador to Poland. “Not everyone likes it.” …
Even Annalena Baerbock, the self-assured Green foreign minister, expressed concerns that Zeitenwende may be more temporary than fundamental. She said she worried that the consensus was fragile, that Germans who favor close ties to Russia were silent now, but had not changed their views.
“You can feel this,” she said in an interview. “They know they have to do it right now with regard to sanctions, energy independence and weapons deliveries, also with regard to how we treat Russia. But actually, they don’t like it.”
Since Mr. Scholz put forth his Zeitenwende before a special session of the Parliament on Feb. 27, multiple cracks in Germany’s commitment to change have already begun to appear.
German celebrities made headlines with an appeal to the government against rearmament and the “180-degree change in German foreign policy” that has so far been signed by 45,000 people. Green lawmakers have lobbied to spend only part of the €100 billion special fund on the military, citing other needs like “human security” and climate change. Labor unions and industry bosses are warning of catastrophic damage to the economy and an immediate recession if Russian gas stops flowing.
That does not bode well for a united approach to economic punishment for Putin’s war crimes. Germany has the most powerful economy in the EU, a status largely generated by their reliance on cheap Russian energy to produce pricier exports to China. A get-tough policy on Putin threatens both ends of that economic strategy. That reality has dawned on Germans, even if their illusion that Putin is a viable partner on continental security has yet to be entirely dispelled. Too many of them are so married to that illusion that even a flat-out attempt to obliterate another European nation hasn’t shaken some Germans from that slumber.
If Germany starts balking at embargoes on Russian energy — which would be the first real test of Zeitewende — then Putin could wind up being more correct in his assessment. The damage to the Russian economy would be real and long-lasting, but it might not be enough to prompt a revolt against the KGB colonel’s colossally incompetent regime. Of course, that largely depends on Putin achieving any kind of arguable victory in Ukraine and avoiding an expansion of NATO into Finland that will put Western forces less than 150 miles from Murmansk, so … the Germans aren’t the only ones living in a fantasy world.