I’m a former intelligence analyst. I am not an expert in the mind of Putin or Russian geopolitics, but I do understand the dynamics of conventional and unconventional warfare better than most. With that said, it has become abundantly clear that the two prevailing narratives do not match reality. This is my understanding of what has actually happened so far in the conflict, and the ramifications of this model.
The Two Prevailing Narratives
Narrative One: Ukraine is the hero we need
- President Zelensky and Ukraine are fighting a heroic battle against the red menace
- If Putin is not stopped in Ukraine he will continue to invade and conquer non-NATO nations in a repeat of Hitler’s early moves in WWII
- There are no Nazi’s in Ukraine
- NATO did nothing to provoke this invasion
- Putin is unhinged and may start a nuclear war if he is not stopped
* This is the narrative circulated by Western corporate media
Narrative Two: Putin will save us all from the globalists
- Putin is fighting the globalist agenda in his own holy war: All liberty-minded folks should support his fight
- The war has gone according to Putin’s carefully laid plans. What looks like troop withdrawals were actually clever feints meant to deceive the enemy.
- Putin is fighting to rid Ukraine of Nazi’s. He’s being altruistic.
- This is entirely the fault of NATO’s provocations and Putin is blameless.
- Russia has strong ties to China and will be able to build an isolated economic trade alliance with China and a handful of other nations to break the globalist stranglehold and create a multi-polar world order.
* Variations on this narrative are common in Western alternative media
My Model of the Invasion
NOV 2021 | In November 2021 Russia began massing troops near the Ukraine border for what it claimed were ongoing military exercises.
17 DEC 2021| Russia presents security demands including that NATO pull back troops and weapons from eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining (1).
Blitzkrieg Decapitation / Pincer
Russia begins the invasion in what looks like a blitzkrieg attack to surround Kyiv. The strategy appears to be a decapitation strike with supporting elements moving in across three fronts. The plan appears to be, embedded special operators remove key leadership destroying command and control of the Ukrainian armed forces. Soon after, ground forces can move in and secure Kyiv, largely unopposed. Early-on Russia successfully secures key terrain in record time, but it soon hits obstacles due to greater than expected Ukrainian resistance, failure of its decapitation strike force and probable logistics issues. These problems ultimately doom this strategy.
Image from the Daily Mail
24 FEB 2022 | The Russian invasion begins.
24 FEB 2022 | Airborne Forces take control of the Airport north of Kyiv (2).
25 FEB 2022 |Amphibious assault launched on targets in southern Ukraine (3).
25 FEB 2022 |Logistics issues hamper ground movement to Kyiv (4, 5, 6).
28 FEB 2022 |Claims of Wagner group mercenaries on the ground in Kyiv to assassinate key leaders (7).
After the failure of the initial attack it appears the Russian forces largely pushed ahead with the same strategy. By this time, there are many indicators that the invasion is not going to plan for Russia.
12 MAR 2022 | Rumors of Putin conducting a purge of Generals and FSB (8).
15 MAR 2022 | Russia asks China for armed drones, which China later says it will not provide (9).
23 MAR 2022 | Report of an additional 1,000 mercenaries headed to Ukraine from the Wagner group (10).
31 MAR 2022 | Putin orders 134,500 New Conscripts, says they won’t go to the front lines (11).
Pivot: Donbas Focus, Kid Gloves Come Off
After the failure of the initial strategy and lack of progress, Putin reorganizes his leadership and a more aggressive strategy is launched. This strategy respositions forces to focus on the Eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. The Russian military begins to utilize more long-range bombers and cruise missiles to reduce losses of air assets. This will increase civilian casualties and risks turning an unpopular war into a disaster, but Putin wants a victory. Russia begins targeting Ukrainian infrastructure directly to disrupt western arms shipments which have inflicted heavy casualties on Russian air and armor.
31 MAR 2022 | Putin threatens to cut off Europe’s gas supply if not paid in Rubles (12).
03 APR 2022 | Russia begins cutting off some gas supplies to Europe (13).
05 APR 2022 | Russia withdraws from Western Ukraine to focus on Eastern Ukraine (14).
07 APR 2022 | Russian spokesperson confirms high Russian casualty figures (15).
11 APR 2022 | Putin purges over 150 members of the Russian intelligence service, FSB, arresting several (16).
11 APR 2022 | Appoints General Alexander Dvornikov to lead operations in Ukraine (17).
15 APR 2022 | Russia begins using long-range bombers (18).
15 APR 2022 | Russia’s Flagship Cruiser Moskva sinks (19).
18 APR 2022 | Russia launches cruise missile strikes on Lviv (20).
25 APR 2022 | Russia targets rail lines to disrupt western weapon shipments to Eastern Ukraine (21).
27 APR 2022 | Four European gas buyers make payments to Russia in Rubles for gas shipments (22).
03 MAY 2022 | Russian Cruise missiles knockout railway power substations in Western Lviv in an apparent attempt to disrupt weapons shipments (23).
It seems quite clear that operations in Ukraine did not go according to Putin’s original plan. I count these as his main errors:
- Underestimated western response in speed and severity
- Overestimated Russian military readiness
- Russian forces had little advance knowledge of the attack likely exacerbating logistics issues
- Wagner mercenaries have a history of poor performance and often recruit from the edges of society. It was foolish to rely on them for an advanced raid targeting heads of Ukraine.
What is / was the Endgame?
If we take Putin at his word, he seeks to change the monopolar world order into a multipolar one (24). In the monopolar order the United States is the Empire that rules over all. This is a bit simplistic considering the American empire relies heavily on the cooperation of many key nations, most notably, Saudi Arabia.
Semantics aside, a multipolar world order would require breaking the back of the Western globalist petro-dollar system which ensures the US dollar’s continued acceptance as the World’s reserve currency. In the strong-form interpretation of this goal, the narrative two believers seem to be at least partially right: Russia is waging a war against the globalists and seeking to create a parallel global economy of sorts. The problem is, Putin’s actions don’;t align well with his talking points.
Russia did not rely on economic leverage early on in the invasion. Why not kick off the Ukraine invasion by shutting off trade, including natural gas supplies, to the West? If your goal is to create this parallel economy, why continue to engage in trade with Europe? Further, Russia has made attempts to maintain economic relations despite severe sanctions. The country recently paid off $649 million in bond payments to western banks to avoid default (25). Russia’s largest shipping company plans to liquidate a third of its fleet to pay off western loans (26). Why?
The most obvious explanation seems to be that Putin wants to maintain economic ties with the West and normalize relations when the conflict is over. In fact, early in the war, Putin even called for a normalization of Western relations, an odd move if his goal was to destroy the Western globalists (27). This all conflicts with narrative two.
The most charitable interpretation is that Putin underestimated the severity of the Western response to the Ukraine invasion. He expected a slap on the wrist much like the response to the invasion of Crimea. Furthermore, maybe Putin really does want a multipolar world order, but he is no fool. He knows the road to economic independence from the West is long and gradual. Now he is stuck because the Western powers came down hard on Russia, his own forces under-performed, and he is forced to choose between a few bad alternatives.
Or perhaps he is just cynically playing into the popular anti-globalist narrative to cover for his strategic objective in using Ukraine as a buffer zone between NATO and Russia. I don’t know for certain what is in Putin’s head, but his actions are not well-aligned with the first or second narratives.
Putin’s Tough-Guy Persona
Worth noting is that Putin’s image has been carefully crafted to portray the former KGB lawyer as a strongman. This is why Putin often takes time to showcase his Judo technique, or ride a horse without a shirt; it all plays into this crafted persona. That persona is maintained at all times, so when Putin is forced to take a loss, like having surrogates admit to high Russian casualties (28) or withdraw its forces from Western Ukraine to try to consolidate gains in the East (29) , there is always some hollow nuclear threat (30), or a flyby along a sovereign nation’s borders (31).
Most news outlets respond with reactionary stories and misinterpret these attempts to save face as aggression. But these provocations are thin veils for Russian weakness from a man who cannot be seen as a weak leader, else he risks being ousted. Russians value strength highly.
Saudi Arabia is using this as leverage to damage the petro-dollar arrangement. Let’s be clear, Saudis are driving the collapse of the petro-dollar, not Russia as some of the narrative two proponents will claim. While Russia and Saudi Arabia both produce around 10% of the global petroleum output, Saudi Arabia heavily influences OPEC which controls about 40% of the global oil supply. This is simply a convenient opportunity for the House of Saud to subvertly voice their displeasure with America’s wind-down of Middle-East operations and unwillingness to fill every request for support in the ongoing Yemen genocide. Worth noting is that CIA Director William Burns secretly met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to improve worsening relations in mid-April (32). The Biden administration wants OPEC to increase crude oil supplies and so far the Saudis have shot down that request.
America will either have to rebuild ties with the Saudis or face the destruction of the petrodollar and the dollar’s world reserve currency status. That means no more endless wars or world policing. The world order that the elites, the CIA and State Department work tirelessly to cultivate, will be no more.
Russia will have a hard time extricating itself from this mess without taking on severe economic damage or a very public loss. It seems Western powers are not interested in negotiating for the Donbas region in Ukraine which means the battle will rage on until it escalates or one side breaks.
Putin’s miscalculations could lead to world war, especially considering his tough-guy posturing which could provoke a response and escalation. However, it is more likely that western forces will manufacture an excuse for escalation through false-flags. Note: I’ll leave the question of whether Ukraine and the West have already attempted to pin false flag attacks on Russia, out of this conversation. What is worth mentioning though, is that if a western-inspired false flag attack were exposed, it would certainly change the dynamics of the propaganda war, which right now the West is clearly winning.
China will be re-evaluating their Taiwan strategy and geopolitical aims. Bear in mind China is headed for its own economic catastrophe due to its aggressive growth strategy. They are just beginning to feel the fallout of the unsustainable growth the government pushed. The number two head of China has already shouldered the blame and will not seek re-election this coming November. Meanwhile calls to oust President Xi are growing. Xi has pushed China off of its long-term plans and now substantial time and resources will be consumed just trying to rebuild poorly built infrastructure and usher in economic recovery. I expect a much more conservative China going forward, but time will tell. Desperate leaders can do desperate things.
The narrative two believers missed the memo that Russia, and especially China are globalists too. They have benefited greatly from global trade, policy and connections. China especially must walk a tight rope as alienating the West would be economic suicide. China is also well-established in the World Economic Forum and is often highlighted as a champion of many of the control mechanisms the WEF and its Great Reset agenda seek to implement worldwide.
The collapse of the West may be coming, but it might take longer than many expect. While the West is poised for economic destruction, many competing nations are not well-positioned to fill the power vacuum or offer an immediate challenge to the global empire. This great unwinding could take a couple decades still. Watch Saudi Arabia closely as they are one of the key pieces to that puzzle.
The fallout from this war may spell the end for Putin’s leadership in Russia.
- This war is not popular in Russia. Thousands protested the war even under threat of 10-year prison sentences (33).
- His allies are getting impatient (34).
- China doesn’t appear to be willing to send any military aid (35).
- China will buy Russian oil, but at a tremendous discount. This isn’t a very good arrangement for Russia, more of a survival strategy (36).
- He has imprisoned and removed many top Russian intelligence and defense officials and likely gained himself many new enemies in the process (37).
- Putin is becoming politically isolated, a dangerous development especially as actions show he needs to maintain Western economic ties.
- The change in military strategy may start yielding military gains, but will increase civilian casualties and destroy infrastructure, making the war even more unpopular. Putin either has to push harder for an ugly victory, or concede defeat. A rapid and elegant victory in Ukraine is no longer in the cards. Victory will still be dependent on whether the West will tolerate it or find an excuse to start WWIII.