By now, even the last Putin underestimator should have understood that the Russian despot is an opponent in a class of its own. Leaving aside the outrage at the flimsy justification for halving gas supplies to Europe again, it becomes clear how strategically Vladimir Putin is waging his war.
The underestimation of Putin begins with seriously considering this man to be of unsound mind. For crazy, a claustrophobic lonely and what else. Putin is evidently none of that: he is a cold-blooded strategist who takes his opponents’ weaknesses into account when making decisions.
Now what does this mean for us? We should get rid of the illusion that we are dealing with a weak opponent just because they initially failed to conquer Kyiv. Or consider him weak because he is allegedly only capable of slow military “advances” in Ukraine. Or believe that Western weapons could turn the tide of war.
Anyone who wants to bring about a “change in time” not only in the German Bundestag, but also on the Ukrainian battlefields, must not be satisfied with the delivery of all three Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. Incidentally, 15 were promised by the traffic light government. But it’s not the end of July yet…
As Norbert Röttgen puts it: “Putin is waging a military war against Ukraine, an energy war against Europe and a hunger war against the world.” The West is supplying weapons and imposing economic sanctions, and Russia is responding with its three weapons. So far so unsurprising.
It is now time to grasp the drama of the situation – and act accordingly. It no longer makes sense for the government and opposition to accuse each other of symbolic politics – some because of the nuclear power plants, others because of the speed limit. Responding properly to an attack means not belittling or waxing vague. But to do what is required. The motto should be: Anything goes. And not: Everything that a coalition just barely allows.
A look at foreign policy shows just how strong Putin really is: his Foreign Minister Lavrov is currently touring through Africa – and will encounter many shady figures in power there who share Russia’s opinion that Western sanctions are to blame for rampant hunger in their countries. And may it be recalled that the Western world leader’s attempt to engage the supposed Saudi Arabian allies in an energy front against Russia has just failed miserably? Joe Biden’s defeat was terrible and meaningful.
The Russians may not have many friends in the world, but there seem to be enough partners who share similar national interests as the Russians. What is actually left of the G-7 Plus summit organized with great pomp by Olaf Scholz in the Bavarian mountains?
Putin recognizes where the West is weak. Solidarity, so much invoked, is extremely fragile behind the facade – you can see that in Ursula von der Leyen’s almost desperate efforts to establish European energy solidarity. Hungary gave way a long time ago, Spain and Portugal recently, and today the Austrians say coolly that they no longer store gas for Bavaria in their largest gas storage facility.
The “ring exchange” is the next obvious disaster that shows how thin European solidarity is beyond Sunday speeches. The Eastern Europeans were supposed to supply old Soviet tanks and Germany to replace them with modern tanks made in Germany. And what happens: Not only nothing, but the governments start insulting each other.
Putin is a strong opponent, determined to do anything and, one must not forget, experienced war. Putin deserves a more determined opponent. Certainly more determined than a West that still believes that by whatever miraculous coincidence it can get away with a black eye.