Why a New Era of War is Dawning — And What Putin Really Wants
What Russia’s Invasion Really Means For the World and the Future
Image Credit: CNN Screenshot
What is Putin’s game really all about? Why did he invade Ukraine — and how does this end? By now, you’re probably wondering. I have some answers for you, and (as usual) you’re probably not going to like them.
Let’s begin here.
Putin played a long, long sophisticated game. His preparation for this moment was both impeccable and chilling. What do I mean? He spent a decade or more destabilising the West — and he succeeded. There’s copious evidence by now that the last decade or so of British and American history has been shaped by…Russia. Trump as President? Helped along — literally and decisively — by Russian military intelligence operations. Brexit? Funded by Russia, propagandized with Russian techniques of flooding Big Lies at a confused population.
Let me say it again. Russia has played a long, long game to get to this moment. Let’s explore another couple of avenues. Remember Trump’s first impeachment? It was about withholding aid from Ukraine…in other words, helping Russia. Then there’s the issue of the radicalisation of the right. The average right wing soccer mom is now such a fanatic that she is threatening to shoot up her kids school. What’s behind that? It comes from Facebook and Twitter, which are notorious for disinformation campaigns, which are again funded by Russia, astroturfed by Russia, and modelled on Russian propaganda techniques.
None of this is news. None of it. The average person just doesn’t know it because, well, our elites, politicians and journalists and pundits…didn’t think it mattered. They imagined that Russia was just being naughty. That there wasn’t a purpose to all this.
But why would any nation try to destabilise others? Surely, there must have been a plan.
When Russia was simultaneously literally installing Trump as President with one military intel operation, and leading Britain to break up with and hate the EU with another, it was obvious that there was a strategy and purpose here. It’s going to be remembered as an historic failure that our elites didn’t see it.
Before I continue, I want you to really think of how momentous all this was. It’s recent history now. We don’t think too much about. We just kind of accept it. But stop doing that for a moment. Russia managed to install Donald Trump as America’s President, LOL. It managed to get gentle Britain to hate Europe, and talk about its once allies and friends with the Blitz language of World War II — and then literally leave the historic union they’d forged.
It has managed to sow discord across the West by radicalising the average person, normalising far right politics, which have resulted in very real consequences of everyday terror, like those soccer moms threatening to shoot up schools.
Remember Jan 6th? All those lunatics? They were radicalised by Russia. Where did they learn all those crazy conspiracy theories? On Facebook and Twitter, from disinformation campaigns. Who taught them that the “election was stolen”? Trump did — taking a page from Putin’s book. Who encouraged them to use violence and brutality? Not just Trump, but the disinformation and propaganda that became all they really knew. Yes, they were obvious targets — supremacists, fascists, idiots. But it is also obvious at this juncture that they were being manipulated — and still are.
The goal the GOP has to crush American democracy? It’s a Russian goal. It’s literally funded by Russia, it’s fanatics trained in propaganda and disinfo with Russians models and techniques, it’s aims explicitly aligned with the idea of Russia as Europe’s imperial superpower.
The malign hand of Russia has defined the world for the last decade — only we have been too foolish and reticent to see it. It was “alarmism!” — that favourite insult of the sober pundit. But the sober pundits were, as usual, wrong.
All of this couldn’t have been some kind of coincidence — and we know by now that it wasn’t. Again, none of the above is my opinion. It’s a fact. Its just that the dots are not connected, even when the portrait they paint is obvious.
All of that has been leading up this moment. Think about how much time and energy Russia put into all that. Installing an American President. Breaking Britain up with the EU. Radicalizing the average person in both countries. Aiding far right movements in countries like Canada and France to the point that democracies across the West are under attack. Think about how it targeted the US and UK first and hardest — the West’s leaders. Think how assiduously and carefully it worked to destabilise them at every level — from the top, from the bottom, from the inside, from the grass roots. Think of how all that led to Brexit and Jan 6th.
All that took serious work. Lots of it. Many people doing it. A decade of hardcore propaganda and disinformation. Money. Influence. Operations. And if it took all that, then obviously there was a careful, sophisticated strategy behind it, a purpose to it. That purpose was this.
That brings us to the invasion of Ukraine. What is it really about? Well, what isn’t about is just Ukraine. If you understand that Russia has spent a decade or more waiting for this moment, then you should also immediately understand that it’s not going to stop here. It has much, much bigger plans than that. Ukraine is the beginning. Destabilizing the West was a Russian strategy for a much, much bigger purpose than just Ukraine. You don’t go to the trouble of taking down American and Britain as functioning democracies if all you want is a tiny slice of Ukraine, after all.
So what does Putin want? Well, the answer to that is staring us right in the face. On the eve of the invasion, Putin gave a blood-curdling speech, which was replete with fascist language. He spoke of identity and heritage and blood and soil, how Mother Russia was one nation, and would be again, and nations like Ukraine weren’t really nations at all. So far, so fascist. But that, too, is just a pretext. You see, a real fascist is far more ideological than Putin and his cronies. They don’t gad about on super yachts in Cannes — they exterminate the subhumans.
This is about money and power. Putin is the world’s richest man, by some estimates, leaving Bezos in the dust. His cronies are incredibly wealthy, too — they easily rival America’s billionaires, if not put them to shame. And the thing about people like that is that they always want more. The way to get more? The easiest and best way?
To build an empire.
That is why Putin spoke of reconstituting a neo Soviet empire, made of One Mother Russia. If you think the oligarchs — and he’s their king — are rich now, wait until they control the resources of all of Eastern Europe. And then they begin to encroach on Western Europe.
If you think I’m exaggerating about that, let’s get clearer.
You see that in response to Putin’s invasion, Western leaders have basically announced…lukewarm sanctions. What’s up with that? Why not…more? Because they can’t do much more.
Imagine that tomorrow Biden and Johnson were to get up on a podium and announce they were going to cleanse the Western financial system of Russia’s dirty money. Instantaneously, our financial system would collapse. No, I’m not kidding. Cleanse the dirty Russian money? A chain reaction would set off, something like this. Half the hedge funds and private equity funds on Wall St would go into liquidation — instantly — their capital depleted. That would break the banks they bank at. Unfortunately, those are the very banks the average person keeps their money at, too. Then we’d need another bank bailout — a huge one. In approximately three days after such an announcement. Anyone in particular want to step up to that plate? Nobody does.
The system is awash with dirty money. Our system. Our financial system. There is so much of it that without it, the economy as we know it would come to a grinding, near instantaneous halt. Withdraw, freeze, liquidate all those Russian funds — and bang, a chain reaction reaching down into runs on banks from the average person in America and Britain and Germany would be set off, in record time.
That is why Putin isn’t afraid of these sanctions. He knows that the West can’t go far enough to really hurt him and his cronies. It just isn’t really possible, at least not without pushing the self-destruct button on our own economies, and plunging ourselves into a financial crisis of epic proportions. Putin knows that he has the West over a barrel, a huge one made of dirty money.
That barrel is so big that the story of Wall St barely begins to tell the tale. Ever wondered why Facebook and Twitter just happily let…Russian disinformation spread? Because Russia has stakes in them. It capitalises them. It owns large chunks of them. It owns large chunks of plenty of storied companies. Freeze that, and the stock markets crater. Then there’s real estate. Who funds all those absurd dwelling for the super rich in Manhattan and London, anyways? You guessed it, dirty money, particularly from Russia. Freeze it — and property markets go into a tailspin.
If the West really tries to cleanse itself of dirty Russian money, then its financial markets, stock markets, and property markets will all crater. It’ll have an economic crisis that makes 2008 look like a picnic.
Putin knows all that. Anyone, in fact, who understand modern finance well knows all that. That is why he appears totally…undeterred.
This is about money and power. Amassing more of it. How did Russia’s oligarchs get so rich, anyways? Well, they used the oligarch’s formula. There is no better way to get filthy rich fast in human history than to control a society’s basic infrastructure. So when the Soviet Union collapsed, its basic infrastructure was the site of a feeding frenzy. Eventually, control ended up in the hands of a tiny number of oligarchs. This one controls gas and oil, that one, electricity, this one, water, that one, transport, and so forth. And Putin’s social contract is effectively to allow oligarchs to retain their wealth in exchange for fealty to him.
Now let’s come back to the object of gaining even more money and power. How do you do it? Well, you take that that formula, and just apply to it to new countries. This one’s tapped out. You control all it’s infrastructure. But that one? It’s rich pickings. There are forty million people who you can fleece for energy, gas, water, transport, food. You can even take that country’s resources, and once you control them, gain more money and power from and over those who trade for them. That is the game here.
Let me make it even clearer. Putin wants control of Eastern Europe. Not just Ukraine. But from Estonia to Latvia and onwards. He’s already announced as much. His cover story is the nonsense of a proto-fascist Mother Russia made of one noble people of pure blood. But nobody much really believes that or cares. It is about amassing control over resources.
Because Putin understands something chilling. Our world is running short of resources now. Whomever controls the resources controls the world. Whomever controls the energy, oil, gas, water, food…controls the world. They can earn fortunes that make yesterday’s look like pennies on a planet that’s running short of everything from food to water to energy now. Putin’s long game is about controlling resources on a dying planet.
In that respect, it is a very, very smart game. He understands that our civilization is now at a desperate turning point. The age of easy growth and abundant natural resources and cheap stuff is over. Now we need stuff, but we can’t get it, and so we have to pay the price. We are facing a situation of resource scarcity now, which will grow worse every single year — not enough timber, microchips, clean air, electricity, and so forth. Prices are already skyrocketing.
Whomever controls the resources controls the world.
That is why Putin put in so much time and effort destabilising the West. That is why he has planned it so carefully for so long. He has a level of foresight that we don’t. Unfortunately, he’s willing to use violence to win his game.
We are all playing Putin’s game. Some of us just don’t know it. We are all beginning to fight for resources on a dying planet. The mistake the West made is not to understand or face this reality. It is a bitter pill to swallow. But pretending doesn’t get you anywhere. It just made a fool of the West. Having pretended the age of easy growth and false abundance could go on forever, it then pretended that there was no aim or rhyme or reason to Putin’s serial and constant destabilization, even that such a thing wasn’t happening at all. But both these things were and are true, and they are linked. The planet is dying. We are running short of resources. And whomever controls them controls the world.
So what happens now? Now we are in for a new era of war. Like I said, the planning and time and effort that went into this alone guarantees that this is for real. It’s not just about Ukraine, but Eastern Europe and beyond. That means that Russia’s war machine will become a constant presence and menace, defining an era. Maybe it will be stopped here today — but push through there tomorrow. Like the pandemic, it will just become a grim part of our new reality.
Russia, in one sense, wants something that we all do. Security. Not in the way Westerners think of it — here’s this paranoid nation that wants to be buffered at all costs. Putin’s game is deeper than that. It is about having true security on a dying planet — controlling as much of its key resources as possible, from energy to water to gas to wheat to nickel and beyond. When you control all that, then sooner or later, everybody will come kiss your ring.
The West has been incredibly foolish not to understand Putin’s game. It has been astonishingly short-sighted not to understand that resource scarcity was going to breed explosive conflicts — of which this is just the first frontier. It imagined that the age of growth and cheap stuff and abundance would last forever — and because of that, so too would the age of order and peace.
But none of that was ever true. The West has been living in an illusion of its own making.
We are all playing Putin’s game now. Whomever controls the resources controls a dying planet. Everything on it. Politics, economics, culture, society, money, people. Putin’s game is what happens as the planet dies — we all fight bitterly for what is left, in bands of predators and packs of wolves, unless we come together to begin and build something better.
But will the West finally understand it?