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Putin in “the mother of all battles”

Ghassan Charbel

Published: Updated:

As the night fell, he stood alone pondering the map. The decisive task he was given came not from voters: it was commissioned by the spirit of a nation awaiting a strong man that will achieve its hopes and aspirations. History has given him a job, and he will not hesitate to the rise to the challenge. This is a crucial year in his long path. A few months shy from 70, he looks at the clock on the wall: if only he could stop the hands of time.

He stares at the map. Seeing the former borders of the Soviet Union feels like salt in the wound. Gone are the vast lands. The heirs raced to distribute the legacy, but they were not lucky. Russia has called upon him and ordered him to prepare for the Great Coup. Russia has always stood the test of time. It has fought and has been fought; it has killed and has been killed. But it is doing better now. The Persians that Russia fought in so many wars sent their President a few days ago. He sat in the same chair the Elysée Palace master sat in. He came to plead deeper cooperation, now that he, like many others, finally understands with certainty that Russia is no longer the sick man. Raissi knows his country could have lost the Crescent had Russia not sent its troops to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Similarly, the Ottomans who fought Russia not once, but ten times, have frequently sent their President over, now that they became neighbors in Syria. Eager to please, Recep Tayip Erdogan went above and beyond: he bought S-400 missile systems, all but dragging them into the NATO’s front yard.

He looks at the map again. The toxic winds have always come from Europe. The disillusioned Napoleon convinced himself he could crown his victories against his neighbors by subjugating Russia. Hitler did not learn from Napoleon’s mistake: he marched over on a suicide mission that proved fatal to the Reich. Europe may be the Old Continent, but the American shadow is always nearby to guard and push it toward mischief in a bid to surround Russia with colored revolutions or NATO bases.

He smiles. The old, debilitated Europe is not the problem. Without Russian gas, it will die from the cold. Only the American thread safeguards its model, replenishes its vigor, and restores its obstinance.

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He has repressed his feelings and hidden his plans for too long: now, he will not accept anything less than turning the page on the American unilateral power, which was born from the collapse of the Berlin Wall and rose to where it is by marching over the corpse of the Soviet Union. He smirks. He, not Xi Jinping, will be the one to extinguish the sun of the world’s only superpower.

Some historical moments are exactly that: historical. He will not allow them to reoccur. The American war machine crushed the same Taliban regime it had helped force the wounded Soviet Red Army out. He remembers it vividly. He was also in his office at the Kremlin when George Bush addressed Saddam Hussein and his family from the White House and warned him to leave within 48 hours or face war. He watched on television screens how US troops crushed the Soviet weapons Saddam had relied upon. He was also Prime Minister when NATO raids showered Gaddafi’s convoys and their Soviet weapons.

He will not allow these scenes to happen again. Russia will not stand helpless, as if it’s some second-degree power. The humiliating scene of decorated Red Army uniforms being sold to tourists and gloating passersby for a handful of dollars in Moscow’s Arbat Street will not return at any price.

He looks at the clock. The West is scared, but they don’t have an appetite for war, nor for its “disastrous consequences” and “heavy price,” as they incessantly repeat. He laughs. When fear invades a country, it could spare you a whole military operation there. Here’s the West now caught in the Ukrainian trap. Intimidation helps you turn a neighborly state to a hostage and impose your rules to release it from captivity. Forcing NATO forces to discount their expansionist dream is but a prelude to forcing them to retreat from the positions they acquired when Russia was buried under the Soviet rubble. By taking hostages, you can lure major powers to small cages, using their fear for their citizens’ lives. Today, the whole West is imprisoned in the Ukrainian cage.

The advisors have briefed him on Western commentaries. One accuses him of playing Russian Roulette. Another says making concessions to him poses just as much of a danger as appeasing Hitler did. Others claim he is detached from reality, warning that his game could be fatal to his own country and the whole world. The Caesar despises his rivals, and sometimes his allies, even. To say he is impulsive is incorrect: the Crimea annexation experience proved successful, as did the military intervention in Syria. He remembers Barack Obama’s talk of a red line in Syria, and how Sergei Lavrov successfully tricked Washington. Now, Biden, who comes from Obama’s political lineage, will not manage to draw a red line on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Revenge is satisfying when you’re powerful. Here they are resigning from Ukraine. This state pulls its diplomats, that state pulls its military advisors. It’s the time of flight from Ukraine. He thinks of the Ukrainian President. An actor and film director he may be, but he never imagined he would face such a harsh and mastered Russian series. When Volodymyr Zelensky was born, he recalls, he had been living in the mysterious and harsh world of the KGB.

A decisive battle. On the table, his and his country’s pictures. How difficult it is to take a step back! He bets on America’s preoccupation with the “Chinese threat” and Europe’s fear of missiles and tanks. He will not make concessions, no matter how many visits Western officials make and despite the calls he receives from the White House. The objective of the Great Coup is to convince the world that America’s bark is far worse than its bite. This is why he went the extra mile to showcase the powerful Chinese-Russian axis before setting fire to the Ukrainian crisis.

This is a new chapter of the world’s history. If Putin manages to turn Ukraine into another Finland, why would China agree to keep the independent Taiwan a thorn in its side? If the Great Coup succeeds, what would the beloved North Korea leader think? If the strong is entitled to impose its choices on its neighbors, which conclusion will be drawn by Iran, Turkey, and all the other states that view their current borders as tight, unjustly tailored dresses about to burst at the seams?

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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American shortsightedness or helplessness?

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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