Putin: Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by John Donne, 1624

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

During a January 19, 2022 press conference, President Biden said a “small invasion” of Ukraine would not draw a big response from the United States; however, a big invasion of Ukraine would do so. Apparently, on February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin took Biden’s wishy-washy statement as a green light to recognize the “independence” of the Donetsk and the Luhansk Oblasts (regions) from the nation of Ukraine.

Writing back on February 21, 2022, this observer figured Russian President Vladimir Putin was a rational person. That Putin would accept Biden’s implied a gift of Russian hegemony over Donetsk and Luhansk and be satisfied. That a rational Putin would bide his time and wait for the rest of Ukraine to fall into his hands via political skullduggery.


What was Putin thinking when he ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine? Was he hoping to split the NATO alliance? Whatever it was, Putin had to be shocked when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused to flee as so many threatened heads of state have done in the past.

Instead, President Zelenskyy stayed to rally his out-numbered Ukrainian armed forces whose delaying-action heroics frustrated Putin so much that Putin fired his military chief-of-staff. But then, Putin made the most irrational mistake of all. Putin threatened the use of nuclear weapons.

Putin transformed what was a regional conflict in which most of the world had no Vital Interest into an international conflict in which the entire planet has a Vital Interest. Dumb and dumber. Putin breathed new life into NATO not seen since the end of the Cold War or since Osama bin Laden demonstrated global jihad on 9/11/2001.

Moreover, as the tech-savvy young son of a trusted friend points out, many of the Russian soldiers have cell phones. The Russian soldiers can see satellite images of themselves in their stalled convoys. Via social media, Russian soldiers are learning how much they are hated by the civilized world. Putin’s soldiers may be asking themselves: Why am I in Ukraine? Do I want to die in an ignoble cause?

Unconfirmed reports say some Russian soldiers are defecting, some are throwing down their AK-47s and headed home, some may be punching holes in vehicle fuel tanks to slow down the advance of their columns. As Napoleon famously said,

“The Morale is more important than the Materiel,” and “There are only two forces in the world, the sword, and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”

So, we are left to wonder if Putin has gone mad. What happens to Russian leaders who make mistakes? Recall, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev overplayed his hand in Cuba. After forcing Khrushchev to withdraw his nuclear weapons from Cuba, JFK saved Khrushchev some face by withdrawing some outdated and redundant U.S. missiles from northern Turkey. But still, within four years, Khrushchev was stripped of power and put out to pasture.

Will the world wake up one of these mornings to hear the somber music always played on Radio Moscow to toll the passing of, yet another, Russian head of state? Hope springs eternal.

©William Hamilton. All rights reserved.


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