It’s hard to imagine how Putin’s rule survives Ukraine blunder

Overcoming the patriotic determination of Ukraine’s people appears beyond his capacity.

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People walk past a destroyed Russian military vehicle at a frontline position on Thursday in Irpin, Ukraine.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

As I write, a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian “peacekeepers” — i.e., tanks, armored personnel carriers and mobile artillery — is approaching Kyiv with the clear intent of bludgeoning the Ukrainian people into surrender. The dead-eyed little killer in the Kremlin is too fearful to back down.

Even so, it’s not going to happen. Vladimir Putin’s forces can besiege the Ukrainian capital and demolish its monuments — albeit at a fearful cost to Russia’s conscripted army — but overcoming the patriotic determination of its people appears beyond his capacity. So far, Putin’s invasion has accomplished two things: making Ukraine an international symbol of democracy and making the Russian gangster state an international pariah.

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And a bankrupt pariah at that.

Already, the reputation of Russia’s vaunted army has been tarnished in a display of logistical incompetence that’s left its forces out of fuel, stranded and at the mercy of Ukrainian irregulars. The Washington Post reports that “videos from around the country have portrayed scenes of burned Russian tanks, dead Russian soldiers and captured Russians, some barely out of their teens, making plaintive calls home to their parents.”

They’re mainly draftees, you know. Evidently, many had no idea they were being ordered to invade. Putin has little regard for Russian lives, either.

Furthermore, even if Putin’s forces were to capture or kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, they will have first succeeded in transforming him into a heroic avatar: a living symbol of freedom who has used his skills as a TV performer to rally his people against Kremlin brutality.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how Putin’s rule survives the consequences of his enormous blunder. “When dictators rule for decades,” wrote former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Twitter, “they 1. stop listening to advisers, 2. become disconnected from reality, 3. spend a lot of time alone and 4. overreach. This is exactly what has happened to Putin.”

McFaul also tweeted he’s “confident in predicting that Putin’s evil invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of the end of Putin’s dictatorship and Putinism in Russia. No moral person can support this heinous war. There are millions of moral people in Russia.”

Frankly, it’s good to be reminded. All across Europe, athletes are refusing to play against Russian teams. In Moscow, however, the costs of dissent are high.

Putin’s political rivals keep falling out of tall buildings and finding deadly toxins in their underwear. Chances are he’s just bluffing about Russia’s nuclear arsenal, like a barroom brawler demanding his friends restrain him. Nevertheless, should the tyrant’s rage and paranoia make him order a nuclear strike, I suspect that patriotic Russian officers would refuse.

And that could indeed be the end of him.

Closer to home, Trump Republicans are having trouble remembering which side they’re on, much less recalling their hero was impeached for trying to blackmail President Zelenskyy into conjuring a phony investigation of Joe Biden. Trump also froze military aid to Ukraine and even echoed Kremlin propaganda that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 American election.

Eric Boehlert points out on Fox News, whose commentators are regularly featured on Russian state TV, a smirking “Laura Ingraham mocked ... Zelenskyy’s passionate plea for peace as a ‘pathetic display’ from a ‘defeated man.’” Tucker Carlson announced, “No one on this show is ... rooting for the Ukrainians, for that matter,” insisting Putin “just wants to keep his western borders secure.” Celebrity author and Ohio GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance said, “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.”

After the political winds shifted, Vance did, too.

This is who they are, America. Remember them.

Meanwhile, over on the moron wing of the Republican Party, the inimitable Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke at a white supremacist rally in Orlando whose organizers led cheers for Russia.

“Putin, Putin, Putin!” chanted the crowd.

Greene later feigned ignorance of the group’s views.

It hasn’t been but a month since Vance, who once called Trump an “idiot” and compared his fan base to opioid addicts, declared himself “honored” to accept Greene’s endorsement.

Today’s white nationalists are the spiritual (and sometimes literal) descendants of the 1930s “America First” movement, which held pro-Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden right up until Pearl Harbor.

So, yes, America, we’ve seen this movie before.

Then there’s the great man himself. Even as the tanks rolled, Donald J. Trump called Putin “savvy” and a “genius.” Speaking at a Florida fundraiser, he portrayed the Russian invasion as a clever real estate transaction.

“He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump said. “Taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people — and just walking right in.”

The man is a moral imbecile.

Now he says that if he were president, Russia wouldn’t have dared — this guy who all but sent Putin an engraved invitation.

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