March 21, 2022

Russia Lost on Day One

Russia Lost on Day One
This is not what victory looks like. Bombed Kiev apartment block. Palinchak

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war,
while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

– Sun Tzu

Let’s be clear: Russia has lost this war.

Even if Russia were to occupy every inch of Ukraine, it will still have lost.

In previous eras, the outcome of a war was decided by who took territory and held it.

This is not previous eras.

Russia lost this war when, in just a few days, 100,000 Ukrainians fled from Russian shelling, and their stories were broadcast live over Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. There are now over 3,000,000 Ukrainians who have fled their country, and an estimated one in five Ukrainians have been displaced by Russian bombardments.

Russia lost this war when photos and videos of Russian war crimes began filling our papers and TV screens.

Russia lost this war when coordinated worldwide sanctions shut down all financial connections, all tourism, all commerce with the outside world.

Russia lost this war when it passed a law that made speaking the truth punishable by 15 years imprisonment.

This war is a historical blunder comparable to Napoleon or Hitler’s fateful invasions of Russia. And the outcome for Russia will be the same: failure, humiliation, pariah status.

Putin has lost this war. Russia has lost this war. It is only a question of how quickly that fact is accepted, and what cost Russia and the rest of us will pay.

So is there a way we ordinary citizens can help bring the war to an end sooner rather than later?

Yes, by understanding that Russia is fighting and losing a 20th-century war, and by supporting a 21st-century global guerilla war of resistance.

A guerilla war (see Vietnam, Afghanistan, Algeria) is won not by taking territory, but by imposing such a heavy cost on the occupiers that they must cut their losses and depart. So while the West must continue to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s 20th-century aggression by providing arms and other types of assistance, other things must also continue, to help Ukraine win its 21st-century war:

SANCTIONS ~ We need to support every available non-military sanction, including a worldwide boycott on Russian oil and gas. Will this impose a heavy economic cost on Europe and the US? Sure. But the long-term cost of not acting swiftly, decisively, with unity, will be far worse.

SHARING ~ Everyone with friends and relatives and connections in Russia should do everything they can to share real news, videos, photos, and information from the Ukrainian front directly, via email, chat, etc. Don’t assume contacts will (or can) find out on their own (especially with almost all social media shut down). The Russian propaganda veil is getting thicker by the day. Russians are being fed the lie that “there’s nothing to see here.” They may not be looking for alternative information. You need to share it.

FRAMING ~ How the story is told is critical. Frame all communications and discussions with the clear, unequivocal message that Russia has already lost this war, that it is a fundamentally unpatriotic, criminal war that is against everything that thinking Russians stand for.

But let’s also be realistic. This is not a war dreamed up and prosecuted by one man. A country of 150 million is not run by one man. There is a cadre of siloviki – leaders of power ministries like defense and security – who run the show. And while Putin is not their puppet, he is their guy. They are in this together.

Until they aren’t.

But would those around Putin unite to unseat him as a face-saving way to extract Russia from this lost cause? Perhaps. But, then again, anyone in a position to make such a move has likely been in on this crime from the beginning.

Culturally, perhaps the only thing more heinous to Russians than surrendering to an enemy is being a traitor (witness Putin’s venomous enemy of the people style speech last week). And any move like that would be easy to paint as traitorous.

Until it isn’t.

Thus the framing, the sanctioning, the sharing.

Those at all levels of Russian society and power need to be bombarded with the truth that this war is un-Russian, un-patriotic, inhumane. That they are being fed a pack of lies by the war criminals in the Kremlin. They need to comprehend the high personal, professional, and national costs that are mounting with each passing day (the 250,000 Russians fleeing their homeland is proof that many already get this).

A few brave souls are beginning to speak out. And in that there is hope.

But let us never forget that Putin is not the Russian people. The oligarchs are not the Russian people.

We should continue to love the Russian people while loathing their state. But at some point we do need to expect the Russian people to take responsibility for what their state is doing in their name. In the long term, there really is no other way Russia can be steered to the right side of history.

You Might Also Like

War Without Peace
  • February 01, 1997

War Without Peace

A review of Sergei Bodrov's film, "A Prisoner of the Caucasus," starring Oleg Menshikov.
The Oligarchs and the President
  • March 01, 2004

The Oligarchs and the President

The vital subtext for March’s election is the battle between the Kremlin and the oligarchs. We walk back through recent history and provide up-to-date profiles of Russia’s weakened robber-barons.
Russia's Political Tool
  • January 01, 1998

Russia's Political Tool

December 20, 1997 is the 80th anniversary of the KGB. We look back at the sordid history of this nefarious institution.
Putin's Russia
  • September 01, 2002

Putin's Russia

On the occasion of President Vladimir Putin's 50th birthday, we look back at how far Russia has come since January 1, 2000, and where it appears to be going.
Chechnya: A Gordian Knot
  • November 01, 2004

Chechnya: A Gordian Knot

In the wake of the Beslan tragedy, we asked noted expert on Chechnya, Alexei Malashenko, to offer some insights on where the conflict is headed and how Russia can solve this problem in the near or long term.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567