High Stakes Gambling

Seneca III sends these observations about the ongoing war in Ukraine.

High stakes gambling

by Seneca III

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is betting the West has neither the will nor, importantly, the resources, to counter his Ukraine gambit. He gambled that the West’s options presented a low risk and Ukraine would fold quickly, whereas Ukraine’s resistance and Western financial and other responses have not played out according to his plan.

It has become a dangerous game of brinkmanship for all involved. Putin’s intention always seemed to be that he was prepared to play a long game, although, when the stakes were high and the cards stacked in his favour, he was prepared to strike swiftly and ruthlessly.

It seems, however, that he has underestimated his current opponent, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. For once someone has called Putin’s bluff, and also seems prepared for a long game, carefully undermining Putin’s assumed absolute authority, if not his confidence.

Like any high-stakes game, both players are taking early hits and big ones to boot, although the Ukrainians have the added incentive of defending on their own turf whereas Putin is playing an away game with casualties and equipment losses stirring public protest at home — a reaction almost unheard of in post-revolutionary Russia which in 2022 is a very different place from the controlled excesses of the KGB and an insular ruling class. There are at least two Russian generations who have grown up with glasnost and perestroika, decreasing government economic control alongside increasing personal freedoms and reduced military political power, not forgetting the now-powerful influence of a revived Orthodox Church.

Furthermore, the former USSR vassal states, having tasted freedom, have no desire to return to Moscow’s restrictive, central control. Old-style doctrinaire Marxism with its murderous elimination of opponents is anathema to them. Nor do Russia’s obscenely wealthy oligarchs endear themselves to the younger, aspirational generations.

Zelensky’s measured persona, not to mention his personal courage, mark him as a formidable foe. He may have called Russia’s bluff, and Putin may have already blinked. It has become a double-or-nothing stakes game and, in the final analysis, the key phrase is ‘may have’, because this is, after all, a game of chance.

For links to previous essays by Seneca III, see the Seneca III Archives.

13 thoughts on “High Stakes Gambling

  1. Gadz. Putin has been smacked back by Ukrainian resistance and things are not going according to his plan. That’s been the line western propaganda has been following from day one. Oh and Zelensky is a hero. Silly me, I thought he was just another mafioso robbing Ukraine blind.

    • You must be thinking of ex-president Yanukovich, who fled Ukraine in 2014 with plane-loads of ill-gotten wealth… Or maybe the Dear Leader Putin himself, whose huge palace near Sochi Navalny recently exposed, and who is said to be the richest person in the world?

      I actually had a positive (for my country) view of Putin up until recently. Thought he was, at heart, wise and sensible… But on 24 February, his true nature was revealed – an imperialist psychopath, who with one decision destroyed millions of lives far away from him, and destabilised a whole continent.

      But keep on celebrating the “Dear Leader” and wearing the “Z” symbol far away from it all, while cities are destroyed, children are killed and women are raped and ever more mothers, both Russian and Ukrainian, receive the news they dread most about their sons… My only question to you is – what for??

      • President Yanukovich, though a thief (like the rest of them, including Ze) was the lawfully elected president, overthrown in a violent coup supported by the West. The Donbas disagreed and wanted federalism; later independence. For that, they (yes, the women and children too) have been mercilessly shelled and bombed for near 8 years running. And the West did nothing.

        48 pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa were burned to death by the local nationalists, and nobody was brought to responsibility for that. Do you know the Alley of Angels? Do you know the Donbas children who were killed by Ukie cluster bombs on the beach of Zugres?

        Please tell me what you were planning to do so that the war of western Ukrainians being waged against the eastern Ukrainians would come to an end. I am all ears.

  2. Good analysis imo. Although, alongside the brave protesters, there are the masses of Russians proudly displaying the “Z” sign of obedience to their army and Dear Leader. And huge crowds in Russia are not protesting either way – but going to places like Ikea, for a final bit of shopping before they shut.

    What me and many others are wondering though, is what the endgame is in all this…

    Putin will not be loved, even by newly-“liberated” Russians, and resistance in the newly-occupied territories is already being compared to Afghanistan and Chechnya (with Russia already losing more troops, in first 6 days against Ukraine than the USSR did in first 6 years in Afghanistan).

    Hence a huge effort will be needed to “keep order” – if this is done in a brutal manner, it will enrage the population, and the world, even more.

    Another sure result of all this is the huge refugee influx into the EU – already over 1 million crossed into Poland – meaning large state resources are needed, especially here in Poland, at a time when there is large inflation caused by soaring fuel prices (now soaring even further, due to the conflict).

    And, last but not least, Ukraine and Ukrainians will be the main losers, losing their country and freedom and seeking shelter, to be exploited across Europe by all sorts of shady characters.

    So, with all these losers… who wins? A Russia, greatly weakened and more isolated in the world, than ever before?

    Or could it possibly be other actors, watching and waiting – in the Far, and possibly Middle East?

  3. This deepfrozen Cold War mendacity which has never heard either of George Kennan or John Mearsheimer, is unworthy of GoV.

    Or does Seneca hope that one of his young relatives will be getting a plum job for him to boast about as a UK rep in one of the fractured and fragmented post-Russia statelets planned and envisaged by the USA?

  4. I dont know. There must be a reason why Putin is fighting with both arms tied behind his back.
    If I look at the other wars that Russia fought since the fall of the USSR they never were holding back.

    I am afraid what we will do if I am right and Putin plays a joker…

  5. Whenever I see so much manufactured outrage and consent, (since 2016) I automatically know the person(s) or country that we should hate have done or are doing the right thing, no matter how painful it is.

  6. Russia has a weak military and a leader who lives in the past. His fatal move was to partner with China, who is already propping up their economy and soon will “secure” the rich Siberian peninsula.

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