Inside Putin’s Brain: Musings on the Ukraine and what is going on inside his head — Part I

In warfare, as in diplomacy, it is important to try to put yourself in the shoes of your adversary, to try to understand what is going on inside his head (or her head).

Vladimir Putin, through his actions and rejection of the postwar legal and political order, has become the adversary of the West, just as Russia has become the enemy of all civilized countries which seek to uphold the United Nations Charter and its foundational principles prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers.

Following are musings by the Observer on what may be going through Putin’s mind right now.


Ha! The EU has elected Frencesca Mogherini from Italy to be its the leader of the EU’s foreign policy! She’ll be a lot easier to handle than Radislav Sikorski of Poland would have been. We have strong financial and energy ties to Italy, and she’s a Socialist to boot, the party in Europe which is already predisposed to accepting whatever Russia does. Sergey Lavrov will be able to lead her by the nose and run circles around her.

The EU’s foreign policy! What a joke! If its member countries were a single individual, he would take two weeks to decide whether to tie his shoelaces before going out!

Many leaders in Europe understand that it is more important to maintain econommic relations with Russia and access to its markets, than to impose further serious sanctions on Russia.

They will temporize, and decide on some half-measures which will make them feel good but which we’ll be able to absorb. The new sanctions could cause some economic disruptions in the Russian Federation, but they will have no effect on my grip on power. On the contrary, they will make me even more popular. I am more popular now than I have ever been!

So, NATO may create a “rapid reaction force” of some 4,000 soldiers that could deploy to the Baltics or Poland to defend against any Russian military intervention.

Can you believe it! They think that by flying in 4,000 men to pick up “pre-positioned” equipment and supplies in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania they could slow the advance of the Russian army!

This is not Afghanistan and we are not the Taliban! I could put 80,000 troops on the border with Estonia, and take Tallinn before NATO’s so-called “quick reaction force” could find their pre-positioned equipment and get organized to move out of their bases.

And, of course, NATO consists of 28 independent states with 28 armies. It’s not like they are capable of responding to my new form of “stealth warfare” in 48 hours. They will have divisions among themselves on what to do, if anything. My friends in Germany, such as Gerhard Schroeder and his protegé Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will insist or exploring all diplomatic options before taking any action.

I can provide them with many new diplomatic options which they can argue over, and which will help them to avoid taking hard decisions.

Look how vigorously and quickly NATO took decisions and acted militarily in Libya! They were issuing press releases celebrating the fact that their warplanes had taken out five or six armored personnel carriers and jeeps with machine guns on the back! It took them forever to take down a very weak tin-pot dictator.

Look how Sergey Lavrov and I played them for fools in Syria. Do they remember the “Friends of Syria” group, which could never get its act together? Or how Obama froze at the moment of pulling the trigger on military action against Syria after al-Assad crossed his “red line” on chemical weapons? The chemical weapons elimination deal was brilliant, leading the West to abandon the rebels and undercut their Allies in the Gulf, while solidifying al-Assad’s permanent hold on power.

They were worried about whether or not to supply “non-lethal” military aid to the Syrian rebels!

They can rest assured that the weapons I supplied to al-Assad were very lethal indeed, and were used to good effect. So have been the weapons we have sent into the Eastern Ukraine along with our “volunteers”.

What a great story we had! Even those who were captured inside the Ukraine had “just gotten lost”, or were army troops “on vacation” acting as volunteers. While the-West didn’t believe that propaganda, it gave me some “plausible deniability” for a few days, at least on the Russian television networks I control–where I am sure it also produced some big smiles.

It is all too good to be true! I never imagined that they would not react to my invasion and annexation of the Crimea. But hey, the road was open and we took it. The jokes I and my firends made after their first and second rounds of “sanctions” were hilarious! I should write a book full of those jokes.

The “stage 3” or third-stage “sectoral” sanctions imposed on July 31 hurt a little, but it’s a small price to pay for restoring the Russian Motherland to its rightful place in history. While these measures may have hurt some of my business buddies and government officials, who can always vacation in Brazil, Hong Kong or South Africa, and India which is quite close, they didn’t hurt me.

Imagine the leaders in the West conjuring up the possibily that the individuals they sanctioned could pressure me! I could replace any of them in an instant, and there would be 100 highly-quallified applicants for each vacant position.

(To be continued. In Part II, we hear Putin’s thoughts on the EU’s decisions on further sanctions and on NATO’s decisions to respond to Russian actions in the Donbass).

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.