Vladimir Putin goofed.
He, like so many other world leaders, appears incapable of understanding history.
He was born in 1952 so was not directly affected by World War II. Still, the events of that conflict were so momentous in the Soviet Union that he must surely have received some education about it.
Some of the most telling effects of war relate to what happens when a country invades its neighbor and the results therefrom.
The Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939 and that small country fought off the invasion and repulsed its foe because it was fighting on home ground and defending its own territory and its own people.
Then Germany invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1941 and the tables were somewhat reversed as the Soviets fought back with unparalleled ferocity and tenacity that eventually resulted in an estimated 20 million Russians dying before the war ended as the country fought for its own territory and its own people.
But Putin was certainly around when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late 1979 and began a ten-year war before finally withdrawing without victory because it was waging war against a people fighting for their own interests.
The lesson which should be gleaned from all these efforts is that any people will fight more ferociously and more vigorously, and sacrifice more when they are defending their own country and countrymen.
The United States has learned this lesson on numerous occasions including the “Banana Wars” and, more recently, Vietnam and Afghanistan, although under different purposes.
So, what, one might ask, ever possessed Putin to think that he would have an easy go of it invading a neighboring country — and that the costs of doing so would be minuscule?
Admittedly, Russia is more powerful, both in the size of its manpower and its weaponry, but history is replete with examples of smaller and less powerful countries making a good defense of themselves against all odds. So the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 should have been undertaken with at least some modest recognition that it would not be a walkover.
And the aid that is going to Ukraine from neighboring and NATO countries and the U.S.A. is little different from the outside aid provided by Russia during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
But Putin goofed a second time when he assumed that the NATO countries would sit idly by tsk-tsking while he ran roughshod over his neighbor. Perhaps he was counting on responses similar to that of the western powers in the late 1930s as Hitler goose-stepped into neighboring countries without pushback. What has actually happened is that NATO is probably stronger than ever and more committed to its goal of maintaining peace in Europe.
Putin was annoyed that Ukraine had applied for entry into NATO and he was telling his people that NATO posed a threat to the hegemony of Russia. Now he faces three countries that had formerly maintained neutrality applying for NATO membership because they see the threat posed by an irrational leader. A leader who consistently lies to his own people and to the world at large, and who has grandiose dreams of a new Russian empire. Remember his assurances for months that he had no intention of invading Ukraine while building up forces on its northern and eastern borders?
Now he lies by claiming that he is trying to curtail the “Nazification” of Ukraine, at the very time that Ukraine is entering a period of democracy that it has never before experienced.
Putin is making similar blunders to those Hitler made, failing to understand how other nations will react in warlike circumstances. And he, like Hitler, is apparently surrounded by sycophants who are afraid to tell him of the futility of his latest venture.