“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
It has been a week since President Biden expressed that entirely congruous yet controversial sentiment at the royal castle in Warsaw before a large gathering including many Ukrainian refugees. The horror so many White House and Foggy Bottom suits and network talking heads have expressed regarding “the gaffe” had little to do with what President Biden said in Warsaw but, instead, that he opined at all. I disagree. Saying what everyone of sound mind is thinking is, quite appropriately, what was called for. Blatant war crimes call for unequivocal condemnation, diplomatic Marquis of Queensbury Rules be damned. Biden’s unscripted pronouncement wasn’t a threat. It was an expression of contempt for contemptible behavior by the Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin.
President Biden, of course, wasn’t announcing a new US regime-change policy concerning Russia, nor would Putin mistake the President’s words to suggest that he was. Official policy pronouncements aren’t off-the-cuff comments as Biden’s unscripted remarks clearly were. Biden expressed the outrage the civilized world feels watching Putin pursue his Nazi-blitzkrieg-type war against innocent civilians in Ukraine. His message, essentially directed to the people Putin rules, was appropriate, albeit not diplomatically polite. It reflects what every decent human being feels and what every world leader believes but is hesitant to utter. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
The Kremlin responded by calling Biden’s remarks “alarming.” That was also appropriate. The Kremlin should be alarmed. The “alarm” isn’t that the United States is about to try to depose Putin. The alarm is that Putin may become a pariah to his people, a shameful head of state to many millions of depressed Russian citizens. Good! They should be alarmed about that. Putin’s war has served no legitimate interests of the people he rules, including those thousands he has arrested for protesting or the thousands who will be coming home in body bags. Despite the Kremlin’s efforts to block the news of Russian brutality against civilians in Ukraine, the news is beginning to trickle in. Soon, an avalanche of news will come gushing in along with the return home of Russia’s war dead. Once they start learning the truth, many Russian citizens will think, For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
Understand this: Putin’s war isn’t merely causing civilian collateral war damage in Ukraine. Putin is deliberately pounding innocent civilians to produce enough agony and misery to cause Ukraine to sue for peace. Instead, one arm tied behind its collective back, Ukraine is fiercely fighting the Russian invaders. The Ukrainian military is targeting Russian military invaders, and the Russians are targeting civilians, which in Ukraine today means mostly women and children. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
As of last Sunday, it was estimated that nearly 1200 civilians had been killed, 108 of whom were children, all victims of deliberate, indiscriminate Russian shelling and bombing. Of course, the number of those wounded and maimed are a multiple of those killed. Then there are the casualties among the Ukrainian armed forces defending the country against Putin’s invasion. Three weeks ago, about 1500 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action, and undoubtedly many more have been wounded. The toll has to be exponentially greater by now. These are, of course, rolling statistics that grow day by day as Putin’s war continues. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
Concurrently, Putin’s invasion has, so far, imposed costs of over a half-trillion dollars (and counting) on Ukraine. Economic Minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, says that the estimate includes physical damage and losses in trade and other economic activity. Specifically, public infrastructure costs are estimated, so far, to be about $120 billion, while private property losses, including housing, are estimated at $100 billion. Losses suffered by private firms are estimated to be approximately $80 billion. Thus far, Ukraine’s GDP has plummeted by $112 billion in one month of fighting, or by about 55 percent of last year’s entire Ukrainian GDP. Then there’s the matter of lost tax revenue, estimated to be about $48 billion, or, more succinctly, nearly 100% of what was expected to be collected for the entire year. Ukraine also estimates that about $54 billion in expected foreign direct investment will also be lost due to Putin’s savaging of Ukraine. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
Approximately 4 million Ukrainians, constituting nearly 10 percent of the entire Ukrainian population, primarily women and children, have been uprooted and turned into refugees in the past month, and hundreds of thousands of Russians have voted with their passports, visas, and airline tickets against what Putin has made of their country. They have left, and most will never return. They are the brain drain Putin has created that Russia will pay for year after year for decades to come.
For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
No people have suffered from the ravages of war more than the Russian people. Russian leadership, or more aptly put, the chronic poor judgment of Russian leadership throughout much of Russia’s history, has visited an immense toll on the people of Russia and their neighbors for generation after generation, century after century—from Ivan the terrible, the first Russian Czar from 1547 to 1584, to Vladimir Putin today. Russian political scientist Vladimir Gelman wrote in a recent article in Riddle, an online journal on Russian affairs, “Practically all analysts and observers of Russia today, regardless of their political leanings, tend to agree about the country’s poor quality of governance.” That has been a chronic reality in Russia throughout history as it is today.
Last January, retired Russian General Leonid Ivashov stated that invading Ukraine would be pointless and extremely dangerous. He predicted that such a war would kill thousands and result in Russians and Ukrainians being enemies for life. It would risk war with NATO and threaten the very existence of the Russian Federation. He was reached by phone last week, and he said he stood by what he had said in January. “I do not disavow it,” General Ivashov said. Vladimir Putin, it seems, is determined to make a prophet of General Ivashov.
For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.