Source: J. Robert Smith

Concerning the Russo-Ukraine war, passions are running high and hot words are flying like lead.  That’s not just in Ukraine, but also here at home.  Cable news and talk radio have some of the worst offenders.  “Putin is mad,” declare the talking heads, as if they’re modern-day Freuds.  But not to be outdone, others insist: “No, no, Putin is mad and Hitler!  Stop him now before he rampages across Europe!”  Damn the torpedoes!  Break out a chorus of “Over There,” because, gosh darn it, the Yanks are coming! 

Bloviating is the order of the day across the media, 24/7.  But notice, rarely are assumptions challenged.  Whatever happened to skepticism and adversarial journalism?  Is there any room for alternative — perhaps, dissenting — viewpoints?  No debate?  Narratives go unchallenged.  Most news shows are too clubby now. 

But it pays dividends to always ask “Why?” and “How do you know?”  In matters of war, false assumptions and wrong perceptions can lead to fatal consequences.  Cooler heads must prevail.  Facts matter.  Struggling to get to truths is critical. 

Let’s take some key perceptions and assumptions and examine them more closely. 

Vladimir Putin is mad.  Mad colloquially?  For instance, “Putin is nuts to invade Ukraine!”  Or in a literal sense, meaning that Putin suffers mental illness or a personality disorder?  If the latter, then one wonders how cable news talking heads and radio talkers know that Putin is clinically disturbed?

Based on what?  Putin’s seeming isolation in the months leading up to the Ukraine invasion?  Perhaps Putin was scarce because of the intense planning and preparations that proceed war?  Maybe for security reasons?    

Based on Putin’s alleged fear of catching COVID?  It’s reported that he self-isolated after some in his inner circle caught COVID.  Does that make him mad?  Weren’t we told to isolate here in the U.S. to “stop the spread?”  Does that make us mad? 

Does Putin sit at one end of that long table in his office suite to avoid COVID or is he doing so to intimidate his guests

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Based on Putin’s writings and utterances about resurrecting the Soviet Empire?  Is it surprising that Putin hankers for the defunct Soviet Union — or its might, more precisely?  He came up as a KGB functionary.  He was, from education, training, and predilection, vested in the USSR.  But does Putin’s expressed desire to return Russia to past glory and power mean he’s megalomaniacal or somehow unhinged?             

Does the media have access to CIA or other intelligence services’ psychological profiles of Putin?  Doubtlessly they exist.  But be aware that such profiles have their limits. 

Following World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (aka, the OSS, which was the CIA’s forerunner) undertook a psychological profile of Adolf Hitler.  The profile came with a qualification, which is summed up in the linked article:

Establishing a psychological profile of a particular person without directly observing and analyzing their behavior and characteristics is complicated and ineffective, since no real psychological exploration can be performed. Any psychological profile carried out on a person without any contact between a health professional and the subject in question is more imprecise, which is also the case when drawing up the psychological profile of a person who has already died.              

Do we really know that Putin is “mad?”  Is it possible — just possible — that Putin is ruthless, coldly calculating, and evil?  A lot of folks have a tough time accepting that someone can be sane and evil.  At least, sane by clinical standards, in that a person can be in touch with reality and quite aware of the consequences of his actions.   

Putin is Hitler’s incarnation.  Comparing despots to Hitler is cliché.  Might Putin be better compared to a czar, say, Ivan the Terrible?  From Thought Co.:

Ivan the Terrible, born Ivan IV Vasilyevich (August 25, 1530 — March 28, 1584), was the Grand Prince of Moscow and the first Tsar of Russia. Under his rule, Russia transformed from a loosely connected group of individual medieval states into a modern empire.    

Ivan was plagued by conflicts with Crimea, which until recently detached was part of modern Ukraine.  Struggles with ethnic Russians who occupy Ukraine are centuries old.  As history proves, there isn’t much new under the sun.  Putin is just the latest Russian tyrant trying to subdue or seize all or part of Ukraine’s territory.      

Putin may have the desire but lacks the wherewithal to conquer Europe, much less the world.  The Russian economy — about the size of Canada’s — is highly dependent on energy and raw materials exports for its revenues. 

Then there’s NATO, which Hitler didn’t have to reckon with.  Putin does.  If Putin attacked a NATO member, it triggers Article 5, meaning that he’s at war with NATO’s 30 countries, the U.S. being principal.  And did we mention that the U.S., France, and Great Britain are nuclear-armed?                

A NATO No-Fly Zone is imperative.  Ukrainian president Zelenskyy is still pushing for NATO to take control of Ukraine’s skies.  To date, NATO and our addled president, Joe Biden, have dampened ardor for this call by declaring it a no-go.

As Dan Bongino, who has shown admirable restraint and thoughtfulness about the war, often asks, “What then?”  Meaning that actions beget counters.  What then if NATO went ahead with a no-fly zone? 

If NATO established a no-fly zone over Ukraine that means that NATO fighter aircraft are tasked with keeping the zone clear of Russian fighters, bombers, and transports.  Doing so inevitably means shooting Russian aircraft out of the sky.  NATO fighters could be casualties, too.  Fights go both ways.  Does anyone believe that Putin would gladly standdown?  Would Putin cede air superiority to NATO with ground operations underway?    

A NATO no-fly zone is an invitation to wider war, one that would stretch across the European continent and very likely impact the American homeland.  Casualties could climb rapidly into the hundreds of thousands, if not more.  Wars have ways of escalating, taking unexpected turns.  Only the conceited and naïve think that a no-fly zone is a low-risk operation.  And did we mention that Russia is a nuclear weapons power? 

Russian elites should assassinate Putin.  This is tougher to unpack.  American Thinker’s Thomas Lifson ran an article that was written in 2014 by Herbert E. Meyer.  As Thomas pointed out, Meyer was an unsung hero of the Cold War, playing an instrumental role in defeating the Soviet Union. 

In his article, Meyer suggested that Putin’s fellow oligarchs remove him from office, whether retiring Putin to a dacha on the Black Sea (a la Nikita Khrushchev) or killing him. 

Who can gainsay a man as experienced, accomplished, and esteemed as was Meyer?  But let’s suggest this: Having cable news talkers, radio yackers, and a garrulous senator broadcast declarations about the advisability of Russians assassinating Putin is a bad play.  If Putin is mad — as many are convinced — you really don’t want to be overt about that aim.  Cornered crazy people — even cornered sane people — can do really crazy, desperate things.  If warranted, it might be best to handle the matter covertly. 

A good guess is that the CIA and Western European intelligence agencies have backchannels open with some of Russia’s oligarchs, those who may look askance on Putin’s Ukraine aggression (it’s bad for business).  Perhaps it’s best to have more James Bond and less Gomer Pyle in this regard? 

And maybe the CIA, which is implicated in trying to topple Donald Trump’s presidency via the Russia Collusion Hoax, will have better luck removing Putin, who, unlike Trump, is a bona fide ruthless, coldly calculating, and evil man.