When Russia invaded Ukraine the world took a collective gasp of fear and anxiety that World War III wasn't far behind. What has changed over the past few days is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming increasingly isolated as his country's economy crashes.
"Nearly two weeks into President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — Europe’s largest land war since 1945 — the image of a Russian military as one that other countries should fear, let alone emulate, has been shattered," wrote the New York Times on Monday in an analysis.
Russia, which has a military draft, has effectively been trounced by Ukrainian residents who are learning how to shoot guns from YouTube videos.
"Ukraine has shot down military transport planes carrying Russian paratroopers, downed helicopters and blown holes in Russia’s convoys using American anti-tank missiles and armed drones supplied by Turkey," the report said, citing officials and U.S. intelligence assessments.
Meanwhile, many Russian soldiers say that they were lied to about why they were going to the Ukraine border. Last week, a Ukrainian official read a text message conversation between a Russian soldier and his mother when his phone was discovered. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace revealed that the Putin military rolled in crematoriums to rapidly incinerate bodies so there couldn't be an accurate count of fatalities on the Russian side. He said they completely "evaporate" the bodies.
The Times reported that the MREs (meals ready to eat) sent with soldiers expired years prior. It's possible that if Putin can hold on and keep fighting for a year or more he could outnumber Ukraine but given the anger stirring among oligarchs losing luxury yachts, properties and other costs, it may not last as sanctions truly get started.
"There are also reports that Russian advances in Ukraine were slowed by lack of fuel — and this in a country rich with oil and gas," wrote Polina Beliakova in Politico Monday. "But ineffective control over fuel consumption in the Russian military actually long preceded the war in Ukraine and had historically created opportunities for embezzlement — that is why fuel is often called the Russian military’s 'second currency.' It is plausible that the long-standing tradition of corruption in the fuel supply decreased the pace of Russian advancement in Ukraine."
All of which is to say that things aren't going well for Putin. Intelligence experts have speculated that he could have serious health issues or even cognitive decline from long-haul COVID. Some have even claimed that he appears to have a hand tremor and is hiding it under the table when he speaks.
Speaking to MSNBC on Monday, counter-intelligence expert Frank Figliuzzi explained that Putin has got to be terrified about those in his own government and military because someone is likely working for the United States.
"And the Western governments that have spoken openly about Russia’s military failings are eager to spread the word to help damage Russian morale and bolster the Ukrainians," the report explained.
The piece closed explaining that Putin's only real recourse is bombing Ukraine so much it levels the country and runs off the citizens. The problem is that Putin wants the country, the infrastructure and the citizens, as part of his Soviet empire.