Ramifications from Vladimir Putin’s misbegotten invasion of Ukraine continue to burgeon and multiply, especially in the Far East.
Russia’s armed incursion rapidly intensified concerns that China would emulate this outrage and ratchet up pressure on Taiwan. This island bastion of democracy, constitutionally a part of China, has been fiercely protective of its virtual independence since the proclamation of the communist People’s Republic on the mainland in 1949.
But increased Chinese assertiveness in the Straits of Taiwan, the South China Sea and even the Solomon Islands has caused other regional powers to bolster their defense postures.
Australia recently concluded a pact allowing it to receive nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain. Soon, Britain will base an undisclosed number of its own subs in Perth.
Japan, a firm U.S. ally since 1945, will double its defense budget and has signed a military cooperation treaty with the British. This revives an alliance that was originally negotiated in 1902.
It was a Japanese armada of British-built warships that decimated the Russian navy at the Battle of Tsushima Strait in 1905. Japanese losses of three small torpedo boats with a combined displacement of 255 tons were vastly offset by Russian losses of seven battleships and 14 other vessels with a displacement of 143,000 tons.
This strategic calamity led directly to the Russian revolution of 1905, which nearly toppled the Tsarist regime. Corrupt, incompetent and autocratic, the Romanov dynasty was on its last legs and would soon be overthrown and eradicated.
Putin was born in 1952, five months before the death of Joseph Stalin by intentional neglect in 1953. Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, was deposed in a Kremlin coup in 1964, largely for hatching such “hare-brained schemes” as the disastrous military deployment that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Khrushchev spent the rest of his life humiliated under house arrest. He was never heard from or seen in public again.
In the 1980s, successive Soviet despots Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko died in office as tired and depleted old men, desperately gripping power as the nation foundered in Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev, the best of a bad bunch, was flung from office by the utter collapse of the Soviet state in 1991.
Putin persists in his catastrophic debacle because the Russian system of governance allows him no viable exit. To admit defeat would be to tie a rope around his own neck.
The sheer tragedy of this war is irrefutable. But it will end only when Vladimir Putin is thrown out.