Washington — You might recall last week that I began calling President Vladimir Putin of Russia “KGB Col. Vladimir Putin.” I meant to diminish him in the eyes of my readers. I asserted that he rose to the rank of colonel when he was in the KGB, or, rather, when there was a KGB. Well, this column has a very erudite audience, and several of my readers protested that Vlad never achieved the rank of a full colonel in the Soviet spy agency. He only got to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and even his Black Belt for martial arts is probably exaggerated. My guess is that it is a chartreuse belt, or possibly a pink belt. Maybe there is no belt at all but suspenders.
Things are not going well for Lt. Col. Putin and his 200,000-man army in Ukraine. Over the weekend, it was reported that his health is faltering. The rumor is that he is suffering from some sort of cancer. Sources in the Pentagon claim he is actually dying of cancer. I reported to my readers three weeks ago that I spotted flab around his neck -- before anyone else spotted it, I might add -- and I attributed it to his skipping workouts because of the burdens of war. Now comes word from Pentagon sources that he is “puffy-faced.” Well, puffy-faced or flabby-faced, it sounds serious to me, and we may not have Lt. Col. Putin to kick around for much longer.
I have also picked up word that Lt. Col. Putin is frequently taking off to a posh hideaway in the Ural Mountains to escape the stresses of the war. If so, this week would be a good time to make a break for the Urals. The Russian air force reportedly lost nine aircraft in a single day over the weekend, and overall Russian casualties on the ground are estimated at anywhere between 500, according to Russian estimates, or much higher, according to Ukrainian estimates. Whatever the true figure might be, one thing is certain: The Russians are at least a week behind schedule, probably two weeks behind schedule, and in Ukraine, that means the rainy season is in place. That is not the kind of weather that you want to be driving a tank in or any other armored vehicle.
Lt. Col. Putin is a man who has just led an army heavily populated by boys into a foreign country. Most of the boys were misled into thinking that they were on training maneuvers in Russia. Now they want to return home. The most pathetic of them can be seen on television crying for their mothers. They write letters to their mothers, some just before dying in battle. They were poorly equipped from the start. They did not have enough food to begin with, and now many are out of food. They did not even have enough fuel for their armored vehicles, and now they are awaiting supplies from home. Who knows, perhaps they did have enough paper for their rumps? This campaign will be remembered as one of the most miscalculated military campaigns in history.
Lt. Col. Putin has brought ruin to a noble country, Ukraine, and privation to his own country, Russia. He has united most of the world and all of NATO against him. Whether he will win or not is in doubt, but Benito Mussolini marched into Abyssinia in 1935 a conqueror and not that many years later was left dangling from a lamp post. Lt. Col. Putin has attracted the attention of most of the world. We shall see how long it will last.
Both countries were hosts to a promising tourist trade. It will take years before the tourist trade in either country is revived. In fact, it will take years before either country returns to normal. Who is responsible for this atrocity? Well, it took a modern-day Mussolini, though I have always thought of Mussolini as a clown. Lt. Col. Putin is much more than a clown. The ineptitude with which he fought this war is pure Mussolini, but the cruelty with which he executed the war puts me in mind of Mussolini's co-conspirator, Adolf Hitler.