Putin’s war plans were leaked in advance and the whole world is watching. Will it do any good?

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Photo by Samuel Jerónimo on Unsplash.

Who was wrongwho was rightwho was right all along and who never had a clue; when an unmitigated global disaster occurs, there is never a shortage of fingers pointing and Monday morning quarterbacking.

Plenty of smart people on both sides of the aisle called the current Ukraine crisis incorrectly over this past month. Even hard-hitting investigative journalists with decades of experience reporting on and even living in Russia made the wrong call, much to their unnecessary chagrin.

No one gets it right all the time, least of all in journalism.

While there was plenty of hard, empirical evidence that Russia was indeed planning an “imminent enough” military invasion of Ukraine- as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned reporters last week- the messages from Russian President Vladimir Putin have been mystifying and misleading.

In retrospect, it was all obviously an intentional effort to confuse the international press and world leaders alike. That no one seems to know exactly what is happening in the Ukraine, even while so much is known about what is happening in the Ukraine, is the unavoidable result of Putin’s subterfuge.

Vladimir Putin and his government lied shamelessly over the past month in particular. Russian authorities denied they were preparing to attack the Ukraine, even as satellite photography said otherwise. Russia promised to draw down its troops near the Ukrainian border, absurdly claiming routine “war games” in that area were concluded anyway.

Putin even sat down with French President Emmanuel Macron only a scant week ago to agree, most politely and deferentially, to a ceasefire.

Who can blame anyone for believing Moscow’s denials- even buying the flimsy excuse about war games?

Believing the best of Vladimir Putin was much easier than watching the flood of photos and videos pouring out of the Ukraine as Russian military forces descend, bombs fall and newly created refugees flee for their lives from the devastation of war.

We all hoped Putin was only bluffing.

President Joe Biden did try to warn the international community in no uncertain terms. His someday-to-be-famous “Welcome to the Information Age, Vladimir Putin” intelligence sharing gambit will eventually grace history books as the first of its kind.

It couldn’t have been possible in any other age. Since 2008 in particular, global surveillance via satellite has increased exponentially in scope and capability.

The days of any country being able to conduct major military maneuvers without an avid audience of intelligence agencies, world governments, members of the press, and general rubber-neckers are over. Now, anyone with 15 minutes and Google Earth can be an all-seeing eye in the sky.

That’s to say nothing of the 2022 grassroots global spy network. Everyone with a cell phone camera, social media and an internet connection is reporting live from Eastern Europe at this very moment. Stemming the flood of photos, videos, first-hand accounts, sound recordings and other information pouring out of the Ukraine would be impossible.

The Russian military is leaving a trail a mile wide, complete with Tinder profiles looking for dates in the Ukraine.

As a result, Putin’s war plans weren’t all that secret anyway.

When the Biden Administration went public with those “secret plans” it set off a flurry of denials from Moscow. President Biden and his State Department received plenty of criticism from the press for warmongering, for overestimating the likelihood of a full-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine.

Biden never wavered, in spite of Putin’s denials and press pushback.

“Get out of the Ukraine,” stayed the unequivocal message from the Biden Administration to American citizens in the country and anyone else with the wherewithal to heed the warning.

The lines of cars jamming the highways and all the desperate people fleeing shows just how little stock almost everyone was willing to place in the dreadful possibility of a full-scale military invasion of one country by another in Europe for the first time in not nearly long enough.

We have forgotten the great follies of our recent past. The world did not take the threat of global war seriously enough and now here we all are.

Military and intelligence experts on three continents are warning that other nations may soon follow Russia’s lead. Signs have been ominously growing for some time now that China’s XI Jinping intends to move on Taiwan.

Jinping may be waiting to see what happens to Putin once the dust settles in Ukraine, however long that might take. Signs today point to the Ukrainians putting up a valiant struggle. There have been some encouraging signs of international support.

Hope is not a plan and signs are not certainties, however.

While Joe Biden was right about Russia’s plans to invade, and his administration showed a stroke of genius airing it, a fat lot of good that does the world.

We are now contemplating a future with no more Ukraine, no more Hong Kong or Taiwan, no more South Korea, maybe even no more Greece.

The Middle East is still dealing with the fallout from the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan. Russia’s success or failure with this gambit is something Iran’s rulers are going to be watching carefully.

The Ayatollahs in Iran, Kim Jong Un in North Korea; these leaders have little to lose as far as economic sanctions are concerned, should they indulge any martial aspirations.

Against a West unwilling to use force, strongmen leaders already under as many economic restrictions as they possibly can be under might do anything.

The world is about to endure a test of our resolve against war. It is a test humanity must pass.

Unlike the military incursions and invasions of yesteryear, even as recent as 2014, the aggression of Vladimir Putin’s forces will be televised. Other world leaders must also consider the extraordinary cost of transparency in warfare.

The Chinese Communist Party is still haunted by the image of “Tank Man”- and that was but a single photo.

Xi Jinping was facing an untenable situation in Hong Kong pre-COVID19. Those pro-democracy protests were huge, growing, and utterly peaceful.

Hong Kong protestors were even picking up their own litter. The movement was impossible to delegitimize. COVID19 came at a convenient time for the Chinese Communist Party and couldn’t have come at a worse time for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

Jinping will have a harder time in Taiwan; military force will be required and there will be a million photos. The CCP is no doubt watching events carefully in the Ukraine.

The rest of the world must watch carefully, too: Much more than the future of Taiwan may be at stake.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)