01.03.2024 Article

All quiet on the Election’s front: Pride and Prejudice

By Lily Ong
01.03.2024 LISTEN

For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” pronounced Joe Biden, President of the United States. “Putin’s day will surely be numbered… He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor,” prophesized James Heappey, UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

Having proclaimed the Lord’s name in vain, the duo’s avowals have anything but taken hold of reality, one that portends a very different outcome.

Putin has them and their satellites to thank, for unleashing relentless sanctions in the delirious dream that they could crush the world’s largest country. Instead of bringing Russia to its knees as contrived and fervently hoped, the sanctions backfired in more ways than one, magnetizing more Russians to their leader’s side. Proving to his people once again that he is tried, true and tested, Putin has dexterously steered his country through an ongoing, arduous hour of unprecedented sanctions meant to inflict economic pain of the harshest kind on his countrymen.

Domestic support for Putin has visibly risen. His earnest call to his people at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2022 has duly been heeded. Instead of kowtowing to the West in trained colonial-style decorum paraded by others, Russians have chosen to pull up their bootstraps and weather the storm together. This, despite the unrelenting hiss of the ruthless gust.

That Russians are quick to demonstrate trust in their leader amplifies a glaring contrast to countries whose people have grown increasingly cognizant of rulers who no longer serve their interests. This mounting awareness has not gone unnoticed by their government who spend their nights tucked in over their head concocting absurd and novel draconian laws to silence their critics. Woefully, by refusing to listen with authentic ears and sincere hearts, they have only encouraged discontent to fester. This, coupled with a recalcitrant aversion to purging rotten apples, will just dig a deeper pit for their unsteady feet when election day clocks in.

Beyond frustrating the chagrined sanctioneers, Putin has gone further to turn the screws back on those ever so determined to make his country suffer. Fiscal agony unremittingly designed for his country has ricocheted back to those bent on picking a fight. In UK, it has been reported that over two million of its own residents will not be able to afford gas and electricity this frigid winter while GBP 12b was pledged to support Ukraine. In Germany, the Ukraine conflict was projected to have cost the country USD 171b in lost value creation, severely retarding its economic growth. And while criticized by its Western brothers for not giving enough, France purportedly coughed up GBP 3.2b for Ukraine even as its own people continue to suffer from soaring prices of energy and raw materials.

Conversely, while the trio’s big brother saw its most vulnerable population hit with the country’s largest one-year spike in poverty rate in 2022, its oil producers reportedly reaped a handsome USD 200b windfall that same year. This staggering figure was ostensibly trumped only by its weapons salesmen who hit the home run at a record-high of USD 238b in 2023. Despite the lucrative bonanza, if “a true measure of a society is in how it treats its weakest” as Mahatma Ghandi wisely put it, then our “shining city on a hill” as preached by Ronald Reagan and other American leaders has failed miserably in living up to its moniker; however, it would serve superbly as an efficacious cautionary tale, to be told and retold through a multitude of generations, as John Winthrop might have warned.

So, while a myopic Europe rashly masticated a steadfast feeding hand in their muddled slumber and rouses a tad too late to see a smug hog in their passel sashaying on two legs, a collected Russian leader sits poker-faced and orchestrates Russia’s economic engine in masterful symphony with his tactical command of a live military operation that is anything but conventional. In lieu of NATO-style carpet bombings that would have secured a Ukrainian defeat overnight, Russia has chosen to engage in a series of strategic maneuvers that have sent the West scoffing in conceit, baffling in confusion, and desperately playing catch-up.

Ukraine cannot be said to be a loser either. A country most would not have been able to locate on maps up until 2022 is now a global household name. On top of attracting a worldwide audience with much intensity, it has garnered billions in aid along with vast tranches of weapons, notwithstanding the nauseating aspect that no one seems to have kept a proper record on the whereabouts of the lavish gifts.

However, Ukraine has also suffered tragic losses, losses of hundreds of thousands of sons and fathers sent to the line of artillery fire like food for powder. Given that designated mothers and daughters are now facing conscription too, what would remain of the orphans left behind? Use them to issue Putin an arrest warrant for kidnapping, thereby achieving maximum utility per family unit? Checked.

Truly, no amount of money can return those precious lives to their families left in vulnerability, but more money and weapons can, and will, transfer more from the human grocery store to their graves. Some Ukrainian men who refused to fight have brushed with mortality by resorting to desperate measures. If they have yet drowned, they could still be frenziedly paddling across the Tisza River. Others with sufficient dough engage in the biggest bargain of their life – life itself - as they negotiate for the purchase of their exemption from the death fields.

Considering the barefaced catastrophe of the overhyped Ukrainian counteroffensive, billions in aid and weapons unaccounted for, and domestic economic miseries that followed the impetuous severance of ties with Russia, one would think the West and their orbiters would wise up and consider a different route - especially if they genuinely care about Ukrainian lives and the welfare of their own people; but no, the foolhardy have elected to double down on a losing hand as their Pinkerton-afflicted subjects continue to tail in trained obedience down their rabbit hole. All this juxtaposed against the backdrop of an awakening Africa makes it almost satirical. Imagine Africa doing another leapfrog, this time in dismantling the colonial mindset before their dreamy counterparts.

Regretfully, even the Ukrainian leadership does not seem to care two hoots about funneling their men like cannon fodder to the front lines. Instead, their words suggest an allotment of superior value to the lives of foreign legions: “You save the most important. You save the lives of your soldiers. We kind of offer the best deal on the global market of security. Give us the money. Give us the weapons. We will finish the job.” Say what? Verily, man cannot live on bread alone, let alone $43 hot dogs at vanity fairs.

Those purportedly equipped with better Intel ought to have an inkling of Russia’s cyber capabilities, yet they too persist in habitually scratching an addictive itch to poke the Arctic bear. None is prepared to sit in the dark, but it sure looks like we are dying for it. It is particularly sardonic to see that among those who pooled for a pious gallop on the stallion of sanctions like moral crusaders, some have not even managed a passing grade in energy security.

What they did attain, however, were effortless straight as for hypocrisy. Eerily muted when Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia and a heartrending string of others fell to criminal invasions, their eyes were conveniently turned when hundreds of thousands perished while millions were displaced. One begs, where were their pompous chants on sovereignty then? Does the tagline of the so-called rules-based order read “Do as we say, but not as we do?”

However, it would not be fair to point to the West and their vassals as the only ones defying rules. Putin, too, has a rebellious side to him. When Poland refused to invite Russia to anniversary events commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, Russian museums marched on to showcase historical memories in honor of the Red Army whose brave soldiers sacrificed their lives to liberate none other than the petulant and ungracious host. And as modern days point to the vogueish adoption of multiplying gender identities, Putin bucked the trend and obdurately scaled against the slippery slope. His insistence on gender binary is hardly popular in the modern world, but this man does not succumb to - he snubs - popularity contests.

It is also worth recalling and considering the words of Professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic: “Russia is a legal, not an ideological, successor of the Soviet Union.”

So as national elections kick off, many will panic over their corrupt ways and smash the pea in their brain for creative and cruel ways to hush those too defiant to parrot authorized lines and toe OB (out of bounds) markers. Others will continue to flush hard-earned tax dollars of their everyday people down the dazzlingly prosperous and forever ravenous defense industries. Perhaps if they puff their chest bigger with help of an already inflated ego, they could even indulge in the fallacy of safety from possessing the biggest boat and plane. Still others, or at least one, will demonstrate the substance that leadership is made of. The kind that garners a victorious 85% on polling day.

About the author:
Lily Ong of Singapore is involved in media, diplomacy, and geopolitical mediation. As an analyst providing location-based risk assessments to Fortune 500 clients, she has travelled to 100 countries.