It has been six weeks since Putin commenced his out-and-out invasion of Ukraine. At first, we saw a standard military engagement, with shelling and skirmishes on military and strategic targets from both sides.
However, as time goes on, we have seen the nature of the war change.
Russia has a long-standing reputation of being a tough, hardy nation. When Westerners think of Russian political culture, we think of militarism, nationalism, nuclear missiles, and a clandestine secret service.
Yet Russian military operations have been surprisingly incompetent. We have all heard tales of Russian soldiers begging for food, complete logistical failure, low morale, and fatalities among the upper ranks of the military.
Some argue this is merely the first wave, and the real crack troops are yet to come. But this does not make sense militarily, and six weeks in, they are unlikely to transpire.
Russia’s military tactics are becoming more desperate
Russia appears to be getting through this by throwing as many bodies and as much hardware at the problem and hoping something works, something students of Russian military doctrine might be all too aware of.
This might be cause for hope among freedom-lovers and advocates for Ukrainian sovereignty: Russia’s military advance has been slow, and Putin has found himself in a difficult situation with no easy choices.
However, this presents a different kind of problem. Putin expected this invasion to be a quick affair, with Ukraine capitulating quickly and joining Russian territory. Now he is on a timer, with economic damage piling up and troop losses mounting.
Thus it comes as no surprise that Russian forces are now engaged in increasingly desperate and downright illegal tactics in an attempt to force the Ukrainians into submission.
They have started shelling civilian areas indiscriminately, moved to dangerous areas such as the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and even shot at journalists despite them informing the troops of their press status.
There have even been hints that chemical weapons may be used and then blamed on Ukraine.
But, to date, the most shocking development is what has happened in Bucha.
Bucha is a flashpoint that shows how low Russia has sunk
In Bucha, Russian soldiers committed summary execution, where unarmed civilians were lined up and shot for no reason, often disposing of the bodies in ditches. There is photo evidence of mutilated bodies, torture chambers, mass graves, and other atrocities.
It has turned from a purely strategic and military conflict to one of terror, barbarism, and psychological warfare. Russia’s actions amount to an out-and-out war crime.
Of course, despite the myriad of photographic evidence and testimonials from a wide variety of sources, Russia denies this and has stated it believes the Ukrainians faked this whole ordeal as a false flag attack.
This is indeed typical and expected from a nation that repeatedly suppresses free speech and engages in subterfuge to achieve its political ambitions.
But what is just as worrying is the tendency of certain factions in the West to believe them.
Critics of imperialism must not let their skepticism blind them
This is most prominent in far-left and far-right circles. They believe the “deep state” is so pernicious and organized that every possible crisis has been engineered by nefarious actors behind the scenes to achieve more control over the everyman.
These people hate the Western liberal establishment so much that they will sympathize with literal dictators and dream up a far-fetched conspiracy theory in order to rationalize their continued opposition.
Mistrust of any narratives perceived as “mainstream” pushes people into becoming contrarians who can deny even the most obvious facts.
Of course, there is plenty to dislike about the Western liberal establishment, and libertarians in particular know how deeply flawed it is.
However, we mustn’t let our hatred cloud our judgment. Sometimes, the people we take issue with are actually on the justified side.
The simple fact is that the Russian regime is, and has demonstrated itself to be many times, a fundamentally aggressive actor that will go under the radar and commit unspeakable acts to achieve its ambitions.
Acknowledging this does not make you pro-American imperialism, it makes you pro-human, and well-informed.
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This piece was first published on the Students For Liberty website.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.