Setting: Putin’s office. Meeting in progress.
Advisor 1: High level General in the Russian Army
Advisor 2: High level Domestic Advisor
Advisor 3: High level Nuclear Scientist
Putin: Ok, time to stop dilly dallying. The purpose of this meeting is to decide when to invade Ukraine.
Advisor 1: The sooner the better, Boss. I say this evening. We are all set—200,000 troops, new weapons, nuclear capability. We have it all. Chomping at the bit, sir.
Advisor 2: Boss, I am not questioning your judgement. You are infallible. We all know that, but have you considered all the options and repercussions? If you invade, then Biden has said he will impose sanctions.
Advisor 1: Sanctions. So what? The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran for years, and the Iranians are doing fine. Slap on the wrist, if you ask me.
Putin: So then, what is the problem?
Advisor 2: I won’t go into all the details, but the U.S. could keep us from using the dollar as currency, meaning it would impact trade and make it harder for Russians to do business. They could also limit exports from the U.S. affecting lots of our industries. They could keep banks and others from buying our bonds or lending us money. These actions might even force us into a recession, but it would also hurt a lot of NATO counties whom we trade with, especially Germany. In fact, if they try to keep our oil from flowing to Germany, Germany would probably bolt from NATO. We pretty much have them by the short hairs on the pipeline. And, of course, they could go after your buddies, the oligarchs, like freezing their bank accounts including, I might add, Alina Kabaeva, your sweetie. Bottom line: they could do a lot.
Putin: Alina? Alina? I say hit Ukraine tomorrow. I’ll take my chances.
Advisor 2: But wait, Boss! Biden could do more. The U.S. and their NATO allies could cut us out of the SWIFT banking system, which would paralyze our entire financial system and within days force us into a barter system. It would be the equivalent of a nuclear option. Our economy would be in shreds. People could starve. When we rightfully reclaimed the Crimea in 2014, they threatened us with the SWIFT option, and we told them this would be tantamount to a full-scale declaration of war.
Advisor 1. Yeah, and they chickened out. They never used the SWIFT threat, never pulled the trigger. Besides Biden is a wimp. He would never risk full scale war.
Advisor 2. But what if the U.S. and their NATO allies did go for the SWIFT option? How would we respond?
Advisor 1. Well, first we would go after their power grid, right Boss? 0ur intelligence tells me we have the capacity to turn the lights out in New York, Washington, LA and Chicago in a heartbeat. Plus, we would unleash all the cyberwarfare in our arsenal and mess them up big time. They would be screwed, and without electricity millions would be out of food and water within a couple of weeks. Do you think that Biden would risk something like that? He would never get re-elected. Not a shot fired, and we would own Ukraine, which is rightfully ours anyway.
Advisor 2. But are we sure Biden would not act?
Putin. My buddy, Trump, told me not to take him seriously.
Advisor 2: But doesn’t the U.S. also have cyberwarfare capability? Couldn’t they do the same thing to us?
Advisor 1. In theory, yes. But our intelligence says we are stronger.
Putin: How many nuclear weapons do we have versus what they have?
Advisor 3: We have close to the same number. It is way down from what it used to be, thanks to all the disarmament BS but enough to ruin your day. Good news though—we have more than they do. They have 5,550 nuclear warheads, and we have 6,655–all armed and ready to be launched on a moment’s notice. And we will know it when they launch, and they will know it when we do, so each country will have a few minutes warning to enable them to go after the other country before the bombs hit. Remember, that was the whole purpose of MAD, “mutually assured destruction.” You both lose. Both countries would be destroyed. No sane ruler would want that to happen, right? So, everyone is safe. Nuclear war will never happen. Neat idea, huh?
Putin. So, Joe would be sitting in the White House with his major cities dark and his government and industry paralyzed and communications worthless. He would just sit there staring at the wall. There is no other viable retaliation for him at that point except nuclear war. And he would never do that, right? Looks like we’ve got him. But I’ve got to say, I’m not so sure I believe that.
Advisor 1. But Boss, we know he is a wimp and would never be the first to pull the nuclear trigger. That would give us an advantage, so if we really wanted to end this mess and unleased everything we have first, they would suffer a whole lot more than we would. So, it is something we might want to take another look at.
Advisor 3: And if it did happen, Boss, we could argue that we would be doing all we can to stop global warming. A nuclear winter lasting years or perhaps decades would follow. Your legacy would be that of an environmental hero.
Advisor 2: Boss, you know you could avert this danger by not invading Ukraine, right? You do not have to do this. You do not have to put us and the rest of the planet at risk. Just call it off for now and try to negotiate something.
Putin: But that would make me look weak. I have worked so hard to get respect, to get the world to take me seriously. And I have been successful. I am now respected and feared. How could I back down without showing weakness?
Advisor 1: You are right, Boss. Don’t listen to him. He is a traitor. Put him in jail. You are not weak. You are the greatest! You are the strongest. Never, never back down.
Putin: Tell you what, guys. I will sleep on it and let you know something tomorrow…