Favorite incredulous Star Trek quote: “They irradiated their own planet?”

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. That is a line from the film, The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard is seen working his ‘not-so-magical’ trickery from behind a curtain that Toto, the little dog, has easily pulled back, exposing the Wizard’s cheap charade.

These days we can assume a parallel with an actual madman of the world, doing obvious evil and not even bothering with a curtain to conceal his efforts. We don’t even need the dog. Pay no attention to the man behind the no-longer-a-thing Iron Curtain.

Russia’s President Putin is operating under the delusion that he can re-create the vast Soviet Union. His madness keeps him from seeing the world as it is in 2022. But he has one ace up his sleeve. He has nuclear weapons that the world rightly sees as dangerous, to the point of threatening the end of our world as we know it. A nuclear war could make the entire planet unlivable for perhaps a thousand years or more. We could possibly make the assumption that no one, not even Putin, could be crazy enough to flirt with the destruction of the world, but then again, Putin just might be that unbalanced. The operative word, however, is “might” be. It could be a ploy. Making himself seem crazy could be successful enough to ensure that the world’s leaders would permit him to do whatever he wants, so as to avoid the end of the world, “brought on by the madman.” And we don’t know which of these alternatives is true. Is he crazy enough to do it? Or is he sly enough to want to appear crazy enough to do it?

With his current Ukraine demolition, he has proven himself to be cold, devoid of ethics, and bloodthirsty to the point of genocide. So he really could be that crazy. This is not the person you want to back into a corner with an invitation to nuclear war. But let us look at some history to help decide which of these two alternatives we are witnessing.

The madman from Russia exactly ninety years ago was Joseph Stalin. He conducted a similar yet different genocide of Ukrainians with his Holodomor. Not a shot was fired. There was no invasion by troops. Yet the genocide was deliberate and effective. It was a campaign that involved the use of the vast food production of rich Ukrainian farms to create a breadbasket almost wholly exported to Mother Russia, leaving the food producers in Ukraine to literally starve to death. It was a purposefully engineered nationwide famine. Millions of Ukrainians did starve to death. And in various regions of Ukraine, up to 29 percent of the population died. When the world learned of it, this genocide became known as the Holodomor. Wikipedia tells us this word means “killing by hunger.” It was perhaps a more sophisticated genocide than today’s Putin version, which is “killing by rockets and bombs.”

Today’s Russian madman is insecure enough to parade around shirtless on horseback to show how tough he is. And he did select a very petite horse to make himself seem larger. But what else can we learn about him from his track record?

He has a history of throwing his weight around with the weak and powerless. So this would seem to indicate that he would not want to risk actual nuclear war with another country strong enough to use nuclear weapons against him. He primarily picks on the weak. But if he is truly as crazy as it would seem, he might go right ahead, under the premise that the other country would do anything to avoid nuclear war. That would be a dangerous assumption on his part, and it is an equally dangerous assumption on our part to give him this much credit without further proof.

Putin has a pattern of behavior consistent with other past leaders of Russia and the Soviet Union. They have typically enjoyed using deceptions, lies, and false flag operations. He has recently made the assertion that Ukraine and Western Europe have used, or are now prepared to use, chemical and biological weapons against Russia. This, if it were true, would be a war crime, but it is, of course, not true. It is the sort of false flag that could then be used by him to do what he contends his enemies are already doing. This could be a prelude to his use of chemical weapons on the civilian population of Ukraine – a war crime? Yes. But this would not be his first war crime.

At the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia actually made advances toward government co-operative with Western democracies. When Putin rose to power, he nixed all of those advances, pointing his nation back in the direction of autocratic dictatorship alienated from Western-style democracy. And the autocracy he desires for himself is modeled after that of the Soviet Union, the collapse of which he has ludicrously characterized as the worst disaster of the twentieth century.

Putin also has an existing record of using internationally banned chemical weapons. They were used against Syrian civilians by their government under Bashar al-Assad, Putin’s good buddy. They were also used by Russian agents in the attempt to assassinate Sergei Skripal while he was in the United Kingdom, the would-be assassins then “casually discarding” the bottle still containing a sufficient residual amount of the nerve agent, to wreak havoc on the British population. And the British publication, The Observer, has stunningly questioned whether the apparent murder attempt was, in fact, not a botched assassination, but a botched attempt to terrorize the West. Putin has used chemical weapons. He could do so again. Would that make him a war criminal? No, he has already achieved that status. In an interview this week, Senator Mark Kelly (D, Arizona) said, “[Putin] is attacking hospitals, maternity wards, apartment buildings. When you direct fire on civilians, you are by definition a war criminal.”

The clear differences between the two opposing presidents, Ukraine’s Zelensky and ‘Poopin,’ could not make a more striking contrast. One, while being specifically targeted for elimination, is wearing battle fatigues and is personally involved in the defense of his nation, and the other is hiding in the shadows from some of his own personnel, while directing lethal military strikes on Ukrainian civilians.

Does anyone with a functioning rational mind still believe that words spoken by Russia’s leadership reflect transparency, honesty, or truth? This week, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “They claimed they did not plan to invade Ukraine. But they did. They claimed they were withdrawing their troops. But they sent in even more. They claim they are protecting civilians. But they are killing civilians.” Yes, the list includes hospitals, maternity wards, and apartment buildings. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Just continue to believe the lies.

We occupied only a small portion of your country in 2014. Believe me, we have no intention to invade further. How could you suggest such a thing?

Would he dare to use chemical and biological weapons? Why not? Especially when conventional weapons appear to be insufficient even as you demolish the country’s infrastructure. Why not, if you are already a war criminal, anyway? The West is too frightened at the prospect of nuclear war to do anything about it. Or so the assumption seems to go.

CNN’s Brian Todd interviewed retired U.S.A.F. Col. Cedric Leighton this week, and made the following summary about what the two of them had concluded. “The Russians, despite the setbacks and the stalling, we believe they are assessing as they go. They are very good at that. And they will re-assess on the fly, and continue making pushes on some of these cities in the south and Kyiv.”  Well, I did not hear those words come out of the Colonel’s mouth. And I have to protest some of them. For one thing, the Russians, at least in this campaign, appear to “be very good” at very few things, beyond lying, of course. I will have to acknowledge, they are good at lying. It would appear to be one of the favorite tricks of the man behind the curtain. If they were very good at conducting this campaign, would they have fully expected a speedy success? Would they have had numerous equipment and vehicular failures just driving into the country? Would Russian soldiers be surrendering or abandoning the mission? Would the invasion have lasted two full weeks, and more, beyond the anticipated success date? Would the mission have morphed from a Blitz Krieg to a slow and methodical infrastructure demolition? This time around, I don’t see the Russians as “very good” at very much.

Is ‘Poopin’ running a bluff with his threat of nuclear war? Or is he really crazy enough to do it? If the latter is true, then it is only a matter of time, now. Is the second coming of the Dark Ages just ahead? When he hauls out the Sarin and mustard gas, will the rest of the world just sit back and watch him inhumanely punish the Ukrainians for standing up to him? Is World War III now inevitable, this time with nukes? When you put crazies in charge, there is no telling what can happen. One would think that the leadership of the United States might have learned that lesson five years ago. But either way, we seem to be on the threshold of discovering what the world is going to be like in the coming years.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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