I’ve always admired Vladimir Putin: the same way I admire The Joker or Bane. A brilliant villain who executes a strategy of mayhem flawlessly until being undone by hubris and his own overreach. And maybe that guy Batman had something to do with it, too, sure.
Vladimir Putin has played successive American Presidents like a fiddle. Clinton, Bush, Obama and most recently the dunderheaded Trump all fell to his act. One could argue that amongst world leaders only Angela Merkel remained too cagey for him, trained as she was by the same Eastern Bloc Spy Mentality (TM). She never trusted him and with good reason.
I began to think that Vladimir made the perfect arch-enemy for my arch-heroine: Eleanor XXXIII. He was the cunning devil to her virtuous realignment of the Empire of Australia. He was the brilliant tactician, the marvellous strategist who was always one step ahead of the other people playing the game. It seemed he could do no wrong.
Then came Ukraine and that narrative has begun to unravel
As Russia barrels down on Ukraine, even as I write this, the new narrative taking shape is that even if Putin manages to get the Russian Military to subdue the Ukrainians, he’s going to have a nightmare of a country to govern for a decade or more. He’s already lost the war for the hearts and minds of Ukrainians.
He’s also seemingly completely misjudged how the world would react to the war. Instead of doing pretty much nothing about it (ala China), the world is uniting against Russia in a way not seen since The Cold War—or honestly, with the addition of Sweden, Finland, Monaco, and Switzerland to the list of countries sanctioning Russia, perhaps not seen ever before.
The damage to Russia’s economy is going to be worse than the fall of communism. The damage to Russia’s reputation on the world stage is going to be the nail in the coffin of Russian Empire. Even the arts and artists that have been one of Russia’s main cultural exports for the last thirty years are going to suffer as cultural institutions all over the world close their doors to Russia’s artists.
Vladimir Putin has completely bungled this operation.
And his reputation as the master tactician is in tatters.
Maybe my parallel universe version of Vladimir Putin won’t make the same mistakes.
Or maybe it’s time for me to look for a different master villain.