Who’s winning the war in Ukraine? Right now, it’s still up in the air—where it may well be eventually decided, with super-heavy rockets and helicopter gunships, but one can have little hope that ultimately the overall strength of the Russian military resources will be overcome. Ukraine would then become a satellite state of Russia, with a long-term occupancy by armed forces. That’s what happens in situations like this, isn’t it? That’s how it’s always worked in the past, dating back from centuries ago until even as recently as the Maidan in 2014,
But although Russia may well win this particular war, there is another war being fought, a war potentially of much more importance. This is a war they—and Putin—will not win, ever. That’s the war of universal public opinion.
Modern communication—including not just visual and print media, but all the various social media platforms—is playing a role in this battle that hitherto has not been possible. The overall resentment and disgust at what Putin and Russia are doing is probably the greater battle, and this is one that will have far greater ramifications.
The legacy of the battle for Ukraine will be with us for a very long term. Seven million mothers and children is the current estimate of people to be displaced already, leaving behind their husbands, lovers and sons to help with the resistance to the red army. As the battle intensifies, the carnage will increase, the death toll will mount, the injuries will become greater, the hospitals overrun, and Ukraine’s basic infrastructure will be destroyed for a generation who will never see loved ones again.
On the worldwide stage of public opinion, the ramifications will be very different. Russia will become a pariah state, hated and detested throughout the free—and even not so free—world. We will find a way not to trade with them: and they are already being eliminated from all world sport. What’s the point in giving 15-year-old female athletes performance-enhancing drugs if there is no one to compete with?
Chelsea owner and London-based oligarch Roman Abramovich has been forced to walk a fine—and telling—line. As The New York Times reported: “Mr. Abramovich, who owns the Chelsea soccer club, has moved to insulate his prize asset, announcing he would turn over the ‘stewardship and care’ of the club to its charitable foundation, though he will continue to own it. The next day, Chelsea issued a carefully worded statement that said, ‘the situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating’ and that it was ‘praying for peace.’” What does it feel like to be a Chelsea fan right now, knowing your club is owned by a Russian oligarch who is dependent on his close relationship with Putin for his wealth and prosperity? I’m sure even Everton fans from the other side of Stanley Park were even hoping that Liverpool would win at Wembley on Sunday playing the Abramovitch-owned opposition.
At least Putin has managed to do what no other national leader has done, and unite the mass of public opinion with one overriding sentiment: we are all Ukrainians now!
Does Russia’s worldwide vilification matter? Well, maybe not to Putin, sitting by himself at the end of a very long table in a very large room with his generals sitting the length of a cricket pitch away, hanging on to his every word. But it does matter to all other Russians, who can no longer enjoy the life they have been leading, or the fruits of their labours, whether honestly earned or ill-gotten gains. What’s the point of owning the largest superyacht in the world if no port will grant you entry and a berth? What’s the point in owning the best football team in Europe that are the current Champions League winners if you can’t—or even daren’t—go watch them?
As the atrocities of the war with Ukraine escalate, public horror and resentment will only increase. There is no hiding place now with social media and smartphones: we will all see everything as it develops, which will prove the strongest form of resistance against Russia. Afterall, in the 1980s, it was MTV that had the greatest role in tearing down the Berlin Wall, resulting in the collapse of communism and the disbanding of the USSR, many of whose satellite states are now fully-fledged members of the EU and NATO.
The Ukrainian military resources, even with their charismatic president, may not defeat Putin, but eventually the worldwide army of Twitter soldiers, aided by network television and even the old-fashioned print media probably will. Putin, you don’t know it yet, but your time is up: the world, including your own citizens, will be a much better place without you.