In 47BC, Julius Caesar famously summarised his conquest of a minor potentate in Turkey as veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. Fast forward 2000 odd years and another despot with imperialist dreams, Vladimir Putin, thought that he could update this to Vladi – veni, vidi, vici (in Cyrillic of course) and get rid of that joke of a country with its ex-comedian President that was a painful reminder of a lost Empire.
This was going to be easy-peasy. After all, using surrogate forces, Russia had conquered two important regions in eastern Ukraine in 2014 without any blowback from the West. Also, Russia had three times the population of Ukraine and the second largest military arsenal in the world. Following a massive build-up of forces, Russia invaded Ukraine from the east as well as from the north courtesy of his Belarusian stooge who had given Putin usufruct over the south of his country. These were meant to be lightning strikes reminiscent of the German Blitzkriegs (Lightning Wars) of WWII – rapid and deep penetration by armoured columns, encirclement and the grinding of the demoralised troops into dust. QED (Sticking with the Latin references, QED = quod erat demonstrandum. I shall leave the actual translation as a tutorial exercise for the reader. I might just note that I prefer the cynical student version of Quite Easily Demonstrated or Done after cracking a simple problem.)
But the Ukrainians hadn’t been sitting idle since 2014 and, with the help of American experts and Intelligence, they had prepared for a modern battlefield that involved the intelligent use of drones amongst other techniques. They also knew their Latin and with a battle cry of Illegitimi non carborundum – a mock-Latin aphorism, translated as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” – they devastated the Russian armoured thrusts. They reversed the northern assault and stalemated the eastern one with appalling Russian losses in officers, men and materiel. The vici part of veni, vidi, vici bit the dust to be replaced by cessi, loosely translated as I ran.
Putin has been forced to bring senior officers out of retirement including a 67-year-old ex-Spetsnaz General who’s the poster child for gastric sleeve surgery. Their mercenary arm, the Wagner Group, has also been doing the rounds of prisons recruiting cannon fodder. But where could he get his hands on modern drone type weaponry.
While Putin was mulling this problem, he realised that the Mullahs of Iran could help him if he spent a bit of moolah. It seems as though the mulish Mullahs haven’t only been sitting around declaring jihads and issuing fatwas to all and sundry, but have also been busy beavers developing sophisticated drones. So it was off to Iran he ran on 19 July. Yes, there is talk of solidarity, of creating a single fortress and blah, blah, blah, but actually he is there for the drones.
Quite embarrassing really for a superpower. Almost as embarrassing as Biden fist-bumping Mohammed bin Salman who had ordered the vivisection of Khashoggi.