Did you realize it’s been five months since Russia decided to help itself to Ukraine? Even as the headlines recede, that war continues to go on. Vladimir Putin is hardly giving up on his apparent goal to remake a new Soviet Union in his own inimitable way. Tens of thousands have died, millions have been forced from their homes, and skyrocketing energy prices have affected every aspect of the world economy . . . in a very unfavorable way.

Although only Vlad the Mad knows what’s going on inside his mind, it can sometimes be a fun exercise to try to imagine what he’s thinking. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps a current conversation inside the Kremlin with Vlad and his aides might sound something like this:

VLAD: Am I Tsar of Ukraine yet?

AIDE 1: Not yet, sir. Still working on that.

VLAD: What’s taking so long? I want to hit the beach in Odessa. Have you ever had the borscht ice cream there?

AIDE 1: Can’t say that I have, sir.

VLAD: Put a little flavored vodka syrup on it? Delicious.

AIDE 1: Well, that may have to wait for just a bit longer.

VLAD: I don’t understand the delay. When we started this little takeover operation, you all told me two days max and Ukraine would be mine, er, ours.

AIDE 2: That’s what the generals predicted.

VLAD: That was five months ago.

AIDE 2: Yes, sir, unfortunately the Ukrainians did not see eye-to-eye with us on being taken over and swallowed up whole.

VLAD: So I noticed. NOW when is it going to be over?

AIDE 1: Hard to say. We don’t seem to have much support around the world with what we’re doing. Seems everybody’s against us.

VLAD: Who cares what everybody else thinks? Besides, China and Iran still like us.

AIDE 2: Well, yes, but can you trust them?

VLAD: Of course not. But you didn’t hear that from me.

AIDE 2: No, that’s understood.

AIDE 1: What about Joe Biden? He may like you.

VLAD: Really?

AIDE 1: (laughing) Yeah, you’re one of the few people with worse poll numbers than Biden himself in his own country.

VLAD: (menacingly) Not funny.

AIDE 1: No, no, certainly not, sir!

AIDE 2: Okay, here’s an idea. We could just declare victory and pull out. We can keep what we already have and claim we never wanted the rest of Ukraine anyway.

VLAD: I have a better idea. We stop, promise not to do it again, get a guarantee of peace with the U.S. and Europe, then hit Kiev hard again.

AIDE 2: Probably not going to happen. Too many people read their history books and remember Hitler and his appeasement tactic. Didn’t work out well then either.

VLAD: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. I get really tired of hearing his name whenever I come up with a good idea.

AIDE 1: (Sotto voce) Yeah, well, if the shoe fits . . .

VLAD: What was that?

AIDE 1: Nothing, sir! (Cough, cough) Just clearing my throat.

VLAD: Do you know what this war costing me every day?

AIDE 2: Do you mean in terms of the soldiers who are dying?

VLAD: Well, yes, yes, that too. I mean financially. Nobody’s buying my oil and gas anymore. How am I supposed to make a ruble or two?

AIDE 1: What about some of our former Soviet Union friends?

VLAD: You mean like Moldova and Georgia?

AIDE 1: Yes. What about them?

VLAD: They help. But honestly, I’m going after them too after Ukraine. Ditto Bosnia, Kosovo, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They all need to be back under my control. Instead of the Soviet Union we’ll call our unification Putin’s Posse.

AIDE 2: I’m not sure that’s where we want to head with all this, sir.

VLAD: “We” doesn’t matter. Only “I” matter.

AIDE 1: Okay.

VLAD: But I AM listening to you. And I might have a way to deflect concern away from us. Perhaps I could help Iran just a little bit with their nuclear issue.

AIDE 2: As in?

VLAD: Provide certain key information.

AIDE 1: So Iran could finish building their own nuclear warhead? Is that what you’re implying?

VLAD: Again, you didn’t hear it from me.

AIDE 2: But you know what it would mean if Iran got such a weapon?

VLAD: Yes, it would mean the world could focus on them and take the heat off us. While everybody’s worried about what Iran would do, we march through the Balkans, and then into Europe.

AIDE 1: (Pause) That’s just crazy enough to work.

VLAD: You never know until you try.

Do you suppose those are the kinds of conversations that have been going on in Moscow? Putin HAS to be getting tired of dealing with the mess he’s causing in Ukraine. And he IS getting diplomatically closer to Iran. Hmmm. Perhaps I had a little too much caffeine today.

©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer