Up until quite recently, I had thought that Putin, albeit
afflicted with a warped Russo-centric ideology, was a very clever, shrewd and
intelligent person. As a lifelong KGB operative, it is not surprising that he
perceived the world as full of threats to Russia’s manifest destiny, but most
people, including myself, accorded him a certain respect as a particularly
competent and pragmatic political manipulator who through strength of will
and personal charisma, managed to always
get his way.
of the past week have caused me to question my former opinion and are leading
me to increasingly conclude that this latest of Russian Tsars has slipped into
the abyss of psychosis and joined the ranks of such notorious megalomaniacs as
Ivan the Terrible. I would hazard a guess that history will eventually remember
him as Putin the Appalling.
has been obvious that Russia,
under Putin’s rule, has been manipulating and subverting Ukraine’s political system
for the past decade. There is nothing
surprising in that, as despite all the changes since the Soviet
Union disintegrated, one thing that has remained constant is the
Russian mindset and its propensity to indulge in blatant imperialism. The Russians have not grasped that the rest
of the world has evolved politically and civilizationally to the point that
colonialism is now viewed as an immoral and counterproductive political
philosophy. They still harbor the
primitive urge to conquer and control.
No doubt, most of the world’s superpowers still seek to exert their
influence in the geopolitical arena, but most have realized that doing so
through the raw application of military power exceeds the bounds of moral
behavior and brings consequences that greatly exceed any potential gain.
the end of the Cold War, most people have assumed that the “new” Russia would at least
conform to the new post-colonial rules of the game. Putin’s moves of the past few weeks should
tell them that he has no intention of doing so, and that Russia has returned to the
predatory imperialism that has dominated all of its history. By sending Russian
troops into Crimea, at first covertly
and then openly, Putin is essentially telling the world that he will do what he
wants and doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks or says. Undoubtedly, he must have figured that he
could do this with impunity and that there was little that the rest of the
world could do in consequence.
suspect that he will soon realize that he has erred big time. In contrast to the world that most of his
imperial predecessors faced, Russia is highly dependent
on the global economic and financial system, and in the face of some serious
sanctions by the US,
the EU and G7, Russia’s
economy could be brought to its knees within a very short space of time.
is ironic in all of this is that Putin’s motives in engaging in this Ukrainian
takeover gambit was likely his fear of the Ukrainian democratic revolution
spilling over across the border into Russia and undermining his autocratic
rule. As one Russian political analyst
put it – “If those ‘khakhly’ in Ukraine can overthrow their
authoritarian, oligarchic regime, why can’t we do the same in Russia?” Putin’s popularity in Russia has been declining of
late, and the opposition forces have been getting more vocal and organized, and
Putin, as we know, cannot tolerate any opposition. No doubt, he felt compelled to make an
example of the Ukrainian “fascists and extremists” lest his own people start
getting ideas about doing the same closer to home. Dictators have a paranoia about displaying
any sort of weakness, and the failure of his policies aimed at controlling Ukraine must have rankled him
greatly. It is therefore probably poetic
justice that his recent moves, rather than forestalling his demise, will
instead lead to its acceleration.
rash action in overtly invading Ukraine is now forcing the
rest of the free world to react, and if it does the right thing, Putin is
finished. The Europeans in particular
can see the parallels in what is happening to what occurred some seventy five
years ago when another dictator by the name of Hitler annexed the Sudetenland
using almost identical pretexts and propaganda.
Hopefully the lessons learned from that debacle will weigh in strongly
on what course Europe takes with this latest
reincarnation of a fascist dictator. A
concerted economic and political response that isolates Russia politically and
economically will almost certainly lead to his downfall.
this of course presumes that the key world powers have the strength of will and
the moral spine to do what is right rather than what is expedient. It is a test that will either confirm Putin
as a psychotic aberration or an evil genius.