Vladimir Putin, the autocratic ruler of Russia for the past 22 years, is a man of ambition and determination. His ambitions are well documented. He is determined to see a return to the glory days of the Russian Empire and the prestige of the former Soviet Union. He is a former Colonel in the KGB who became a superstar in Soviet and post Soviet politics. He has disposed of rivals and reshaped Russian politics so that he is at the epicenter of everything. Yet, many in the Western Media, and leaders of NATO countries, would have us to believe Putin is both a fool and a deranged psychopath. They would have us to believe he is the greatest threat to the world since Adolph Hitler. That he is a man who is willing to destroy both himself and his nation for some unreachable fantasy he has conjured up in his own paranoid mind. This is the West’s version of reality…their reality.
Here is a man who was once respected by leaders such as George W. Bush who claimed to have “looked into Putin’s soul” and knew he was someone he could productively deal with. President Obama is on record saying to Putin, “After I’m re-elected, I will have more flexibility” when they held a private meeting together where he was promising to make future geostrategic deals on matters that were never fully disclosed. But something has changed. Western leaders now vilify and demonize Vladimir Putin. Why?
The West did an about face after Putin made it clear he was determined to secure his borders from NATO encroachment. He made it repeatedly clear that he did not appreciate European nations, some from the former Warsaw Pact such as Poland and Romania, joining NATO aligning their collective military and economic capabilities to an already robust alliance that included the sole remaining superpower from the aftermath of the Cold War. He did not understand the need for more additions to NATO when the threat of the Soviet Union was gone…that the Russian Federation neither had the desire nor the means to threaten Europe. Yet, despite his pleas to stop antagonizing and provoking his country with continued aggressive expansionism, the West ignored him and pushed forward unabated right up to the very borders of Russia itself. In turn, Putin ratcheted up his warnings that he would be forced to respond in such a manner he felt was necessary to secure his nation’s strategic security concerns if things went unchanged.
Enter Putin’s reality. NATO now existed in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia–three former Soviet republics directly touching Russian soil. The safety of a buffer region between Russia and NATO now no longer exists. Still, Putin tolerated this new reality until NATO made overtures to Ukraine who signaled its willingness to join if invited. Putin rightly saw the loss of Ukraine to NATO expansion as a red line he would not allow. Ukraine is no small territory. It’s roughly 90% the size of Texas and is rich in natural resources including some of the most fertile farmland on earth. It used to be the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. It was valued highly by the Nazis during World War II and was the setting for some of the bloodiest battles of the war. But most importantly for Putin, it was a practical and necessary buffer zone that gave Russia strategic depth in case NATO ever mounted an invasion. When Ukraine began courting NATO for membership, and also began attacking ethnic Russians in the Donbas region, Putin had to act or he would be perceived as weak and impotent….qualities a man of determination and ambition must never show.
Whether Vladimir Putin is paranoid, deranged, or psychopathic is irrelevant. The fact that he feels internal pressures that force him to act on behalf of his nation is all that matters. His hand has been forced…whether we in the West agree with his motivations or not.
Whether Vladimir Putin is paranoid, deranged, or psychopathic is irrelevant. The fact that he feels internal pressures that force him to act on behalf of his nation is all that matters. His hand has been forced…whether we in the West agree with his motivations or not. On February 24th 2022, he decided his only remaining option was to invade Ukraine with nearly 200,000 troops armed with some of the best conventional weapons available. But something went wrong. Instead of the Ukrainians rolling over and submitting to Russia’s demands, it fought back. Not only did it fight back, it fought back stubbornly and with the help of NATO gifts of billions in military aid. The result, so far, has been thousands of dead Russian troops and the significant losses of tanks, armored personnel carriers, fighter aircraft, and naval vessels including their flagship the Moskova. Russia’s initial attempt to take Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, failed miserably forcing Putin to adjust his war strategy to a longer more methodical advance in the eastern Donbas portion of Ukraine. After three months, the war seems to be turning more in favor of the Russians, but the progress remains slow. It is safe to say that the end result is no longer in doubt.
When all the fighting is over, and the diplomats leave the negotiation table, Ukraine will be forced to see its new reality. They will be forced into the realization that their gamble was both unnecessary and foolish. They will learn the harsh lesson that NATO promises are cheap and Putin’s wrath is expensive. The aftermath of the war in Ukraine is likely to be a redrawing of the map where Ukraine is going to cede nearly half of its territory to Russia. Putin is going to have his buffer zone with the West. He is not going to allow NATO assets to ever be positioned on Ukrainian soil. He will pay a heavy price for his buffer zone, but such sacrifices are nothing new to Russians. History has shown that Russia will do whatever and sacrifice whatever it takes to win its battles. Napoleon learned the hard way. Hitler learned the same hard lesson. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, current President of Ukraine, is about to learn his lesson too. When you poke the Russian Bear, especially when it is ruled by an ambitious and determined leader like Vladimir Putin, the only result will be disastrous for the Bear poker. Welcome to Ukraine’s new reality.