People across the world have been shocked by the happenings in Ukraine. A glance at all of the morning newspapers had the events there as the main headline, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President’s name appearing prominently, Russia seldom. The television coverage is extensive. When the Swedish Vikings, who were known as the Rus, were ‘invited’ to put some governing stability into the region, in a comparatively short time, some twelve hundred years ago, Kyiv, after a few decades, became the capital. It was ideally situated for the Rus longboats, being on the River Dnieper coming from the Baltic. An early strong ruler was called Vladimir.
However, let us go back a while, but of much more recent times. Russian troops have been practising war games on the border for several weeks, hovering while Putin tested the diplomatic resolve of the western powers, keeping them guessing with evasion and lies, using this time to increase his forces to a formidable number, it is said about 190,000. One issue that he was concerned about was NATO on his border, and the possibility of Ukraine joining this defence pact on the border of Russia, which he sees as a threat. Ironically, NATO was formed shortly after WWII to form a defensive pact to counter the threat posed by Stalin’s Soviet.
This invasion of Ukraine is all about Putin, trying to leave a legacy that Russia would be proud of in history, before he is called to account by the ‘Grim Reaper’. He was brought up in the latter days of the Stalin era when Russia was feared as a formidable force, an ‘Empire’, with advanced technology and a nuclear capability. He watched as his country had to embarrassingly admit finally that it did not have the economic resources to run the conglomeration of East European countries that it had taken over after the end of WWII, The ‘Empire’. These countries, given independence, fairly quickly changed their form of government espousing democracy and shedding the strictures of communism and the autocracy it pervades. Putin lived all through that time, mostly as a member of the somewhat feared KGB, where he learned to not trust anyone, and must have been frustrated as a proud Russian to see his country gradually declining as a major power, even though he ‘fought’ his way through to ultimately get the top job and the autocratic form of government it encourages. No matter that the economy stagnates for the general populace. Communism is all about equality with ‘some being more equal than others’, as George Orwell succinctly put it. Autocracy soon gives way to dictatorship.
Putin has pretended to have his military in training exercises for the past few weeks, continuing them while he went off to the Winter Olympics held at Beijing, China, although he was really there to consult the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, the only other world leader in a country that holds to the communist path, arguably more rigidly than Russia. He was there to get the President of China’s approval for his planned invasion and President Xi was interested to see how he would fare in occupying the western border country, allowing him to concentrate his own forces for his own expansion aims, e.g. Taiwan. Xi ‘s acquiescence meant that he could take forces from his eastern border with China without fear. When the Games opened, Putin was seen in glorious isolation as he watched the athletes on ice with his usual hang dog facial expression.
He gave the impression, as he does increasingly, that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, alone to press ahead with his misguided aims. One is open-mouthed as to his outrageous view of history. The genocide that was perpetrated in Ukraine was no less than by Stalin, 3 million, and that is what Putin will be known by, if he unleashes (neo)-Nazi tactics on the Ukrainian people.
Europe would appear to be at last standing up and making its potentially strong voice heard. It needed Germany to act strongly which it has done. Sanctions have been placed by the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and a host of other nations. Sanctions, however, do not have an immediate effect, although the combined results have caused a significant run on the currency. People have been coming out to protest in many cities of the world and even in Russia where dissent is harshly put down. But this is a test of democracy; it has been challenged by a communist autocracy who have allowed a dictator to run the show with no term limits.
This situation has some way to run and in the short term, we are watching. It will undoubtedly change after the coming days, when the two parties are sitting down at the border with Belarus, which has a non-elected, fraudulent Russian puppet government installed, hosting. We should not expect too much from this, as Russia will control the agenda. The follow up will undoubtedly be more pressure from Russia.
The Ukrainian people, who have to be applauded for their stand, are giving a strong resistance, something that Putin didn’t really expect. He is someone who likes to get his way and will be upset at rejection, which the Ukrainians are bound to do. What will Putin then do? He will be upset and lose his cool. Watch this space.
Dr J Scott Younger. President Commissioner of Glendale Partners and member of IFIMES Advisory Board
IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN, New York, since 2018.