The world has woken up to the unprovoked aggression and senseless massacre of Ukrainians, by President Vladimir Putin of Russia – a tyrant hallucinated by neo-Russianism and expansion. No rational mind could have believed that such a scourge of inhumanity and insanity would take place in the 21st century. It is taking place because Putin the Terrible has thrown caution to the wind and bloodshed becomes the order of the day.
Putinism, an ideology of lies, aggression, and suppression, has a striking resemblance with the evil ideology of Adolf Hitler. It is a barbaric ideology that encourages the use of force to subjugate citizens against their will. Putinism is the creed of the authoritarians that has deaf ears for truth. It is the dogma that triumphs evil over good.
Following the defeat of Germany during the 1st World War, the country lost some German territories to the victors. Among those that brooded over the defeat was Hitler, one of the pioneers of Nazism, who later became the leader (Führer) of Germany. When Hilter’s appetite for territorial expansion grew, to contain him and avoid another war, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Britain, in September 1938, infamously agreed with him at Munich (Munich Agreement) to annex Sudentenland, which was an ethnic-german territory of Czechoslovakia.
Rather than the appeasement quenching Hilter’s inordinate ambition, it embodied him to assume that Britain and France were fatigued and weary to challenge his hunger for expansion. Thus, on 1st September 1939, to the amazement of the world powers belonging to the League of Nations, Hitler invaded Poland and plunged the world into another world war. He triggered the war after signing a non-aggression pact (neutrality treaty) with Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, on 23rd August 1939 – a pact which ended with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in an operation called Operation Barbarossa, on 22nd June 1941. Ukraine bore the burden of the Nazi military firepower and terrorism in the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian inhabitants, especially the people of Kyiv, were brutally starved through the Hunger Plan designed to exterminate millions of them. Hitler had ordered the total destruction of Kylv with excessive firepower and incendiary bombs before the Hunger Plan was adopted. It is the same Ukrainian people that defended Russia from falling into the hands of the Nazi army, whose fertile land provided grains for soviet cities to survive that Putin is mercilessly massacring with superior firepower.
Just like Hitler, Putin, a 69-year-old law graduate, and KGB lieutenant colonel had brooded over the fall and balkanization of the USSR after the Cold War. As a politician, he served as a director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and later Secretary of the Security Council under president Boris Yeltsin of Russia.
No doubt, Putin was a patient strategist. He hesitated no less in succeeding President Boris Yeltsin in August 1999 as the president of Russia. Putin, with the oil boom in Russia, continuous demand for Russian gas by the European countries, increase in foreign investment, prudent management of the Russian economy, suppression of his political opponents, started the long march to restore the lost glories of Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Serious Russian military reform was done and confidence was built.
This was evident in the Russian victory of the Second Chechen War (1999-2000), and the support Russia gave to the Georgian separatist groups, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The aggressive invasion of Russia to Georgia, a pro-western country, on 8th August 2008 left many to wonder about the essence of sovereignty. Following the invasion, Russia established military bases in separatist regions, and ethnic Georgians were ruthlessly expelled from the regions. To the Russian government, might is right.
Many tyrants like Putin hardly see the high cost of war as a deterrent. As long as they are victorious, it is renewed impetus to fight on. Hence, Putin’s senseless invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine, the second-largest country with a landmass in Europe shares boundaries and heritage with Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continued its affair with Russia, and also extended its relationship to other world institutions. For example, in 1992, Ukraine became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. On 11th January 1994, Ukraine agreed to the Partnership for Peace with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Following that, a NATO-Ukraine Commission was set up on 9th July 1997. It is obvious that Ukraine, just like Baltic countries, was on a march to join NATO. To the surprise of NATO members, Ukraine president, Leonid Kuchma, on 15th July 2004, decreed that Ukraine’s drive to become a member in NATO was no more his country’s priority. His alliance with Putin has fattened.
The 2004 presidential campaign and election in Ukraine was a challenge to the Russian growing influence in Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko, a pro-Western politician was contesting against the prime minister of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych from the Donetsk region. Yanukovych enjoyed the support of Putin and Leonid Kuchma. It was a fierce contest slowed by the sudden strange illness of Yushchenko viewed by many people as an assassination attempt. World sympathy was on Yushchenko, who charmed many voters. Indeed, the presidential contest drew world attention.
However, after the first runoff of the election, Yanukovych, a pro-Russia Ukrainian aspirant was announced as the winner. Tension was high. Ukrainians sensed foul play and protested the result until the Supreme Court of Ukraine overturned it. The protest was called Orange Revolution. It took a repeat of the election in December 2004 for Yushchenko to win a landslide. Would Putin be happy? The answer is yours.
As a pro-western Ukrainian president, Yushchenko worked ceaselessly for the admission of Ukraine as a full NATO member. For instance, in April 2005, the government of Ukraine noted: “Based on the fact that NATO and the EU are the guarantors of security and stability in Europe, Ukraine is preparing for full membership in these organizations.” Meanwhile, some of the Ukrainian opposition parliamentarians, fueled by the Russian sentiment, opposed the admission of Ukraine in NATO.
The climax of the membership debate was during the NATO meeting in Bucharest, Romania, in April 2008. In his address, Vladimir Putin allegedly said that “Ukraine is not even a state! What is Ukraine? A part of its territory is Eastern Europe, but a part, a considerable one, was a gift from us!” The speech was enough to stirr up reactions. In calming the simmering political tension, NATO agreed to suspend Ukraine and Georgia from becoming its member. The setback could be felt in President Yushchenko’s interview with a Times of London in November 2008: “Ukraine has done everything it had to do. We are devoted to this pace. Everything else is an issue of political will of those allies who represent NATO.”
In February 2010, Yanukovych bounced back to become the next president of Ukraine, after defeating Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. Two months later, he had an agreement with the Russian government (Kharkiv Pact) and extended Russia naval’s usage of Sevastopol port at the Black Sea till 2042. In exchange for that, Russia reduced the price of natural gas to Ukraine. Although his opponents were against the deal, the bill narrowly sailed through after commotion in the Parliament. It seemed that Russia was winning the race to grab Ukraine until Yanukovych stretched the endurance of Ukrainians too far in 2013.
When hope was high for the signing of Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement in November 2013, President Yanukovych, abruptly suspended it. European Union fumed and Ukrainians were angered. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. For several months, protests and demonstrations engulfed Ukraine. It was called the Revolution of Dignity. More than 68 protesters were killed. Ukraine was boiling out of hand. An attempt by Putin to appease Ukraine with billions of dollars of financial assistance was unsuccessful. Yanukovych was accused of being Putin’s puppet. Fearing that the parliament would impeach him for charges against him on 22nd February 2014, Yanukovych condemned the plot and escaped from Kyiv and reappeared in Russia where he called those that took over from him fascists. It was a development that inflamed Putin, and which he could not endure.
Incensed by that and fearing that the new government would tilt to the west, Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. On 18th March 2014, in justification of the Crimea annexation, he said that Ukraine and Russia “are one people. Kyiv is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus’ is our common source and we cannot live without each other.” With this in mind, Putin fuelled and sponsored separatist groups in Donbas – the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. A cease-fire agreement (the Minsk Protocol) signed on 5th September 2014, intended to ensure relative peace in the volatile Ukrainian regions were repeatedly violated by the emboldened separatists. Surprisingly, the nations of the world reacted very little to sanction Putin’s obsession for territorial expansion. Thus, he was energized to expand further.
Strengthened by the heavily equipped Russian army he stationed at the borders of Ukraine and Ukrainian regions he annexed, Putin demanded the agreement of the American government to forestall Ukraine from becoming a NATO member. The latter would not agree with him since Ukraine was a sovereign nation. All diplomatic efforts by the countries of the world to placate Putin ended on deaf ears. He was determined to realize his dream – the expansion of Russia through the full invasion of Ukraine. Putin was aware of the unwillingness of the Western countries to fight another world war. Thus, his warning: “…very important words for those who may be tempted to intervene in ongoing events. Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history.”
On 24th February 2022, filled with lies and false excuses “for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine” and also to save the separatist groups from annihilation, Putin, declared a full-scale war on an independent country that did not fire a shot to Russia.
The reality is that Putin is losing war notwithstanding his overwhelming military advantage. His army is not combat-motivated – easily rattled by the spirited Ukrainian military and civilians ready to defend their country. The uncommon courage of the 44-year-old Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky has boosted the morale of the fighters and united the nation. No doubt, Putin has miscalculated. His authoritarianism has no strength in Ukraine. President Zelensky has smartly elbowed him out of the world’s favour. He has sliced him into a size and deplumed his large tyrannical feathers. Without firing a shot at Russia he has isolated and brought Putin’s country to its knees. From all parts of the world, unprecedented sanctions are shelled to the Russian economy. The effect is devastating. Russian stock exchange has frozen. It is a severe result of having a tyrant rule a country – a country where a cry for war echoes louder than a call for diplomacy.
Putin’s magic torch is waning. His expansionist ideology has backfired and “de-Putinified.” His frustration is apparent in his call for the readiness of the Russian nuclear weapons. The police brutality and intimidation of the Russian anti-war demonstrators have never faded the waves of protesters surging daily.
Peter the Great of the Russian Empire made Russia great through the westernization of his empire. He sought the alliance of the western monarchs, copied and adopted some of their socio-political, economic, and technology policies. Without the use of force but negotiations and diplomatic maneuvering he got Kyiv from Poland and included it into his empire. Putin is failing in Russia because he is doing the opposite. The daily bombardment of Kyiv and massacre of the Ukrainian people that should have been closer to him left much to be desired. His crushing paranoia, obsession, and brutality remind one of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, whose reign of terror in Russia in the 16th century has brought shame to Russian civilization.
President Zelensky should continue to hold the Bull by the horn. The world has not forgotten the mistakes of the 20th Century that plunged the world into the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Putin is sparking for the 3rd World War but the world leaders are careful with their thinking cap. No matter the outcome of the ongoing massacre of Ukrainians, and Russian economic strangulation, all nations, irrespective of the political affiliation, should join hands to crush Putinism – an ideology of deception, hate, and suppression.
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