An aging Vladimir Putin hopes the war in Ukraine can make a crumbling empire rise again

There is nothing more dangerous than the nostalgia of old men.

We see the consequences of their longing for the passage of time wherever we look across the globe today. In Brazil, the President Jair Bolsonaro seemed to yearn for a country like his youth, when he was a novice artillery officer and a military man ruling with no regard for the will of the people. India’s 71-year-old Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent his youth as a member of a right-wing nationalist paramilitary organization inspired by the Italian Fascist Party and whose imprint can be clearly seen as Modi has led the country during his tenure as nationalist and far from democracy. Xi Jinping’s Communist Party of China passed a resolution late last year framing him as one of the country’s era-defining leaders alongside the two dominant leaders of his youth, Mao Zedong and Deng. Are from Erdogan in Turkey arrive Orban in Hungary arrive Trump in America, we’ve seen leaders find ways to turn the celebration of traditional values ​​into a form of political Viagra.

Right now, the greatest danger the world faces from such a leader comes from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 69-year-old Putin has long been considered an insecure man about his fading malice, so much so that he creates sometimes humorous macho performances from underweight footage. mentions him riding topless through the Russian countryside to the hockey games he was always at. won by a tsunami scored by a Gretzky-like Vlad.

In a way, the most poignant of all Putin’s efforts to turn the clock back will be his futile efforts to restore Russia’s place in the world to that of the Soviet Union. where he grew up and where he worked as the KGB. officer from 1975 to 1991, when he resigned following a coup plot against Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the century”.

In a 2005 speech, Putin described it as “a real tragedy. Tens of millions of our compatriots and compatriots have found themselves beyond Russian territory. In the years since, he has turned his nostalgia into an impending disaster for the planet. He did so by bringing the country back to more Soviet-style autocracy, crushing opponents in brutal ways that Stalin could boast. He turned Russia into a geopolitical spoiler and maintained an army far beyond what the country could afford.

And he has sought to reassert Russia’s control over the lands and peoples it once systematically oversaw. In 2008, the Russian army recaptured part of Georgia. In 2014, Putin’s Russia annexed Crimea. His excuse was to fulfill the will of the ethnic Russian people who were being persecuted by the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. Fighting in the Donbas region of Ukraine has continued since then. But today, with 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Ukraine’s border, it seems that Putin’s desire to restore Russia to its former glory could lead to more than just an escalation of that protracted conflict. but also led to the largest land war in Europe since the end of World War II.

This week, US officials warned that “Russia has pre-arranged a task force to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine” with the aim of creating a pretext to launch an all-out invasion of the neighboring country. Russia’s neighbors. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan commented: “We saw this book in 2014. They are preparing this book again.” U.S. intelligence estimates suggest the invasion could begin as early as next month.

The US and its NATO allies have been locked in in-depth discussions to ensure they deliver an effective and coordinated response to threats from Russia. That response could include the supply of military equipment to Ukraine, forward deployment of NATO forces to other member states along the alliance’s eastern border, and economic and political sanctions. Strict. Secretary of State Antony Blinken led a generally well-coordinated chorus of NATO leaders warning the Russians against aggression and assuring them that the consequences would be “severe” if they did.

Three rounds of negotiations over the past week between Russia, the United States and Europe have failed to reduce tensions between Moscow, Ukraine and NATO. The Russians wanted the Western alliance to promise not to expand further around its borders. They assert that former US Secretary of State James Baker promised long ago that we would not expand NATO into Eastern Europe. Baker himself has denied this and the evidence shows that the Russians are distorting the truth about what really happenedHowever, the truth has never been taken seriously by Putin (as evidenced by his attraction to false flag activities).

Fortunately and fittingly, the Biden national security and foreign policy team and our NATO allies are absolutely clear that they will not yield to Russian demands on NATO size, military level. in member states near the Russian border or in coalition support for Ukraine. Concessioning any facility in any of these areas would set a disastrous precedent, suggesting that an alliance that exists largely to defend the West from Russia could be threatened with weakening. himself against threats of Russian aggression.

It is more likely that Putin thinks that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid political upheaval in the US, the Biden administration may be weakened or unable to play the traditional US leadership role in NATO. That proved to be a serious miscalculation. From tough negotiations led by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to frequent, intensive coordination with allies to a comprehensive and sophisticated public diplomacy campaign in which the United States and With allies maintaining a united front and regularly pointing out Russia’s mistakes and malicious intentions, the Biden team has masterfully managed this crisis to date. Indeed, it seems that their actions have been informed and enhanced by their experiences over the past year. But it must also be said that Biden, Blinken, Sullivan and their team have deep experience in transatlantic relations and dealing with Putin, and that is showing in their handling of events for now.

However, the stalemate is not over yet. Over the past few days, Russia has been heating up. In addition to intelligence about moving assets in preparation for war, Russia has increased its naval activity in the Baltics and has even threatened to deploy military assets to Cuba or Venezuela.

Between this incident and its own media campaign to justify its actions, Putin’s government is acting on his desire to, as the Beatles put it, “return to the Soviet Union”. Foreign Minister Putin made this clear when he argued that NATO exists only to take over “the territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union”. Orphan? That represents Putin’s point perfectly. Like so many old men, he is emotionalizing the dominant role in his soul by his dear Old Homeland.

Unfortunately for Ukraine, Putin’s psyche will likely continue to play out at their expense. It seems that Putin cannot back down at this point without appearing weak. That said, a protracted conflict in Ukraine would cost Russia a lot – starting with harsh economic sanctions and once again being seen as a pariah nation and continuing to suffer. the harsh costs of war. Perhaps the most likely outcome, therefore, is a military action seeking modest gains, some additional land, possibly gaining control of the land bridge to Crimea, and other means without they believe will weaken the government in Kyiv. These may include cyberattacks—which in fact may have started this week.

If NATO maintains its resolve and quickly imposes a heavy price on Russia for such an invasion, perhaps the consequences of Putin’s current adventure could be limited and fear escalating. will be appeased. But the threat posed by Putin and his toxic nostalgia will not end with this episode.

On the day Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet era ended, one of the biggest hits in the world was a song whose title has evoked Putin’s mind ever since, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on” Me” by George Michael and Elton John. An aging Vladimir Putin hopes the war in Ukraine can make a crumbling empire rise again


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