Sunday, March 20, 2022

Putin's Mistakes Rooted In Paranoia Toward West

The BBC's Allan Little has a lengthy and interesting article on how Russian thug and war criminal Vladimir Putin has recast world relationships and views with his invasion of Ukraine, and not according to his plan or liking. First, some background on the Russian nationalist mindset, infused with fear of the West and a sense of victimization:

"The Russian emblem, the double-headed eagle, looks both east and west. History has pulled Russia in opposing directions - democratic nation statehood in one direction, domineering imperial power in the other.

Go to St Petersburg and you will see another aspect of this dual character. It is the country's beautiful bay window on the Gulf of Finland. It is an 18th Century city, facing west. It is the European Enlightenment in architectural form. Under the Tsars it was the imperial capital.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow and power retreated behind the high, crenellated walls of the Kremlin. It is the architecture of defensiveness, of suspicion, even fear. When Russian leaders look west from here, they see flat open countryside rolling away to the south and west for hundreds of miles. There are no natural frontiers."

Russia's sense of being besieged and therefore needing a "sphere of influence" / puppet state buffer to the west is reflected in its concept of the "near abroad," i.e., countries that used to form the Warsaw Pact, from Poland to Bulgaria. In ethno-nationalist Russians' minds, Ukraine is a different case:

"The country's name comes from a Russian word for edge, or periphery. Putin regards it not as a neighbouring country, but as the frontier land of Russia itself - and he wants it brought back into the Russian fold."

Putin may want that outcome, but his brutal and inept invasion of Ukraine, which is resisting his forces with fierce resolve not to become part of Russia, has upset his plans, along with severe sanctions and support for Ukraine from the West. Here's what Putin sees now:

"The first is the state of his own armed forces.

The second is the resilience of the Ukrainian defence. Did Putin really expect the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine to welcome his troops as liberators? Did he really believe that the uprising of 2014 - which replaced the pro-Moscow government with one oriented to the West - was all a Western plot? If he did, then it reveals how little the Kremlin understands about its 'near abroad'.

But his biggest miscalculation has been to underestimate the resolve of the West. And this is what makes 2022 one of those pivotal years - the zeitenwende, in the words of Chancellor Scholz."

There are reports of upheaval in the ranks of his security services (FSB) and military, with top officials of the former under house arrest. Putin won't accept responsibility for his catastrophic actions, for to do so would likely result in his being removed from power. But a growing number of Russians -- including those carrying out his policies -- know the reality of the situation with Ukraine and the rest of the world, and that must have Putin very worried.

(photo: Putin in his KGB days in East Germany. Wikimedia)


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