Putin's Thought Process
Yeah, when Putin invades Ukraine at the end of the Olympics, I'll probably regret writing this, but let's have at it anyhow.
No matter what you or I may think of the tensions at the Ukrainian Border, let's open up by thanking the American Founding Fathers for their forethought. They drafted the American Constitution in 1776 and developed 3 branches of government. Using checks and balances, the President of the United States has limited power granted by the citizens of America. The powers of the President were further curbed by the 22nd Amendment, which limited a President to 2 elected terms in power.
As I sit on my comfy couch and write about Russia, I am reminded that the American People, especially in the middle of this fine country, have had it relatively easy for about 160 years (basically since the Civil War). Almost every war has been fought "over there."
Editor's Note: If you don't respect the Founding Fathers, calling them a bunch of old white men that owned slaves, get out of here. Seriously, out. The adults are talking.
Since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, when Vladimir Putin was 39, Russia has yearned to be feared like in the Soviet days, while the former Soviet satellites are very happy to have their independence. (Well, maybe not Belarus.) Not from my perspective in my living room, but on the ground in Kiev, where 90% of Ukrainian citizens voted for independence, they crave an independent Ukraine.
Now if you go to Moscow, which is about 10 hours away, probably about 75% of Russians consider Ukraine to be part of Russia. One out of 5 people living in Ukraine are Russian. Again, and I can't stress this enough, I am writing this from the luxury of my suburban home in the United States. There are a THOUSAND YEARS OF LITERATURE, FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, THAT STATE UKRAINE IS RUSSIA, and there are another THOUSAND YEARS OF LITERATURE, ALSO FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, THAT STATE THAT UKRAINE IS UKRAINE. A gross oversimplification is that the Russia/Ukraine Conflict is nothing more than a regional Civil War.
During the time of the first World War, for example, Ukraine fought for its independence while being overrun at times by the Germans, Poles, Austrians, and (of course) the Russians. Ukraine's history is incredibly complicated in just that short 5 year window. Coming out World War I, the stateless territory of Makhnovia emerged in Eastern Ukraine, in almost the same exact area as the Russia/Ukraine Conflict exists today.
Makhnovia 1920: In Red
Makhnovia only existed for 3 years before being gobbled up by the Soviets, but it was known as an anarchist republic. How many times have lawless territories coexisted on the front lawn of a major country?
Disputed Ukrainian Territory Today: In Red
So in defense of Putin, he is basically saying, to the world, but specifically the United States "THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." And, fundamentally, he is right.
I believe that Russia has a right to exist and I believe that Ukraine has a right to exist. But Putin, on the other hand, probably knows that thousand years of Russian History that I glossed over in a paragraph or two. He is the living avatar of a thousand years of conflict. The weight of Russian Nationalism falls on his shoulders.
And Putin is not restrained by his own government. In 2020, the entire Russian Government resigned when he re-wrote the Russian Constitution to give himself more power in his 16th (now 18th) year in power. It was the second time he circumvented the Russian Constitution to stay in power, the first time being when he flip-flopped positions with the Prime Minister in 2008. Right now, only 2 principles guide Putin: His Russian Identity and, well, Putin Himself within the realm of Russian History.
Which circles us back to the U.S. Constitution. My Father-in-Law hated Obama. After 8 years, Obama was out of office. About the other half of the country hated Donald Trump. Guess what? No matter how much CNN treats Donald Trump as the Boogie Man, he, too, was out of power, his time only lasted 4 years. The mechanisms of checks and balances still work better here than in Russia.
The way things work in America are not the way they work in Russia. Whether that's right or wrong, that's immaterial. That's just the way it is.
And Putin has his own red line. It's not in Lithuania. It's not in Romania. It's in Ukraine. Ukraine even flirting with NATO a little bit, enrages Putin to no end. Don't look at the Ukraine situation through an American Lens, look at it through the Russian point-of-view. I really don't think Putin's ready to risk toppling his revenue streams because Ukraine is creating alliances with America, I don't. He cares about the optics of Ukraine being allies with Russia's great historical nemesis: GERMANY.
You know what's going to happen in 2023 if Putin annexes all of Ukraine? All of a sudden, Russia is going to have a Ukrainian "terrorist" problem that they didn't have before. I don't speculate that Putin's end game is all of Ukraine. More likely, Putin's goal is a land bridge to Crimea and the territory along the Russian border with a high percentage of native Russians. He wants to punch Ukraine in the mouth, really hard, for even THINKING about joining NATO and he wants the international community to acknowledge that Crimea is Russia. Putin wants to develop that economic engine.
And I don't think Putin wants democracy in Ukraine, because next thing you know, the people will want real democracy, not an oligarchy, in Russia. At the end of the day, Putin's top priority is keeping Putin in power.
Makhnovia is never coming back, but since 2014, the Donbas region has been in open rebellion against the Ukrainian government. What's specifically going on in Donbas today? Of course it's complicated. If you look up the belligerents in Donbas, on one side is Ukraine and on the other side is Russia AND the Donetsk People's Republic AND the Luhansk People's Republic.
Both the Donetsk and the Luhansk People's Republics are in for a rude awakening when they THINK they are getting support in their independence movement from Russia, only to be, almost certainly, swallowed up by Russia.
The situation in Crimea, is pretty simple. Russia wants Crimea, Crimea wants to be Russia. Ukraine doesn't want to let Crimea go.
What never stops churning though, is Russian Propaganda:
Russia keeps beating the drum that they would only start a war to defend themselves. That is laughable. Ukraine is never going to invade Russia. The Republic of Donetsk is never going to invade Russia. The Republic of Luhansk is never going to invade Russia.
One more fact to even muddy the waters further. American Presidential Candidate Spike Cohen wants you, the average American, to know that there's Nazis in Ukraine. (Again, the German/Ukraine connection.) Too bad we didn't believe Putin's Propaganda Arm a year ago when we wrote about the Nazis in Ukraine at Beacon of Speech:
The Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, as bad as they are, aren't the German Nazis. The Ukrainian Nazis are not marching on any of their neighbors bent on world domination. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky is NOT a Nazi.
Putin came out warning against Nazis as a precursor to War with the Ukraine. But Nazis don't run Ukraine and their numbers are in the thousands, not in the millions. Putin wants to weaken Ukraine by annexing the "Russian" parts like Crimea. The problem is, Ukraine does not want to lose any more of their sovereign lands. Ukraine has a right to exist. Putin is now trying to take the moral high-ground by calling his Ukrainian Brothers, Nazis. His new angle wouldn't be annexing a sovereign land, but stopping Neo-Fascism.
Why is Libertarian Spike Cohen so adamant about Ukraine? Because he doesn't want American troops sent to Ukraine. Maybe I'm missing it, but I'm not feeling that there's a groundswell to send troops Ukraine. I don't think we should send troops to Ukraine either, but if Putin invades, there has to be repercussions. What do I suggest? I would....
You know what? I don't have any idea. I'm going to get another blanket because my toes are cold. I am very grateful that I live in America. I could write another thousand pages about the Russia/Ukraine Conflict and not have a solution. If the Russian Constitution was as strong and binding as the American Constitution, we wouldn't be having this conversation about trying to guess what's going on in Vladimir Putin's Skull.
We'll give Pravda's resident Jingoist Alexander Shtorm the final word. He is knee deep in reporting from the Russian Perspective: WORLD WAR 3: WHAT RUSSIA CAN DO TO BURY UKRAINE -AND HERSELF