Putin: An Ever-Growing Threat to World Stability
Putin’s been around long enough by now for most people to understand the measure of the man. Many people have spoken out about and against him over the last twenty years. For decades now, Gary Kasporov, better known for his chess moves, has minced no words warning about Putin’s menacing influence for the planet. “Putin’s algorithm of staying in power,” says Kasparov, “is launching hybrid war on the free world.”
More on Putin’s “hybrid war” later. With his latest play for Ukraine, it’s worth looking at him again, recapping what, exactly, he is doing and why, and sounding the alarm again, a little louder, and from a slightly different perspective.
The writing has been on the wall when it comes to Putin, for many years now. We didn’t need the 2014 invasion of Crimea to make it legible, but it certainly helped. This act of conquest on Putin’s part served to underline the Russian leader’s total lack of respect for international law, norms and national sovereignty. He pushed the Russian army into Crimea because Ukraine had the temerity to unseat the Russian puppet Yanukovych, and elect its own government — which happened to prefer the European Union over its Russian neighbor.
Now, while it is true that there are many ethnically Russian people in Crimea, and that Crimea has historically been part of the USSR and the Russian empire for hundreds of years, it is not clear that the majority of its inhabitants want to be Russian. Unfortunately, it is not entirely unclear, either. The problem is, however, that the “vote” that was taken on this question was conducted under Russian military occupation, with multiple reports of vote-rigging, coercion, and intimidation.
Why did Putin invade Crimea? He will say that this is the will of the Crimean people, most of whom are Russian, and that they want to be Russian. In reality the occupation was a part of his wider, long-term domestic strategy — to maintain his death grip over the Russian state, which, like Ancient Egypt was to the Ptolomies, has become his personal business. Putin staked his reputation and legitimacy on improving Russia’s economy. Not unlike China’s Communist Party, he clearly felt that having delivered a measure of economic growth, it was fair enough to limit people’s political and civic freedoms. And as with China, as long as the boom persisted…