Finally, European nations have joined the United States in ratcheting up economic sanctions against Russia. They had been wavering, cowardly, because they are largely dependent on natural gas they get from Russia.
What changed their minds? Maybe it was the awful reality of a plane blown up in mid-flight and 298 human beings, including 40 children, falling six miles down to land dead on a field in northeast Ukraine.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin trotted out the usual dissembling lies and blame games after that atrocity, there is no doubt the surface-to-air missile that struck that plane was provided by Russia with Putin’s approval, along with many other missiles, to Ukrainian Russian separatists.
It’s about time Putin pays a price for his reckless, brutal interference in Ukraine. Putin is a thug, a throwback to the “good old days” of Soviet communism, which he obviously wants to revive to some degree. A former key member of the KGB (Soviet Secret Police), Putin was wired long ago to function as a spy, a cog in the Soviet State, and his thought patterns and strategies still bear the stamp of the hammer-and-sickle. He has learned through sly manipulations how to gain and retain power and how to play one faction against another for his own benefit in a kind of Machiavellian chess game. Even his mask-like, dead-looking face seems to conceal all kinds of underhanded schemes.
In his speeches, he has often pined for the supposedly wonderful old “Mother Russia.” In that respect, he is like those extremists, so-called Muslims, who seek to destroy anyone who doesn’t agree with their ludicrous nostalgia for a medieval glorious past that was anything but glorious. There is nothing more dangerous in this world right now than sentimental nostalgic nationalism. It is a throw-back distortion of the most hideous order; it’s an unfounded self-righteousness that feeds on bloodshed; it’s what caused most of the cataclysmic wars throughout history, including Hitler’s mythic Aryan delusions that led to the deaths of millions of Jews and others.
Unfortunately, Putin is popular in Russia. People in troubled times learn to love a dictator. During the first of his three presidencies, (1999-2008) it’s true the Russian economy, such as it is, showed tremendous growth, partly the result of foreign investments. Putin also initiated some good reforms that helped fight rampant organized crime and helped increase production, the energy industry and the standard of living. There’s no doubt he’s brought about successes and done many good things, including encouraging religious freedom and the protection of endangered animal species.
However, not to forget, other Soviet/Russian dictators, namely Lenin and Stalin, had their “successes,” too. Like those two, Putin has been hostile to dissenters, to human rights and to press freedoms. He has also shown open support for the oppressive, murderous tyrants in Syria and Iran.
Putin is an opportunist, a wheeler-dealer, a sly-and-slippery fish – the very product of the sinister, double-dealing network that was the KGB. He knows exactly when to turn on his “charm” to schmooze and boondoggle the Western democracies, but at heart he remains a monstrous egotist, a virtual dictator, a silly macho strutter and a sentimental nationalist with all that blather about “Mother Russia,” which was, in fact, a land of indescribable misery.
Putin knows exactly how to garner favorable reviews. For example, he spent tens of billions of dollars to showcase the last Winter Olympics, his expensive bid to be admired across the globe. Those who know his history and how he operates with his sense of entitlement and self-aggrandizement were not fooled one bit.
Putin is a volatile, highly dangerous man. It’s a shame he holds democratic countries such hostages to his energy exports. Someday, as his expansionist policies turn into more bloodshed and more horror, those European countries will come to regret their tacit, cowardly approval of his expansionism.
For now, at least, most nations in Europe have agreed enough is enough, that Putin is a threat to world peace on multiple fronts. We can only hope under economic pressure the thug backs down and Russians realize what a slippery snake he is.
Bring on the sanctions! Tighten the screws! Let Putin sag and collapse and let the Russian people finally wake up to the thug-in-disguise who is making a mockery of what he claims, hollowly, to stand for: freedom, humanity, decency and democracy.