Getting inside the mind of Vladimir Putin - article for The Australian - 13.02.22

This article by Paul Dibb begins with these words:


The danger of war between Russia and Ukraine is hotting up. Despite endless talks with Western leaders and their senior officials, Vladimir Putin continues a massive build-up of Russia’s military capabilities all along Ukraine’s borders, as well as in Belarus – which would be the shortest invasion route to Kiev.


US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday: “We are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it.” According to reports of a call with European leaders, President Joe Biden now believes Putin has decided to go ahead with an invasion of Ukraine, and allegedly named specific dates when Washington believed it might happen. In Melbourne, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time and, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics.”


I need to stress at the outset, I do not endorse Moscow’s belligerent attitude and the threat being posed to the very peace of Europe. But we need to begin by recalling what happened to the Soviet Union as it collapsed in 1991 and how this calamity continues to dominate thinking in the Kremlin. Putin recalls the Soviet collapse as a time when gross injustice was done to the Russian people: “It was only when the Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it had not simply been robbed but plundered.”


The former director of the CIA and US secretary of defence, Robert Gates, has recently stated that almost everything Putin does at home and abroad these days is rooted in the collapse of the Soviet Union, which for him marked the collapse of the four-century-old Russian empire and Russia’s position as a great power. Gates remarks that Putin’s current actions, “however deplorable, are understandable”. Since becoming President in 1999, Putin’s objectives have been to return Russia to its historical role as a major power and its historical policy of creating a buffer of subservient states on Russia’s periphery.


Putin strongly believes Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s fumbling policies of reform generated total chaos that legitimised runaway separatism in the Baltics and, ultimately, in the core Slavic territories of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Vladimir Putin is moving in to reassert Russia's sphere of influence to where it was in the late 1980's, says The New… Republic’s Alex Shephard. It comes amid growing concerns a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent – as the United States and its NATO allies ramp up More


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Getting inside the mind of Vladimir Putin by Paul Dibb for The Australian 13.02.22
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Putin, believes the Americans conspired to break up his country and encourage the creation of a separate country called Ukraine. Picture: AFP

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