Vlad the Instigator Enjoying Himself at West’s Expense
It is risky these days to write an opinion piece that attempts to analyze Vladimir Putin and the goings-on in Russia and Ukraine. In the time it takes to write and publish a 750-word column (roughly four to twenty-four hours) you could have that could be the equivalent of two-four news cycles in this rapidly changing situation. Just late yesterday the beginning of the Russian invasion was announced.
Over the past several weeks, it has not been uncommon for MSM platforms, to which you can subscribe for real-time updates, to come out with “breaking news” twice in the same day where the latter update seems to contradict the former. “Putin Set to Invade, White House Says.” “Russia Ready to Talk with White House.” These are the kinds of headlines that historically span the course of months. In this case, they can be separated by hours.
The typical opinion piece focuses on, “What does Putin Want in Ukraine.” It’s a valid question. If you place that question into the standard search bar, you get 2.3 million results. All forms of speculation are valid, and they are all correct to some degree.
- Putin is driving up the price of oil.
- Restore the old Soviet Union to its former glory
- Putin wants to keep Ukraine out of NATO membership.
- Putin wants NATO to recede for neighboring Ukraine States.
- Putin seeks leverage to use in negotiating an endless list of other demands
There is one bit of speculation that isn’t mentioned and that encapsulates any one, or all, of the above: Vladimir Putin is simply having fun.
Vlad the Instigator, the man who almost since the moment he has taken office has enjoyed playing Western leaders as if they were an ensemble Stratovarius violins performing a Prokofiev concerto, has got to be having more fun in this moment than he had since taking office in 1999 (he had a four-year gap 2008-12 where he was Russian Prime minister, not President). He reads the same Western news reports and op-eds that we read. He knows that he has his adversaries consulting experts, visiting fortune tellers, and reading entrails in an attempt to figure out his next move.
To this point, those “next moves” have seemed to be inexplicable and random. Perhaps they are unless you consider that the moves he’s been making have been intended to appear inexplicable and random. The term we used when I was a kid for what Putin is doing to the West was “yanking your chain.” This doesn’t mean he has no end game in mind, it simply means he is going to enjoy the journey on the way there. Putin is the playground bully to the West who has us in fear wondering if he is going to steal our Nike’s, our lunch money, or both.
Last month, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens did a succinct job in laying out Shirtless Vlad Putin’s run over the past 14 years:
- August 2008, Russia invades Georgia and takes control of two of its provinces. The Bush administration does nothing.
- Barack Obama pursues a “reset” with Russia after his 2008 election leading to his cutting U.S. force presence in Europe to its lowest levels in postwar history
- September 2013, Obama famously retreats from his “red line” in Syria, accepting instead a Russian offer of mediation. Putin notes U.S. palpable reluctance to get involved.
- February 2014, Russia seizes and annexes Crimea. The Obama administration protests but does almost nothing.
During Donald Trump’s term in office, nothing happened to weaken Putin’s position in the region either militarily or monetarily. The natural gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 & 2 both were completed and have come online making Germany and by extension the West dependent on Russian energy (this just in as I type- Germany shuts down Nord Stream 2. Writing these pieces is risky).
*Note – NS2 was never certified or operational.*
Putin did manage to get Trump impeached by doing nothing more than perhaps tinkering with a fake sex games dossier and keeping pressure on Ukraine. He must have loved watching the chaos he created in our nation unfold.
While Vlad sits in his Kremlin office flexing his muscles in mirrors, there are some very serious things going on here that Americans need to understand.
The people in Ukraine have a history of suffering under Russia that cannot and should not be ignored. It was 90 years ago during the Holodomor (a Ukrainian term combing “starvation” and “inflict death”) that Stalin systematically murdered through manufactured famine anywhere from 4-7 million Ukrainians. The exploitation and subjugation of the people of that nation continued for decades. As a Ukrainian national in the U.S. once said to me, “The difference between the Holocaust and the Holodomor is that the Holocaust ended. The Holodomor just changed forms.”
While some might argue that the plight of Ukrainians is not our concern, the other matter at hand is definitely our concern. Whatever Putin’s endgame is in Ukraine, there is no question that it serves as a distraction to the real threat which is a potential alliance between Russia and China.