Has Putin “gone round the bend”

Has Putin “gone round the bend”

March 2, 2022 0 By Rick

It’s day seven and Ukraine is still standing. Before attempting to tackle issue of Putin’s sanity or lack thereof, I’d like to explain why I’ve been using the “Kiev” spelling. Is it Kiev or Kyiv? As Russian forces stand poised on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital and thousands flee, the least we outsiders can do is learn how to spell the city’s name under siege. And that includes me. Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. The Russian version is “Kiev” (kee-yev), left from when it was part of the Soviet Union. From now on, I’ll be using the Ukrainian spelling. Now let’s move on. Has Putin totally lost it or – and that’s a big “or – is the crafty old KGB operative trying to make the West believe he is unstable and capable of doing anything no matter how hideous? You can be sure that Western intelligence agencies are trying to figure out his mindset. Putin appears to be driven by emotion, which is extraordinarily dangerous because Putin has few checks and balances. He has become increasingly defiant and angered as the world has come together to oppose him. The arts, the business world (for the most part), the sporting world, including some Russian athletes, and now two of the oligarchs Putin relies on for support – Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska, have broken ranks with the Kremlin in recent days by calling for an end to the war. Who will be next?

Will he or won’t he?
Those of us who’re monitoring the mind-boggling Russian invasion closely have been wondering whether he will or won’t. Russia’s nuclear doctrine, published in 2020, also includes a first-use nuclear policy. The Kremlin “reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, including for the prevention of an escalation of military actions and their termination on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation and/or its allies.” Russian expert Fiona Hill is known for telling things like they are. There’s no sugar-coating in her analyses. She believes much danger lies ahead. Putin is increasingly operating emotionally and likely to use all the weapons at his disposal, including nuclear ones. It’s important not to have any illusions — but equally important not to lose hope. Every time you think,’ No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would, and he wants us to know that,” Hill opined. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared…. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what it is that we’re going to do to head them off.” Let me repeat, Fiona Hill is a highly respected Russian expert who has advised Democratic and Republican administrations, and she’s saying he would. “Ukraine has become the front line in a struggle, not just between democracies and autocracies but in a struggle for maintaining a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force,” Hill continues. “Every country in the world should be paying close attention to this.

Russian Imperium
The image that Putin likes to project is that of a ruthless, tough guy, a strong man who protects Russia and its “soul.” Putin talks about a Russian World, where Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same. Putin’s playbook for rebuilding this empire is crude and basic. Putin is coming to the rescue of an oppressed population and a “fascist” government (neo-Nazis, terrorists and drug-addicted bandits in the case of Ukraine) that’s backed by the United States. It’s more than reconstituting the Soviet Union. Remember, the former Soviet Union didn’t include all the territories that historically were part of the Russian Empire. So, why is this important, you might be asking? Well, it implies that Putin believes that borders change, which means the borders of the old Russian Imperium are still up for grabs for Moscow. Putin wants to re-gather all the Russian-speakers in different places that once belonged to the Russian tsardom. Is that his end game? Does it mean he wants to annex all these areas and make them part of the Russian Federation like he’s done with Crimea? We don’t know what we don’t know. Only time will tell.

The nuclear option
Putin has made it very clear that the nuclear option is on the table. He even tried to warn President Trump, but Trump missed the point. Fiona Hill was at one of the final meetings between Trump and Putin. The exchange went like this, according to Hill. Well, you know, Donald, we have these hypersonic missiles.” And Trump responded with, “Well, we will get them too.” Putin countered with, “Well, yes, you will get them eventually, but we’ve got them first. Putin was putting us on notice that if push came to shove, he’d play the nuke card. Think again if you don’t think Putin will use a weapon already in his arsenal. He has already used radioactive Polonium and Novichok (a weapons-grade nerve agent) to murder people. But we shouldn’t allow Putin to intimidate us because that’s exactly what he wants. Will he stop at Ukraine? Fiona Hill doesn’t think so. She thinks he’s trying to destroy the rules-based international order. Putin believes that might makes right. Given that Putin has been on the scene for 22 years and gave us warnings with his statements and forays into Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, I must ask how in the world we didn’t see Putin coming? Did we miss all the signs or simply ignore them because they were uncomfortable? So, has Putin gone round the bend or is he pursuing a long-planned strategy? Only Putin knows.