Do cultures ever learn from the past? If it’s in their perceived best interest, they just repeat it.
I am fascinated by the events and turmoil taking place in Ukraine these days as well as upset by them. The fascination comes from watching President Vladimir Putin’s posturing and hearing his rhetoric and the sadness comes from witnessing an attempt at history repeating itself. It is clear to me as confirmed by many pundits that Putin is attempting to restore the glory of the former Soviet Union to the Russian Federation. He would like to get all the Soviet satellite states back into the fold, his fold.
Because my blog is trying to tell a story which happened during the early ‘glory days’ of the Soviet Union, I feel a personal connection to the events happening today. The Russian leader today, Vladimir Putin, has taken lessons from Hitler’s and Stalin’s play book and that is to rule by intimidation and force, and exert power over vulnerable neighbors.
President Vladimir Putin currently has an 80+% approval rating in Russia but nonetheless took steps in 2013 to eliminate any opposition by strengthening his grip on power. Because of opposition protests in previous years, the government enforced a series of harsh laws against such protests. These restrictive laws also increased controls over the internet, expanded the definition of treason, labeled organizations that accept foreign grants.
As we know, prior to the Olympics in Sochi, the Kremlin also sought to toughen its stance by scapegoating minorities in Russian society. In the summer of 2013, Putin signed laws that effectively outlawed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activism and expression, and banned gay couples in foreign countries from adopting Russian children.
After annexing the Crimea region of Ukraine, Putin has deployed 100,000 troops along the eastern border of Ukraine but claims he will not invade. In the meantime, his clandestine goons, those in masks and unmarked uniforms, continue to create chaos in the region, setting the stage for either another pretext for forced action or a failed special election scheduled for the end of May. These tactics as well as ignoring the Geneva agreement of this past weekend continue to be an example of arrogance, intimidation and a lack of respect for the international community.
Putin’s rhetoric is also interesting to hear. During the Crimean crisis, he swore that the unidentified masked men were not Russian soldiers, but now freely admits they were. He sends his foreign ministers to Geneva to arrive at a truce, but then has no intention of honoring it.
Ukrainian troops moved against pro-Russia militants in the east today and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents. President Putin denounced what he described as a “punitive operation.” “If the Kiev government is using the army against its own people this is clearly a grave crime,” Putin said. While creating this chaos, Putin denies that any Russian agents are operating in Ukraine, but insists he would have the right to intervene in order to protect the ethnic Russians who make up a large minority in the east. Between the rhetoric and the posturing, he will get his own way.
In the fall of 2013, the Ukrainian people wanted economic stability and growth instead of poverty and government corruption, so they spoke out, trying to influence its government to sign an agreement with the EU for the possibility of a better economic future. Their belief, that protesting their government’s continued alliance with the Russian government would matter, has escalated to a probable military conflict with Putin’s Russian Army.
The vulnerable and unstable new Ukrainian government, and growing chaos on the ground, is the perfect storm Putin has been waiting for to justify the invasion and take over eastern Ukraine in the name of protecting ethnic Russians.
My reference to history repeating itself, the taking of eastern Europe is broad in scope but it just has to happen to one country, then it becomes a precedent for others to take this advantage. Border disputes are one thing but the desires for imperialistic conquests for whatever reason, through manipulative and bullying tactics are another. I had hoped those tactics were left behind in the 20th century. Hitler did this; Hirohito did this; Stalin did this and now Putin is doing this.