What is Putin Thinking?

Raigo Pajula/AFP via Getty Images

Anti-western BS!

Don’t get me wrong! As a historian, I know all-too-well what crimes “the west” (aka. Europeans and colonials) are guilty of. This includes genocide, slavery, imperialism, colonization, and the massive inequality we see between developed and developing nations today. Not only does the legacy of this remain, but the crimes are still being committed in many forms.

Sputnik/Evgeny Odinokov/Kremlin via REUTERS
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Nursing Grudges

One cannot underestimate the role played by unresolved issues caused by the Soviet Union’s collapse. On the one hand, you have the many entitites that have emerged since 1991 in the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia. These states include Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Turkmenistan, and (since 2014) Crimea, and the Russian-backed regions around Donetsk and Luhansk.

Obsession with Ukraine

But the Ukraine has always been a particular thorn in the totalitarian ruler’s hip! Its decision to break away from the USSR in 1991, according to Russian sources, was viewed by Putin as a “betrayal.” The Orange Revolution (2004–5) and the Revolution of Dignity (2014) only deepened that sentiment.

atlanticcouncil.org

Just Look at the Maps

It has also been suggested that Russia’s plan is economic in nature (aka. “the capitalist agenda” angle) and that Putin is doing it to distract from Russia’s failing economy. As with most conspiracy theories, these notions can be dispelled by two counter-arguments. One, the invasion has been a disaster for Russia’s economy and Putin’s closest advisors did not fail to indicate as much.

Institute for the Study of War

They Already Tipped Their Hand!

In 2021, intelligence reports indicated that Putin’s military buildup along the Russian-Ukrainian border was part of a planned invasion that would be begin in January of 2022. However, Chairman Xi met with Putin and asked that he postpone any plans until after the Olympics wrapped up in late-February. Putin obliged, and the invasion began four days after the closing ceremonies.

atlanticcouncil.org

But Why Now?

That should be obvious at this point. We know what Putin wants and how he intends to secure it! Alas, there’s still the nagging question that many people raised when sharing their theories: why now? Indeed! Why is he doing this now? Hard to say. And the sad thing is, we may never know the answer to that question. Sure, there are possibilities and everybody seems to have their favorite:

  • Putin has suffered some kind of mental break, either due to COVID or Parkinson’s disease
  • He’s been taking steroids and its affecting his mental state
  • He’s feeling isolated and paranoid as a result of years’ worth of totalitarian behavior (i.e. he’s worried about a knife in the back).
  • He’s always been weak and we didn’t notice because we bought into what his propaganda machine was churning out.
  • He was concerned about growing opposition and the state of the Russian economy and needed a distraction

So… What Now?

The failures of his military forces have shined a blinding light on government corruption, embezzlement, and just how vulnerable its economy is. It’s also given time for foreign states to increase aid to Ukraine, slap additional sanctions on Russia, and for those sanctions to take effect.

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Matt Williams

Matt Williams

Space/astronomy journalist for Universe Today, SF author, and all around family man!