Why did Putin invade Ukraine? He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide in the Donbas and to demilitarise and de-nazify Ukraine There has been no genocide anywhere in Ukraine; it is a democracy and its president, Volodomyr Zelensky, is Jewish. Putin has often accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists ever since its pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was kicked out after months of protests against his rule in 2014. At the time, Russia retaliated by seizing the Crimea Peninsula and inciting a rebellion by separatists in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine. It is likely that Putin wants to install a puppet regime in Ukraine, much like that in neighbouring Belarus1,2

There are recent articles which have noted changes in Putin’s demeanour over the last few years and make suggestions that he might be losing his grip on reality. This was perhaps reinforced by his rambling speech announcing the invasion of Ukraine3. In this speech, he whined about the encroachment of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said “It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns.” Several of the former vassal states of the Soviet Union have elected to join NATO, as well as the European Union (EU)4.

To join the EU, a nation has to satisfy the Copenhagen Criteria which include being a free-market economy, a stable democracy, with adherence to the rule of law, and the acceptance of all EU legislation, including of the euro5. To aspire to join NATO, a nation must uphold democracy, including tolerating diversity, at least be making progress toward a market economy, have their military forces under firm civilian control, respect sovereignty outside their borders, and be working toward compatibility with NATO forces6.

Putin, as well as longing for the past, is also frightened not so much of the encroachment of NATO and the EU, but the encroachment of the criteria of membership, particularly those referring to democracy and a market economy. Putin rules over a faux democracy run by kleptocrats (Putin is generally acknowledged to be the wealthiest person in the world, a big step up from being a KGB functionary). As Janne Korhonen explains, what Putin fears most is democracy, not imposed by an attack from without, but imposed by the Russian people7,8. 

I suspect Putin can see the writing on the wall, with the latest opinion poll from October 2021 indicating that Russians’ trust in Putin has dropped to the lowest level since 2012.

This Levada Center survey found 53 percent of respondents said they trusted Putin, down from 71 percent in September 2017. Levada said it was the lowest recorded level of trust for the Russian leader since October 2012, when 51 percent of respondents said they trusted him. Trust in Putin soared in 2015, a year after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, reaching nearly 80 percent, according to Levada9. While approval ratings like that are such as democratic governments could only dream of, there is no effective political opposition to Putin’s rule. The nominal leader of the opposition, Alexei Navalny is in a labour camp somewhere in Russia and much of his organisation is in exile10. The fact that significant numbers of people have demonstrated in Russian cities against the invasion of Ukraine, given they know they will be arrested just for protesting, says much about the depth of revulsion within Russia at the invasion of Ukraine11.

Malignant narcissists aspire to what they perceive as their rightful place in the world, whether it be as leaders of industry or as heads of state, but more often than not their malignance will, in time, ensure their own downfall. Be it because they believe that the laws of the rest of us should not apply to them, or something as simple as evading taxes, embezzlement, mistreatment of colleagues or family members, or in the case of heads of state, taking their nation down a destructive path12. The latter is what Putin has done.

Putin’s problem is that he knows that Russians’ belief in his abilities is declining and, given that he is already effectively a dictator and stupendously wealthy, has control of the media, the armed forces and the police, he can do little more about its decline. I suspect that he is attempting to regain the stratospheric approval levels in what he perceives as his glory days of 2015 after the invasion of the Crimea Peninsula.

I also suspect that his bizarre, rambling, fanciful speeches full of absurdities as they are, coupled with his implicit threat to use nuclear weapons against the west if they intervened in the invasion of the Ukraine, will have alarmed some of the more sensible people (assuming there are some) in the Russian power structure. I expect that Putin will be removed by them, but when that happens is the billion dollar question. 

Like many malignant narcissists who lead nations, Putin has made the mistake of conflating himself with the Russian federation. This is indicated by his silly assertion that NATO’s eastward expansion is a plot to destroy Russia. If Russia was a democracy run by people other than a despotic kleptocrat, it could in future be eligible to actually join NATO.

The fact that the invasion of Ukraine has not gone as quickly and as easily as Putin would have expected, perhaps because of assistance provided to the Ukraine from NATO and the United States, will make Putin even more nervous and perhaps irrational. While it is unlikely that the Ukrainian armed forces can defeat the Russian Army without significant help from outside, they have had several successes13. For instance; there was a Russian airborne assault on the Hostomel airfield (30-minutes from the centre of Kiev) with the intended purpose of creating an airbridge in which troops and equipment could arrive less than 10 kilometres from Kyiv. 30 Russian helicopters landed airborne troops and initially captured the airfield after three hours of fighting, but a Ukrainian counteroffensive by the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade of the National Guard encircled and killed or captured the Russian defenders. The following day (February 25) Russian ground forces advancing from Belarus took the airport after breaking through the Ukrainian lines14.

Things may go worse for Putin when the Russian people start to realise that many of their young soldiers will not be coming home. The quicker they get rid of him, the more of their soldiers will come home.

Sources

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/24/putin-russian-president-ukraine-invasion-mental-fitness
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/putin-ukraine-speech.html
  5. https://european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/joining-eu_en
  6. https://1997-2001.state.gov/regions/eur/fs_members.html
  7. https://blotreport.com/2022/02/24/janne-korhonen-quote/
  8. https://jmkorhonen.net/2022/02/23/on-the-kremlins-imperialism/
  9. https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-poll-trust-lowest-levels/31497686.html
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexei_Navalny
  11. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/24/ukraine-crisis-hundreds-detained-in-anti-war-protests-in-russia
  12. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/spycatcher/202007/when-the-narcissist-fails
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Antonov_Airport

6 Comments

  • arthur says:

    Oh man, I don’t think I’ve been so disappointed since I learned about Santa.
    You give me the impression of one with no memory of recent or distant history. There are so many assertions and name calling in this piece to reply too. I’m just a simple man with a lower high school education but I am directing you to an recent interview between Paul Jay and Colonel Larry Wilkerson ex advisor to Coli Powell when Secretary of state. He now teaches Strategic Studies at the College of William and Mary.If it,s overlong for you check youtube for Noam Chomsky’s analysis but for christs sake turn off your fuckin tv because it is horseshit they are spoon feeding you. good luck

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      I have a memory of most recent and distant history. One of my hobbies is military history, and I am very aware of the numerous wars in the last 50 or so years and know well the hypocrisy of all nations, including the US, UK and Australia. In addition, I write rants, not treatises. To wade through all the crap that has gone before would have taken too long and you’d be still reading it and be even more irate. I do not get most of my information on Ukraine from television but from people like those whose quote you were presumably impressed by a few days ago. One of those is Australian Major General Mick Ryan (retired, a couple of days ago) (https://twitter.com/WarintheFuture) and those he quotes. These include ISW, Michael Kofman, Dan Lamothe, UK MOD, OSINTtechnical and several others. I will check out the Wilkerson interview when I can. Our NBN is having major problems at present, exacerbated by the rain. Was Wilkerson scathing of Powell’s WMD fairy tale excuse for the invasion of Iraq? I reiterate, Putin is the major problem. Just because others have also been to blame for part of the situation in which the world finds itself, doesn’t mean Putin is blameless, despite what Fox News says. I reiterate, Putin is the major problem.

  • Jim says:

    Hi Arthur,

    I watched the Jay/Wilkinson interview. It was basically a 1960s style student discussion on the American military industrial complex with the addition of comments about the Russian and Ukrainian military industrial complexes. I stopped watching after about ten minutes because they started to ramble and were not saying much anyway. They made the point that America should not have gone into Iraq, although I would suggest that Saddam Hussein was no loss to the world. There was sort of an implication that Putin invading Ukraine was the same as America invading Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a ridiculous proposition that needs no further discussion. One valid point that they did make in their discussion was that the poor bloody soldiers on the ground, for both sides, many of whom will be killed, will almost certainly come from the families of ordinary people. People have questioned Putin’s sanity–my guess is that he is quite sane but is basically a very nasty piece of work–he clearly has no wish to understand democratic processes. Another sidelight mentioned by numerous commentators is what will China learn from all this–Australia has a vested interest in their reactions.

    • admin says:

      Jim,
      It is always the poor bloody soldiers. I suspect we would have far fewer wars if politicians were made to carry a weapon and join the foot-sloggers.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    As Donovan said we would have no wars at all if there were no soldiers. Ordinary people are the ones who allow little stupid, shallow, nasty people, like Putin, to lead them, to control them, to manipulate them, to use them and ultimately to hurt them. Many ordinary people want to be like them, or love them, for their strength, and aggression, because it is something they are taught to admire. Many want to be soldiers. Many are soldiers. Many ordinary people are to blame for this aggressive, macho, posturing idiocy that engulfs societies, and nations, and even the planet. People who love weapons, love bangs, love power, love themselves, are enabled to do this with the glorification of the disgusting warmonger culture. We live in a world of children who love war games. People who never grew up. There are many, many of them here as well.

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