Putin’s folly

During an appearance on a right-wing radio program, the hosts asked President Trump about Putin recognizing two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,’”

“Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”

President Donald Trump

To some, Putin is a smart, strategic and a tactical mastermind reinvigorating Russia’s power power in the post USSR world. Putin waged a war against Georgia, annexed Crimea illegally, killed political dissidents, usurped political power, influenced and intervened in American Elections through Information & Cyber warfare and is staging to invade Ukraine. But does this assessment hold water? Let’s find out.

Putin is actually weaking Russia, not strengthening it

To those who are sold on Putin’s propaganda, Putin is a strong leader extending Russia’s power & influence. But has he really done that? Annexing territory from another country illegally may add more square miles to your country but there are consequences which may not be quiet apparent.

  • Russia’s soft power is in decline and a free fall. As an example, Russia got kicked out of the G-8
  • Putin is killing Russian economy by severing access to the global financial system through international sanctions. Russian Ruble is at an all time low and Russian stock market is crumbling
  • Putin made NATO relevant. Not so long ago after USSR fell, NATO felt irrelevant, a relic of the Cold war era. But Putin made NATO relevant by giving it a purpose
  • Putin managed to unite the west, a feat seemed impossible due to the rise of Populism across Europe and America. Four years of President Trump’s America First policies have alienated European partners and created friction among allies. Brexit did not help improve European unity. But Putin managed to unify the west against a common threat to the rules based order
  • Putin is making ordinary Russians suffer. Russian economy, Russian banks and Russian industries are cut off from western financing. This is going to hurt ordinary Russian citizens more than it hurts the powerful Russian oligarchy. This suffering is extended to Ukrainians as well
  • Putin turned Russia in to a Petrostate heavily dependent on Oil. Cut off from western financial markets with looming threat of comprehensive sanctions, Russia will find it hard to diversify and grow it’s economy. The long term future for Petrostates doesn’t look good. Eventually the oil is going to dry up
  • Senator John McCain once said “Russia is a Gas Station masquerading as a Country”. Unfortunately, this statement is true. Russia can become a great nation once again, only if they end this brutal war, return seized Ukranian territory and restore the rules based order that maintained peace in Europe for the past few decades

A lost opportunity

Imagine where Russia would be right now if Putin had taken a different path, respecting the rules based order of the world, embracing democratic values, promoting transparency in his rule and respecting norms. I’d argue that Russia and Putin would have had a lot more to gain by courting Ukraine with trade and commerce rather than with tanks and artillery.

Putin may believe that he is increasing Russian influence but history will prove him wrong.

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