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Putin is Driven By Fear Rather than Strength in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has massed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border, threatening an invasion unless his demands are met, including a promise that Ukraine never join NATO. Some analysts see Putin's gambit as a show of Russia's increased military strength and determination to again hold sway in Eastern Europe. That's just part of the story. Putin's actions also demonstrate Russia's weakness relative to his European Union neighbors.

Here's what's happening in Ukraine and Putin's underlying rationale for Russian aggression:

1. Russia's security concerns on its western border. Putin wants assurances that Ukraine won't join the NATO military alliance, a promise to withdraw NATO troops and armaments from Eastern Europe and autonomy for eastern Ukraine. His demands aren't realistic and represent a cold-war mentality that would again establish Ukraine and Eastern Europe as pawns in a great power struggle that everyone thought ended 30 years ago. Moreover, such arguments are mere window-dressing. Putin isn't frightened by NATO's military might, with or without Ukraine as a member; quite the contrary. He views it as a paper tiger, but he needs Russians to see the alliance as a potential threat that only he can confront and defeat.

2. Russia has a Putin problem, not a NATO problem. Vladimir Putin doesn't fear NATO, but he's deathly afraid of the emergence of a democratic, Western-leaning, and prosperous Ukraine that offers an appealing alternative to his increasingly despotic rule. Once widely popular, especially with the older generation, Putin survives today through fear and intimidation.

The Economist: "In Russia, repression is on the rise as the regime of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, ramps up efforts to crush dissent. In January 2021 Alexei Navalny, the country’s opposition leader, was arrested—triggering some of the biggest demonstrations in Russia for years. But the protests were met with violence from the authorities. Since then, Putin’s tactics have intensified: eliminating opposition politicians, exploiting the justice system and branding journalists critical of the Kremlin as “foreign agents”."

Furthermore, despite having more natural resources than any nation on the planet, Russia's economy lags behind the European Union [EU], and suffers from extreme inequality and corruption. Moreover, its current per capita GDP has fallen behind its former Eastern European satellites that have joined the EU.

Most younger Russians have moved on from the glory days of the Soviet empire that Putin exalts. Recent polls found that almost half those aged 18-24 want to leave the country and only one in three young Russians wants to see him stay on as President when his term ends in 2024. The other two-thirds are what Putin really fears; a populist uprising in the streets backing a leader like Alexei Navalny who presents a vision of a modern, democratic, Western-leaning nation fully integrated into the global economy. And to many activists, Ukraine's democratic transformation and reform efforts represent a blueprint for Russia once Putin has been pushed aside.

#Russia #Putin #internationalrelations

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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