He is pure evil. He is a killer. That is all. Contorted or gratuitous explanations are not necessary to explain his behavior. Many in the West have twisted themselves into knots attempting to explain Putin or perhaps offer hope that somehow the war will end with Putin's demise.
The latest distortion was in connection with Putin's New Year's address. Some even reported that Putin must be physically ill since he was coughing throughout. Resorting to Russian style disinformation is not necessary. Putin simply cleared his throat several times. The entire video, lasting some 10 minutes, was clear evidence of misinformation or attempted sensationalism, only to be contradicted by the video itself. Putin was in complete control. He obviously helped stage it. Some of his main actors were participants.
Putin's speech was a montage of lies, but his mendacity was clear-sighted and intentional. He went out of his way to appear on screen not as a severe dictator but a conciliator towards not only the Russian people but all the peoples of Russia. This indicated that he was cognizant of his own political vulnerability within Russia not only among the Russians but the captive nationalities within. This continued reference to the people of Russia rather than the Russian people was striking and most intentional. Putin is not delusional. He is aware of internal turmoil within an empire which he maintains by force and repression.
Depicting Putin as either mentally or physically ill is not conducive to Putin's demise or bringing about peace. Russia is built upon lies, and Russians are fed by them. Perhaps the best example of that is the Russian Orthodox (so-called) church. Some Western experts have represented the idea that a messianic vision of Russian Orthodoxy somehow serves as an impetus for Russian behavior. Religion often serves as an opiate, often for both good and bad. But Russian Orthodoxy today is neither a church nor a religion. Examining Russian Orthodoxy through the centuries may require a separate analysis, but what is indisputable is that the Russian symbol, the two-headed eagle, was stolen from Constantinople. The Moscow patriarchy’s Christianity was achieved at the point of a gun.
One publication even suggested recently that Putin takes his cue from the Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill. Nothing can be further from the truth. Putin is the general. Kirill, at best, may be a colonel. The Russian Orthodox Church is a state institution. In fact, its latest version is a creation of Stalin from the 1940s. The West certainly lends too much undeserved recognition and credit to that appendage of Russian special forces.
These distortions are not helpful in the struggle against Russia. I am not ascribing motives to the distorters. Let's call it naiveté, as we do when explaining the actions of Pope Francis, lest we offend him and the Catholic Church. Disinformation – particularly by respected sources, even without malice or intent to misinform – is very dangerous because it impacts public opinion. The struggle against Russian imperialism must be a global effort. While fringe reactions and behavior is to be expected, the fringe should be neutralized by rational consensus and global effort.
There are weaknesses within Russia, but a debilitated Putin is not one of them, especially when one recognizes that Moscow has been producing Putins for centuries. The greatest weaknesses within Russia are that it is a prison of some 100 captive nations, that its economy is not productive, and that due to its lack of financial wherewithal its military might is grossly exaggerated. Whatever might it does possess, including its nuclear capability, was stolen.
Winning the war requires dismantling the Russian empire, not victimizing its principal criminal or inducing complacency by suggesting that the main source of evil is in its death throes. Vladimir Putin remains the main perpetrator but his accomplices are the Russian people, as well as Russian culture and history.
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