Understanding and making sense of Putin's both inner and outer worlds, decisions, and goals have become crucial after his ruthless war in Ukraine. The following questions also come to mind in light of the most recent events:
- How will the war in Ukraine end?
- If Putin achieves his goals in Ukraine, will he open a front in other countries?
- What is he fighting for exactly?
- What kind of case does he have?
The issue becomes all the more critical when you add in questions such as who do they see as enemies and why.
When I read the long interview with Ivan Krastev, an academic who has spent his life trying to understand Putin, that appeared in Der Spiegel, my mind was blown and I found the answers to almost all of these questions.
A TALE OF TWO TELEVISION TOWERS: Kyiv and Belgrade
For example, such information is indeed very valuable for those trying to make sense of anything Putin does.
The fact that the invasion of Ukraine began on Feb 24 with the bombing of a television tower in Kyiv, actually mirrors for Putin the start of the NATO operation in Belgrade in 1999, with the destruction of another television tower.
Obviously, that's how both interventions started, Putin wanted to send a message in the same way with the same symbolic action.
Again, according to the Putin expert Krastev, the Russian President's declaration on the annexation of Crimea was almost word for word the same as the sentences used in Kosovo's declaration of independence.
In 1999, I closely followed the process when Serbian leader Milosevic hoisted the flag of surrender and NATO tanks entered Kosovo, after nearly 3 months of aerial operations.
While conducting a news report around an airport that the Serbs held with their Russian allies until the last moment, I also witnessed the anger of desperation and the moments of disappointment they experienced in the aftermath.
It means that despite the fact that many years have passed, some traumas leave a mark.
So, we can say that when Putin invaded Ukraine, it was because he is hostage to the anger and hatred he has harbored against the West to some extent.
“PUTIN WANTS TO TEACH THE WEST A LESSON”
Asked by the Der Spiegel reporter, "Why does Putin do such things?" Krastev replied: "Because he wants to teach us a lesson. Because he wants to tell us: I have learned from you. Even if that means doing exactly that for which he hates us.”
Then he proceeded to add:
Putin lives in historic analogies and metaphors. Those who are enemies of eternal Russia must be Nazis. (In the Second World War, in which 60 million people died, the Soviet Union lost 20 million. The Nazis' various methods of massacre, including starving millions of prisoners to die, left indelible marks in the memory of the Russians) And so, he was quick to portray the conflicts in the Donbas as a genocide. Putin’s overstatements became so extreme that they no longer had any connection to reality.
In the background of this brutal war campaign initiated by Putin, we must not forget the following;
1- The sense of responsibility that Russia thinks its historical peace has placed on its shoulders,
2- and the traumas Putin experienced in his personal history carry a profound effect.
Putin was right there serving as a KGB agent when the Berlin Wall fell.
While the wall was falling, he had to watch the celebrations of the Germans and of course the Atlantic Alliance, which was the architect of the collapse of that wall.
As Krastev rightly reminded, it is possible to look for and find the deep traces of that day's trauma in today's decisions.
Let's quote another relevant part of the interview:
“This may sound too psychologizing, but he is part of the last Soviet generation. His job as a KGB agent was that of defending and protecting the Soviet Union. But he and his fellow agents were unable to protect it. The Soviet Union collapsed overnight without a war, without an invasion. Putin and the KGB didn’t understand what happened. They failed. I think he has a strong feeling of guilt.”
I was happy to stumble upon some of the impressions I got from my readings on Putin before and after the invasion of Ukraine, which I have included in this column over the past weeks, along with my interview with an academic who has spent his life understanding Putin.
I said that Putin sees Ukrainians as a son or daughter who leaves home because the sense of belonging in the family is lost.
Krastov also says pretty much the same thing.
But it should also be emphasized that:
Putin's war (against his child who has left the nest), which at first shows some traces of mercy, brings with it greater destruction and greater tragedies.
The worst and most unattractive part of the matter is the “heartless image” that Putin projects to the outside world while Ukraine is being destroyed and its people are being displaced.