At the moment I feel sorry for Russia and its citizens. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a nation that spent seven decades under communist rule to suddenly be free of its grip so they can form a government based on democratic principles, the very principles that were drilled into generation after generation as being evil. It’s been a quarter of a century since communism fell and Russians still have no clue how poorly off they are, especially under the leadership of their little dictator, Vladimir Putin.
Russians went so long without enough of the basics in life to thrive, food, money, freedom, and hope, they just can’t wrap their heads around just how bad they still have it. Worse, they can’t understand how bad it is going to get, not just for them, but for future generations, unless they put a stop to their former KGB agent turned president. This is because Putin himself is limited in what he knows since he was trained by the KGB and views the west no differently than guys named Brezhnev or Stalin.
Because of this ignorance, Russia is heading down a path in which they are destined to crumble into oblivion. While Putin will continue to rely on his state controlled media to influence the thinking of Russian citizens, his failure to learn from the mistakes of the very government that groomed him will result in horrible consequences for all of Russia, and possible much of the world.
Reports show clear evidence that Putin has been arming what Russians call their Green Army in an attempt to over throw the Ukrainian government. These are basically mercenaries who were once part of the Red Army and who are now armed by Russia and told to go into the Ukraine and fight along with the “rebels.” Putin has stated many times his desire to rebuild the Russian empire and to reclaim the lands lost after the fall of communism. He can’t handle being known as a second rate dictator and not a world power like the U.S. and China. He wants to spread the Russian influence by reestablishing the old satellite nations once held under the Soviet Union’s rule when he was a KGB agent in the 1980s.
Putin relies on tactics like starving the citizens in neighboring countries hoping they will rise up against their government and turn to him to improve their lot. When this fails, he ups the price by cutting these countries off of their much-needed fuel to heat their homes and run their businesses. And when this tactic fails, he sends in the Green Army to help the local Russian speaking populations to stir up trouble giving him the excuse to come to their aid as a savior. He isn’t fooling anyone. Putin wants land that was once part of a Russian empire thinking this will restore Russia as a major world power. He is wrong.
And Russians don’t dare speak out against any of Putin’s policies unless they want to find out how limited their freedom to speak is. Political prisoners are not a thing of the past in a nation that still disguises itself as one that democratically elects its leaders. Putin has bounced back and forth between the title of President and Prime Minister while rewriting the constitutional powers of both offices to make sure he is the one calling the political shots. Imagine keeping a President in power for 16 years in this country? This will basically be the case in Russia the next time Putin runs for re election.
Sure, the average Russian may enjoy a better life today than they did under communist rule, but do they enjoy as good a life as the citizens in what was once East Germany? Do they have the same freedoms and opportunities or just a more westernized nation with access to many of the same products found in the U.S.? Poverty, alcoholism, the mafia, and of course wealthy oligarchs still hold back the average Russian today. Other than an economy centered around oil production and exports, what else does Russia have to offer the world?
While China is flooding the world market with its endless products, Russia is slowly being choked off because of the output of American oil and natural gas. They have no plan B for their economy other than to blame the west and invade a neighbor.
How embarrassing must it have been for Putin to see empty venues at last year’s Winter Olympics. He literally could not give away tickets to what was suppose to be his coming out party. Instead, he was left with egg on his face and a massive deficit for hosting the winter games at a site few Russians, or anyone else in the world for that matter, will bother to travel to. The same will happen when he plays host to the next World Cup and will continue to happen because he, and no one else from the old guard, have an understanding of how modern economies work.
Fortunately, Putin was more easily held in check by President Bush because he knew the U.S. government was full of Hawks who would not put up with his nonsense. Once he realized just how muck Obama would try to avoid military conflicts, Putin pounced on his opportunity to rebuild the empire he must have mourned horribly over seeing fall.
All that said, Putin is a wannabe dictator who dreams of a mighty Russia, but like the communists before him, he lacks the economic ability to ever challenge the U.S. or China. He will be forced to rely on a larger military which will only further set back any economic expansion by Russia and will lead to another slow death for Russians. In other words, he has failed to learn from history and is destined to repeat it. That’s what you get when your dictator longs for the bleakness of a failed past and lacks the ability to lead toward a better tomorrow.
What remains to be seen is how far is Putin willing to go with his current nonsense. Does his desire to rebuild the old Russia meet with the approval of the wealthy oligarchs who will ultimately decide his fate or will he over play his hand and force them to end his rule via a bullet, poison, or mysterious disappearance?
One thing for sure is, Vladimir Putin cannot turn back. He may have been a cockroach that survived the fallout of communism’s death, but he is now either going to sink or swim with his lust for power. Time will tell but history teaches us that rare is the case when such lust does not suck you in and eventually result in your demise.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.