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In August 1999, a then-unknown Vladimir Putin was named prime minister when his predecessor refused to condone a full reinvasion of Chechnya. Putin, however, was ready, and in return for their unconditional support he granted the military a free rein, allowing them to avenge their humiliating 1996 defeat in blood and fire.” (Jonathan Littell https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/03/vladimir-putin-ukraine-war-chechnya )

We hope that you will read this article in its entirety, here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/03/vladimir-putin-ukraine-war-chechnya
Below is a 500 word excerpt, which is all that is allowed under The Guardian’s Open Licence agreement:

War brought Vladimir Putin to power in 1999. Now, it must bring him down By Jonathan Littell
Putin believed he could invade Ukraine because everything we failed to do over the last 22 years taught him that we are weak
Thu 3 Mar 2022, Last modified Mon 14 Mar 2022
Twenty-two years ago, a vicious war brought Vladimir Putin to power. Ever since, war has remained one of his main tools, which he has used without flinching throughout his reign. Vladimir Putin exists thanks to war, has thrived through war. Let us now hope that a war will finally bring him down.

In August 1999, a then-unknown Vladimir Putin was named prime minister when his predecessor refused to condone a full reinvasion of Chechnya. Putin, however, was ready, and in return for their unconditional support he granted the military a free rein, allowing them to avenge their humiliating 1996 defeat in blood and fire. On the night of 31 December… Boris Yeltsin stepped down, handing the presidency like a gift to the newcomer…” He has been President ever since, excepting his time as Prime Minister (2008-2012).

Jonathan Littell goes on to explain that in February 2020, he asked Russian human rights defender Sergey Kovalev, “Who was Putin…. Kovalev’s answer: “You want to know who Vladimir Putin is, young man? Vladimir Putin is a lieutenant colonel of the KGB. And do you know what a lieutenant colonel of the KGB is? Absolutely nothing.” What Kovalev meant was that a man who had never even made full colonel was simply a small-minded operative, incapable of thinking ahead more than a move or two. And while Putin, over his 22 years in power, has grown immensely in stature and experience, I still believe the late Kovalev was fundamentally right.

Putin proved brilliant at exploiting the weakness and divisions of the west

… It took him years to crush the Chechens and install a puppet regime there…” In 2008 “he gathered his armies for “maneuvers” at the Georgian border and invaded the country in five days, recognizing the independence of two breakaway “republics”. The western democracies… did practically nothing…

The US’s military budget for 2021 was about $750bn, Europe’s combined budget $200bn, and Russia’s about $65bn. Yet he still scares us…

Jonathan Littell then points out many things that Putin saw that he could get by with:
the west, eager to freeze the… conflict in Donbas… allowed Crimea off the discussion table… conceding the illegal annexation to Russia…. Germany….was unwilling to wean itself off his gas and his markets… that he could buy European politicians, including former German and French prime ministers, and install them on the boards of his state-controlled companies…. countries that nominally opposed his moves still kept repeating the mantras of “diplomacy”, “reset”, “the need to normalize relations”…. each time he pushed, the west would roll over and then come fawning, hoping for an ever-elusive “deal”…

Putin began murdering his opponents, at home and abroad… we squeaked…

western sanctions need to target the people who actually enable Putin’s actions: his entire senior security and administrative apparatus… These people are not billionaires, but all are multimillionaires, with much to lose…. Seize the mansions… forbid the vacations… throw their children unceremoniously out of Harvard and Oxford… let them see if it is worth the price to maintain a deranged, power-hungry tsar on his throne…” Open Licence: “Up to 500 words in a personal blog along with a link back to theguardian.com” “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/03/vladimir-putin-ukraine-war-chechnya http://syndication.theguardian.com/open-licence-terms/