by Takashi Hara
Putin, who invaded Ukraine, has always been an assassin (i.e., KGB), a believer in violence, and a thoroughgoing Great Russian nationalist dictator. This time, his invasion of Ukraine, which came at the cost of civilian casualties, has added another title to his list. He is now known as an aggressor and war criminal.
We must stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are desperately resisting, as well as with the people of Russia, who are speaking out against the dictator Vladimir Putin and against the war. Internationalism, the grassroots solidarity of the world beyond national borders, is on the rise.
Putin’s Great Russian Nationalism
Putin, who considers the collapse of the Soviet Union to be “the most catastrophic geopolitical event of the 20th century,” has laid bare his ambition to “regain lost ground,” that is, to restore the former Soviet sphere of influence – “Greater Russia. For Putin, a thorough-going Great Russian nationalist, Ukraine is seen as a small Russia, part of the Great Russian sphere of influence, and is never recognized as an independent entity or sovereign state.
More than two decades ago, Putin launched a scorched-earth campaign to slaughter resisting Muslims in Chechnya; in 2008, he sent troops into two regions of Georgia, a former Soviet Union constituent, and took them by force; in 2014, he unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine; in has supported pro-Russian armed forces that effectively control parts of the eastern Donbass region, which has a large Russian population. For Putin, these are conflicts within the Greater Russian sphere of influence, or “civil wars. Putin’s war, intended to revive Greater Russia, signaled the arrival of an era in which a new “civil war” over democracy and freedom could occur worldwide.
Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine has shattered the illusion that “peace” is guaranteed by UN resolutions, declarations, and international law. It has highlighted the fact that it is “pie in the sky.” It also brought home the stark reality that there are dictators and rulers like Putin who do not hesitate to use military force in order to maintain their own sphere of influence and power.
It can be said that “no matter how much economic interdependence is built up, no matter how many warnings of strong sanctions are issued, the dictatorship of a despotic state is exposed as powerless in the face of its stubborn determination” (Mainichi, March 9, Mainichi correspondent’s opinion).
What is the nature of Putin’s war?
Then what is the enemy that dictators hate and fear the most? It is freedom. This has already been demonstrated in Hong Kong, in Myanmar, and now in Ukraine. It is not NATO or imperialism that dictator Putin fears. It is the voice of the people in Ukraine and Russia who are fighting for freedom and democracy.
Ukraine is literally in the midst of a battle for freedom and survival against an aggressor. It is no exaggeration to say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a spiteful war by Putin, a dictator who does not hide his horrific ambition to restore “Great Russia” – a war by Putin and for Putin.
Putin justifies his invasion of Ukraine under the guise of “protecting the population,” based on a conspiracy theory of a genocide of Russian citizens, which never happened, and under the theory of self-defense on the pretext of a “threat” from NATO or other foreign powers. These are common phrases used by invaders to justify themselves. As has already been pointed out, this is the same logic used by Hitler when he invaded Czechoslovakia.
The world is in tears and trembling with anger at the devastation the Ukrainian people are suffering. Do not be misled by Putin’s intention to invade Ukraine or its propaganda filled with demagoguery.
“Dumb anti-imperialists” defending aggression
However, there are some confusions that cannot be overlooked. The most obvious is the theory that the Zelensky administration’s growing inclination toward NATO and the West provoked Russia to invade, which is tantamount to an endorsement of Putin’s falsehoods that justify the invasion by trumpeting the NATO threat. Are these people just making a general condemnation of the war and telling Ukraine, which is under threat of invasion, to lay down its arms and surrender?
Quoting from Ukrainian Leftist Activist Arguments, these tendencies are scattered in “anti-imperialism of idiots“. Why do they make such “blunders”? It is because they are still stuck in an anachronistic bias (assumptions and preconceptions), unable to break free from the “Cold War” era paradigm of thinking and behavior. They are too insensitive to unprecedented situations and new circumstances. This tendency has been highlighted by the situation in Ukraine.
If, like the Chinese government that suppressed freedom in Hong Kong, it does not recognize Russia’s actions as “aggression,” blames the United States for “increasing pressure on Russia and heightening the crisis,” and effectively defends Russia, it will be left behind in the international antiwar movement in solidarity with Ukraine. The antiwar movement is at a crossroads over Ukraine that will determine its future. History is watching.
To begin with, after the Russian Revolution, Lenin was considered the “founder” of Ukraine and also approved the separation and independence of the three Baltic states. While Putin has criticized Lenin’s nationalist policies, he has also praised Stalin’s Great Russianism.
Full text translation of President Putin’s one-hour speech by Ms. Saori Imai
Translation of Vladimir Putin’s speech just before the invasion NHK
Putin Papers, “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”
In 1989, the end of the “Cold War” was declared at the Malta meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the Warsaw Pact Organization, a military alliance established by the Soviet Union and seven Eastern European countries, was dissolved in 1991, and the Soviet Union itself collapsed. Meanwhile, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) continued to incorporate Eastern European countries such as Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states after the Cold War. The fact that the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence was incorporated into NATO one after another in this way has made Putin, who considers Ukraine as part of Greater Russia’s sphere of influence, feel increasingly threatened, and he has been planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, using the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as a successful experience.
But it can be said that an invasion of Ukraine could be as serious a political and economic blow as the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin had underestimated the high price he would pay. However, the initially envisioned scenario of a short war to bring down the capital, Kiev, in a few days has “completely failed,” according to some within Russia’s military and intelligence agencies. This is because they underestimated Ukraine’s combat capability and morale. They also underestimated the economic sanctions against Russia by the international community. This is a clear miscalculation that arrogant dictators tend to make.
Russia’s fragile economy (11th in GDP, below South Korea), which relies on fossil fuels such as crude oil and natural gas (50% of exports), is covered by its massive military power, just as it did in the Soviet era. -The reality is that military spending, which is disproportionate to the country’s economic power, is undermining the national economy. Putin, under the spell of this military power, is pushing Ukraine down a path of destruction by invading Ukraine without regard for the lives of its citizens.
Putin’s Miscalculations and Ukraine’s Resistance
The invasion of Ukraine could be the beginning and overture of dictator Putin’s downfall. What miscalculations did Putin make in invading Ukraine? There are three key points.
Ukraine’s thorough fight against
The first of these is Ukraine’s thoroughgoing resistance. Ukraine continues to stubbornly resist the Russian forces, which have an overwhelming superiority in terms of strength. The Ukrainian military cannot compete with an opponent with a large difference in strength if it continues to fight in the same manner. The Ukrainian military is armed with 20,000 missiles, including portable anti-tank missiles and surface-to-air missiles received from the U.S. and European countries, and the infantry deployed on the front lines are turning back the Russians with “hit and run” tactics, inflicting considerable damage on bombers, tanks, and other vehicles.
Ukraine is believed to be aiming for ‘asymmetric warfare,’ in which it tries to gain an advantage over its stronger opponent by choosing a different fighting style from its opponent. This fighting style is playing a role in blocking Russia’s advance” (Nikkei, 3.2), and the Russian military is having a difficult time. The biggest reason for this is that they completely underestimated the fighting ability of the Ukrainians and the high morale of the Ukrainians, including their citizens. Ukraine has a long history of partisan resistance to invaders. Putin’s own miscalculations caused him to become severely agitated and frustrated in the early stages of the invasion.
Sam Potolicchio, a professor at Georgetown University, stated in Newsweek (3.15), “It is now inevitable that Russia will make tremendous sacrifices in order to achieve military victory. Not only will the lives of Russian soldiers and the Russian economy be at a tremendous cost, but the lives of countless Ukrainian civilians will inevitably be lost as well.
Anti-war movement under Russian feet
Second, there has been a spectacularly unprecedented grassroots anti-war movement in Russia. The anti-war voices have not ceased amidst the severe control and suppression of speech.
‘We unequivocally condemn Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. We call on you not to be complicit in the aggression, not to recognize it, and not to remain silent” – this is the open letter signed by more than 100 members of Congress from across the United States. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people from the war regime have taken to the streets across the country calling for anti-war demonstrations. Here again, Putin’s miscalculation is clear.
The Putin administration’s eagerness to tighten control and repression of speech to silence anti-war voices is another sign of its impatience. Many Russians have relatives and friends in Ukraine. It is even said that “there is hardly a citizen of Moscow who does not have at least one Ukrainian relative among his or her relatives. The end of the 22-year Putin regime is in sight.
In response to Russia’s tightening of speech controls, the Mainichi Shimbun (3.8) editorial commented, “Are they trying to turn back the clock to the days of the former Soviet Union, when freedom of speech was taken away and those who rebelled were sent to the gulag?” In the first place, Putin’s anachronistic ambitions led to the current war. Calling the Ukrainian regime “neo-Nazis” and calling attacks on pro-Russian groups “genocide” are claims that are far removed from the actual situation. The military campaign has dragged on, and anti-war demonstrations continue in Russia, which is under tight control. More than 13,000 protesters have been detained in the country since the invasion began. ”It is not only Ukraine that is being destroyed. They are also endangering their own democratic society,” he criticized.。
World Voices of Ukraine Solidarity
Third, Russia is isolated in the international community and its solidarity with Ukraine is growing. Putin did not expect the West to unite to support Ukraine, nor did he expect the EU countries, which depend on Russia for oil and natural gas, to impose harsh sanctions.
But instead of causing a rift within NATO, the invasion of Ukraine had the exact opposite effect and backfired. Finland has stepped up its efforts to join NATO. Switzerland and Sweden, which had not even implemented sanctions against Hitler, joined in support of Ukraine. The EU and the U.S. have also decided to expel several Russian banks from the SWIFT system of international financial settlement, which is a serious blow to the Russian economy.
These miscalculations signal the beginning of dictator Putin’s downfall. Anti-war voices showing support and solidarity with Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression are now a huge swell.
The Ukrainian people have the right to resist aggression for the sake of their political freedom = the right to self-determination. If the capital Kiev were to fall or President Zelensky were to be killed, the Ukrainian people would still continue to fight “Ukraine shall not perish” (national anthem).
Death to the aggressor! Glory to Ukraine for resisting!