Is Putin the real villain?

To put the present situation in Ukraine in proper perspective, one should undersand the national identity crisis of that country. More than 250 years ago, Catherine the Great wanted to “Russify” the eastern half of Ukraine by shipping ethnic Russians there.

The result of that “Russifying” is that a great number of Ukrainians in the country’s east, speak Russian as their first language. They also have strong feelings for their cultural and historical ties to Russia.

This division always plays out in Ukrainian politics. The country is always torn apart at presidential election time between pro-Russian and pro-European candidates. In the last election, Yanukovych, who is from the east and has Russian as his native language, was elected in 2010 by the large support of Russian-speaking and Russian-leaning east. That divide surfaced again when Yanukovych rejected the E.U. deal which surprisingly had only 43% of Ukrianians in favour and chose instead Russia’s offer. The president’s decision against the E.U. offer was a democratic one, even if it had been poorly executed. Unfortunately, that national identity crisis exploded once more. It angered Ukrainians in the pro-European west who hadn’t voted for him and in a tragic and violent coup they ousted Yanukovych for his Russian leaning direction and yes, for his well-earned record of corruption as well.

Whatever the reason for this coup, it is a shame that violence and bloodshed was resorted to. What is incomprehensible here if the fact Ukrainians owed Russia $2 billion for oil and gas. The $15 billion offer from Russia included concessions for those products and other incentives. Yet, the Ukrainians in the west refused that offer in favour of the E.U. and they immediately requested the U.S. for $1 billion in economic aid. The Americans have now urged other NATO countries to help bail them out. Just what did the Ukrainians want from the E.U. when there is nothing out there? The west is morally and financially bankrupt. In affluent western European countires there is open hostility to “immigrants.”  And just what did the E.U. want from Ukraine?  According to the current head of state, the treasury is empty and the unbelievable corruption prevents the Ukrainian government from collecting revenues.

It is therefore logically to assume there was something sinister out there when one sees a battle for democracy frighteningly and disturbingly confronted with very nasty nationalism of a neo-Nazi flavour. The very fact that it was a violent and bloody street battle and not an election that restored “democracy” is an absolute contradiction in itself. Sadly, western journalists seem reluctant to investigate further as to who or what was behind that coup and why the Russian language was removed from law courts in the east.

With such hatred and open hostility for Russian speaking Ukrainians, all the alarm bells went off in Moscow. Since the 1960s, Crimea had been leased to the Russians who paid Ukraine $98 million a year. It is the great naval base for the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. It is also vital for the defense of Russia – so vital that more than 20,000 Russians died defending it against the onslaught of Nazi Germany. Putin was not going to wait for the lease to run out and then hope it will be renewed. Neither was he going to wait for Ukraine to become a member of the NATO alliance.  LIke any good commander-in-chief, he swiftly took defensive measures to protect Russia. Special forces “liberated” Crimea without resistance and annexed it.

The world now condemns Putin for this illegal act but refrains from condemning that pro-Western coup that sent the duly elected president fleeing. Had he not fled, he probably would have been murdered. It also resulted in the annexation of Crimea and has sent Eastern Ukraine into a frenzy.

It was not Putin who interfered into the affairs of Ukraine. And before we condemn him, we should give him some credit for taking a page out of history to secure the defense of his country. In June of 1967, Israel, surrounded by hate-filled and hostile neighbours took immediate and drastic measures to protect the country. It did the unthinkable: it launched a pre-emptive strike — with blessings from the West.  


About the Author
Originally from Mumbai, India. Studied, trained and worked in Mumbai, Munich, Germany and Toronto, Canada. For many years, Leslie owned and operated a printing company where he printed everything, except money! Currently retired. Married with four children (four too many.)