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Ukraine Crisis: The West Responds To Putin The Disruptor

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ByOnZine Articles

Mar 8, 2022
Ukraine Crisis: The West Responds To Putin The Disruptor

Successive US presidents have struggled to get a read on Vladimir Putin, writes Nick Bryant, but now that Brussels and Berlin have joined the fray with such zeal, it’s a different story.

It is all too easy to see Vladimir Putin as the millennium bug in human and lethal form.

The Russian president took office on December 31, 1999, as the world waited for computers to crash when the clock struck midnight, unable to process the transition from 1999 to 2000.

Putin has spent the last two decades attempting to engineer a different kind of global system failure, the destruction of the liberal international order.  This Russian revanchist has emerged as the most disruptive international leader of the twenty-first century, the mastermind behind so much misery from Chechnya to Crimea, Syria to Salisbury. He has attempted, and at times succeeded, in redrawing the map of Europe.

He has attempted, and at times succeeded, in immobilizing the United Nations. He has been determined, and at times successfully, to weaken America and hasten its division and decline.

Putin came to power during a period of Western arrogance. In a unipolar world, the United States was the sole superpower. The End of History thesis by Francis Fukuyama, proclaiming the triumph of liberal democracy, was widely accepted.

Some economists even advocated for the abolition of recessions, owing in part to the new digital economy’s productivity gains. It was also assumed that globalization, and the interdependence it engendered, would put an end to major economic powers fighting wars. The same utopianism was attached to the internet, which was widely regarded as a force for global good.

George W. Bush misjudged his Russian counterpart completely. “I looked the man in the eye,” Bush famously stated following their first meeting in Slovenia in 2001. “I found him to be very honest and trustworthy… I was able to sense his spirit.” Bush erroneously believed he could engage Putin in a charm offensive and gently coax him further down the democratic path.

Despite the fact that Bush visited Russia more than any other country, including two trips to Putin’s home city of St Petersburg as a personal favour in 2002, the Russian leader was already displaying dangerously despotic tendencies.

Joe Biden, like George H.W. Bush, is a Cold War warrior who has devoted his presidency to defending democracy both at home and abroad. Seeking to re-establish America’s traditional postwar role as the leader of the free world, he has sought to mobilise the international community, offered military aid to Ukraine, and implemented the most stringent sanctions regime ever imposed on Putin.

As Russian forces gathered at the border, he shared US intelligence indicating that Putin had decided to invade, in ways designed to disrupt the Kremlin’s usual misinformation and false flag operations.

It would be naive to be swept away by Zelensky’s romanticism or to succumb to the dopamine high of watching the seizure of Russian-owned superyachts unfold on social media. Putin is escalating the conflict. However, the last week has sent a message to Moscow – and to Beijing – that the post-war international order is still in place, despite the deployment of the Russian war machine to bring it down. Similar to how history has never come to an end, neither has liberal democracy.

As Joe Biden put it in his State of the Union address, during a passage where rhetoric doubled as sober analysis: Putin “He believed that if he rolled into Ukraine, the rest of the world would follow. Instead, he encountered a wall of resistance he had not anticipated “.

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OnZine Articles main author - Max Haydon

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