Everybody is fixating on big, bad Putin who supposedly tyrannizes the sweet, innocent Russian people, making them do bad things. But it’s the other way round. I’m not saying Putin is a victim here but he’s still in power because he keeps invading. He invades like clockwork when his approval ratings dip. After a pile of corpses, the ratings go up.
Putin was quite different in 2002-5. Not a great statesman or a brilliant intellectual but he was looking for other things and achieving them. But he started losing support. Since then, he ratchets up whenever the public appetite for blood spikes.
God, if only Putin were the problem here. If only. Obviously, I despise him but he’s not the problem. He’s a tiny pimple on the left buttock of the problem.
The real problem is that people need a purpose. They need a story that they tell themselves about who they are. For large groups, a shared story is crucial. Ukrainians were going to hell in a basket when they came up with the story of “we are going to become part of the Western civilization.” Then they rallied up around that, and you see the results. The Russians’ shared story is “we are misunderstood and nobody likes up because we are too superior.” It’s a massive, collective pouting fit.
Everybody knows how Germans reacted to the humiliation of WWI and the Weimar Republic. Russia is experiencing the same feelings but they are much older and, consequently, go much deeper. And by much older, I mean much MUCH older.