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Russian Belligerence In Ukraine Symptomatic Of Putin’s Political Game Plan
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The Russian misadventure in Ukraine in the spur of the moment has not only created regional tension, but it is fraught with unintended consequences like accidental shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, allegedly by rebels armed with Russian surface-to-air missiles.
Putin played his gamble after the initial success of separatists in Crimea in March. According to Ukraine, the separatists had an active support of “little green men” a term used to refer to well-armed Russian speaking soldiers who wore no insignias. These militias backed by Russian soldiers had the full blessings of the Kremlin in the aftermath of which the Crimea was annexed.
“Crimea, more than anything, was impromptu,” says a U.S. official. “The ‘little green men’ were there to exert influence over Ukraine, but something flipped and once the Crimean Parliament voted to accede to Russia and there was evidence that a vast majority of Russians wanted it, Putin went along.”
The Putin annexation plan of Crimea has always been very dangerous with unacceptable results. Putin’s devious plan backfired when the rebels shot down a Malaysian airline, killing all the 298 passengers on board. There was a widespread condemnation of Russia. At that time had Putin withdrawn, then he would have been hailed as a magnanimous leader. But he steadfastly stood to the ground emboldening the separatists.
But, Moscow failed to learn any lessons from the incident that a loosened arms regime with separatists calling the shots will only mount to tensions. In fact, in the events following the shooting down of Malaysian airliner, the Russians increased their arms supply to the separatists. They also fired rockets at the Ukrainian posts from the Russian soil resulting in the increased hostilities between the two countries.
Now, what is the way ahead for the Russian President? The three options left before Putin is that he brings Russian troops into direct confrontation with Ukrainian army, continue to provide separatists with moral and logistic support to match the Ukrainian army or simply abandon them.
Putin may try an escape route, if it is proved that the separatists shot down the Malaysian airliner, but the domestic political reality will not allow him to do so.
But, why Putin is sticking so much to his guns on the issue of Ukraine. Certainly, it has to do much with politics apart from reaffirming the past glory of Russia. The Russian President’s popularity remained in the 60 percentile during the polls, but in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis his popularity has reached to the 80s due to the nationalistic fervor prevailing in the country. The Russian President sees in Ukraine crisis a chance to enhance his stature in the eyes of the Russian people. A stagnant Russian economy with world oil and gas prices going down, the country was facing the prospect of a recession, which could have affected his political career. But, with the Ukraine crisis, a chance has come for him to strengthen his position. He, as a seasoned politician now, knows that if he turns back on Ukraine issue, then all the jingoism that he has created will just vanish.
But what about the man who is raising the pitch? Vladimir Putin, certainly the man in the eyes of the storm apart from his personal political interest, is keen to take Russia back to its pride and this is the psychology of the man in taking over the might of the US, which is trying to increase its sphere of influence in the central Asia knocking at the immediate neighborhood of Russia.
One writer has described Mr. Putin’s classic impassive face as the look of a horse lowering its nose into a bag of oats. The message is clear, ‘do not mess with me, we are a nuclear power’.
Putin is trying Russia to take back to its past glory. What has antagonized him is that Western power refusal to accept Russia as a powerful modern democracy, which is no lesser than the USA.
Many believe that Putin’s belligerence is because of the simple fact that personal disaster loom lies in the defeat.
Putin is a man who is not affected by the criticism so his notion of national pride will only add to woes for both Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine, which was relying on the help from Western countries, has not been completely rescued by the NATO (the powerful military alliance of the western countries). Ukraine’s decision to join the NATO has only compounded the situation, but western allies will have to take a tough call to whether include Ukraine in NATO or not, a move which may make or break its relationship with Russia, which is already under a lot of strain due to the Ukraine crisis.
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