Putin’s war escalation: uglier and more emotional

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Vladimir Putin lacks time and history. He will be 70 this fall. His shirtless riding days are over. He is short, rapidly bald and increasingly jowly. He is divorced, some say, because his wife did not produce a male heir. He now appears as an old-time comic opera villain often at impossibly long tables dripping in gilt, where he sits alone away from human contact, either out of fear of COVID or assassination.

He dressed in the mythical robes fabricated from fake Russian history and the Russian Orthodox Church (the shades of Adolf Hitler’s Nordic “Ubermensch” concoction).

I remember picking up an English newspaper in Moscow in 2013 and being particularly intrigued by one story. He reported that the Kremlin had just revealed that, unbeknownst to Putin’s father, his mother had had baby Vlad secretly baptized into the Orthodox Church. So all this time Putin was in the atheistic KGB, he was actually one of Christ’s anointed. Not quite the story of the birth of the eternal leader, Grand Marshal Kim Il-sung, but probably enough to negotiate with his buddy, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, Primate Kirill, sanctity and burial in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg next to the Romanovs.

Putin’s story of Russia and the Orthodox Church has its own re-engineering of reality. It’s too complicated to go into details, but Greek monks came as missionaries to the Slavs in the 9th century. The 1,000th anniversary of the conversion of the Kevian Rus was celebrated in 1988 when the Rus were ruled from Kyiv (now Kyiv), and the cleric “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus” was named jointly by the Byzantine Emperor and Ecumenical Patriarch. of Constantinople. In 1229, the seats of power moved to Vladimir and reached Moscow only in the 14th century. An “independent patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus” was not official until January 1589. Moscow is therefore a newcomer to the mythical history of the Rus and their main religion.

Ukraine has an even more complicated history. My paternal grandparents were born in the western Ukrainian towns of Sambir and Drochobych, and began their journey to America from Przemysl in modern Poland, but they, at the dawn of the 20th century, would consider themselves, and their Ellis Island manifestos would list them, as Hebrews born in and from Galicia in Austria. Complicated and messy.

Of the 71.7% of Ukrainians who in 2018 consider themselves believers, there are only a few remnants of Ukraine’s Jews, many of whom were murdered by the Nazis in Babi Yar, a naturally beautiful ravine in Kyiv where more than 33,000 people were shot. in just two days in 1941. There are 4.1 million members of the Uniate or Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (who practice the Eastern Rite but are loyal to Rome and the Pope), and a good number of Protestants, Muslims and Latin Rite Catholics. But most tellingly, the largest sect is the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church approved by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Istanbul as the Independent Patriarch (of Moscow) in 2019. In 2018, less than 13% of Ukrainians identified themselves as Orthodox Russians. This divorce proceeding from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has angered Patriarch Cyril and Putin, and like jealous and rejected lovers, they want Ukraine and its followers to come back and obey.

A rejected abusive lover may be the best way to describe Putin. Angela Merkel read it best, and Putin waited until she left the European stage before starting the war against Ukraine. He feared that she was the only figure to unite Europe against him and knew that his attempts to intimidate her had failed in the past.

Knowing Merkel’s fear of dogs (she was once mutilated), during a one-on-one meeting in Sochi, Putin had his large, obviously unneutered male dog brought into the room. Merkel immediately recognized the toxic gamble of a bullying teenage masculinity and played some very cool stuff, not giving Putin the reaction he so craved.

It is stubborn to think that the development of Ukraine as an independent state after the breakup of the Soviet Union is just a simple turn towards the West, even if it is only one element . (You see that not only in the big things like getting closer to the EU or asking for US military aid, but also in the Western tourism it encourages, or the number of young Ukrainians looking for summer jobs in America’s national parks and resorts. .)

There was also a hijacking from Russia, a typically Ukrainian willingness to do things its own way. You see it in a million little changes. Russian “kyiv” is now Ukrainian “kyiv”. A November 20, 2014 article in the Moscow Times gave my favorite example. That year, still-kyiv rejected Western Santa Claus and Russian Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) for the winter holidays. Instead, they were bringing back Saint Mykolay (Saint Nicholas), who would come to kyiv on December 15 and camp at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral.

The third component of Ukrainian independence is the historical continuation of the end of empires that occurred after World War II. The British, French (Vietnam), Dutch (Indonesia) and Portuguese (Macao) empires and possessions made the transition. For now, the Chinese empire remains (much to the chagrin of Tibetans and Uyghurs). And Putin clings to his counter-historical dream of reconstituting the USSR.

Putin cannot accept Ukraine’s explanation: “I see someone else now”. Typical of the most violent of domestic abusers and ex-boyfriends, he won’t accept rejection. If he can’t have Ukraine, he will rape and disfigure her, and kill her if she doesn’t submit. To think that the person she sees is 25 years younger than Putin, has full black hair, conveys a casual masculinity in his fatigues and mixes freely with Ukrainians, pours salt into the wound of rejection and vanity of Putin.

Putin’s phase two war in Ukraine could end in “suicide by a cop”, or perhaps the mangled Russian military and the oligarchs will stage Putin’s early burial in his beloved St. Petersburg. Maybe he’ll take Hitler’s poison, but don’t count on it. He is angry, hurt, delusional and paranoid. Whatever happens will be ugly and emotional. Let’s just hope it doesn’t include nuclear weapons.



Karl Felson of Guilderland is a retired public relations manager in government and the financial industry.

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