For months, it seems he was a man on the island while the world waited for him to do.
Partly because of fears of COVID-19 and partly because of the election, all recent images of Russian President Vladimir Putin depict a man deeply isolated – sitting alone near his box in Beijing to watch the Winter Olympics, taking a parade of Western leaders in the distance. the end of an absurdly stretched table that announced on Monday what could be a declaration of war between Ukraine and the West, and its advisers and generals sat in a semicircle of chairs at least 20 yards away.
But despite the distance, Mr. Putin offered an intimate look at his thinking in a chaotic, zealous, hour-long address, outlining why he is actually once again biting off neighboring Ukraine and risking sanctions and perhaps Europe’s most desperate war. decades.
It seemed that Russia was very disrespectful, and the goal of his anger – Ukraine – hardly deserved to be called a country at all.
Making his way through more than a century of history, Mr. Putin portrayed today’s Ukraine as a modern creation that is historically, culturally and linguistically connected to Russia. He accused that Ukraine inherited the historic lands of Russia and after the collapse of the Soviet Union was used by the West to deter Russia. “I want to emphasize once again that Ukraine is not just a neighbor for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, spiritual space. They are our friends, our relatives. It is not only our colleagues, friends, former colleagues, it is our relatives and people connected with us by blood, family ties, ”he said.
Even more outrageous from Mr. Putin’s point of view is that today Ukrainians have turned away from the cultural and political riches bequeathed to them by Mother Russia.
“Ukraine has become a colony of puppets,” Putin said. “Ukrainians have wasted not only everything we gave them during the Soviet era, but even everything they inherited from the Russian Empire.”
Following his remarks, Russian state television showed Mr Putin signing decrees recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts eight years after fighting broke out between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces.
He ridiculed attempts by the Kiev leadership to flee the country’s Russian past and contact the West. The newly independent states he recognized on Monday have always been part of Russia’s legitimate territory, Mr Putin said.
Mr Putin ridiculed Ukraine’s “decommunization” campaign, which destroyed monuments to Lenin, saying: “If you want decommunization, it suits us.”
“We are ready to show you what real decommunization will mean for Ukraine,” he added in a sharp warning, which apparently reflects a threat to return lands he said were “robbed” in Russia as a result of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. . Union.
While he happily keeps opponents in check, the former KGB agent was in a sense translucent, not hiding the way he viewed the unfolding of history after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Weak Russia, he said, was mocked by the West after the Cold War, with NATO expanding into Eastern Europe all the way to Russia’s borders. Example A in his case. In particular, the “unipolar” world, dominated by Washington, used Russia’s predicament to impose its vision on the world.
“One state, and of course the United States in particular, has transcended its national borders,” Putin said in his famous humorous speech in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference. “This is evident in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other peoples. Well, who likes that? Who is happy about this? ”
Following the speech, Mr Putin rebuilt depleted Russian troops, amassed financial reserves and reoriented the economy to soften the blow of sanctions. And he systematically sought to address the complaints listed in this 2007 appeal.
And in the Kremlin bubble, where no one can approach – literally or figuratively – to convince him otherwise, Mr Putin is likely to keep going until he is stopped.