While the Olympics were taking place in Sochi, Russian president and autocrat Vladimir Putin was starting to invade Ukraine. Last Wednesday, Putin put 150,000 troops on high alert for battle near the border with Ukraine. On Saturday, the upper house of the Russian parliament (Duma), the Federation Council, unanimously approved Putin’s request to use force in Ukraine and deploy additional troops to the Crimean peninsula.
Putin claims the troops are being sent there to stabilize the socio-political situation in the country. However, many believe that Putin is deliberately stirring up unrest, in order to justify sending in the military. Masked men dressed in black carrying AK-47s have been spotted in the streets, but it’s not clear whether they are real protesters or a plant from Putin to create the appearance of a crisis.
Putin originally became Russian president as part of the new, non-communist era Russia, but has proven that he is not a real reformer, reverting to many of his KGB thug ways. Putin worked for the KGB for 16 years under communism. His grandfather was a cook for previous communist leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Putin’s father is described as a “model communist.” Putin has said he spent the best part of his life with the KGB, which made it a difficult choice to leave the KGB when the organization turned on Soviet president and reformer Mikhail Gorbachev.
After serving as president of Russia from 2000 to 2008, Putin was term limited, ineligible to run again. Through some sneaky maneuvers - including serving as Prime Minister for awhile where he had expanded powers - he made it back into office and is now serving an even longer six-year term. The Democracy Index downgraded Russia from a hybrid regime of part democracy, part authoritarian, to a solely authoritarian regime due to Putin’s manipulated return to power.
Putin’s act of aggression is about increasing Russia’s power. Putin is fearful that neighboring countries will side with democratic Western nations against Russia. In 2008, Putin invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, ostensibly to defend the pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia from civil war, but it is believed that it was actually done to weaken the pro-Western government in Tbilisi. Many in intelligence did not see it coming, just like they did not see the Ukraine invasion coming. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director and NSA director under President George W. Bush, explains that the U.S. is taking the wrong approach by trying to make Putin a partner, when he sees us as a rival. Putin has made bold, unchecked moves such as helping Syrian President Bashar Assad stay in power during United Nations negotiations.