Like so many people around the world, including many Russians, I am watching in horror the human misery being intentionally inflicted on the innocent citizens (men, women and children) of the independent nation of Ukraine; misery that is the result of the commands issued by an authoritarian leader who desires to take over and rule that independent nation by an invasion that is unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful.
As I try, always unsuccessfully, to make any sense of the thinking behind Vladimir Putin's actions, I find myself wondering what he might say to his family, friends and colleagues about his illegal and immoral invasion. How, I ponder, might Putin answer the common questions we ask of each other on an almost daily basis? This leads me to consider the following scenarios.
When his daughters ask "How was your day, Dad?", does Putin say "Terrific!" and then go on to explain to his children that the Russian military (the force he ultimately commands) managed to bomb the homes of children, women and men and make them homeless? Does he then go on to boast about the hundreds of thousand of Ukrainians he has forced to flee to neighbouring countries?
When his friends ask "How are you, what did you do today?", does Putin reply "I had a fantastic day?" I caused the citizens of Ukraine to scramble into basements day and night and this included the very old, the frail, those with disabilities, children undergoing cancer treatment and pregnant women, some of whom had to give birth in a crowded shelter'. Does he go on to say: "Dear friends, I am satisfied with what I have accomplished recently as it is the result of all the planning I put into the invasion of Ukraine and the good news is, I intend to do it all again and again, to achieve the elimination of Ukraine as a sovereign nation." I wonder if Putin concludes by saying, "Thank you for asking, my friends" - in much the same way we might do when a friend asks how our day was.
And what might Putin tell colleagues who he knows are saying nothing, even if they don't agree with murdering innocent people? He understands that many will be too afraid to speak out against his ambitions. Self-preservation may explain why some would sit in the gold-drenched rooms with Putin and nod and smile. They might be remembering those who have been poisoned, imprisoned or killed when they dared to speak against Putin and those who kowtow to him. Do they silently accept the deaths of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Russian conscripts sacrificed to Putin's ambition?
And do those who agree with Putin's actions say: "Well done Vladimir, don't stop the killings, don't stop destroying people's lives and don't stop your war crimes. This is what you planned when you were lying to the world about your intentions and when you decided to deliberately violate international law." Do they conclude by saying, "Keep up the good work, Vladimir," and does Putin then nod and thank them for their support?
After sharing news about the death and destruction he is causing to Ukrainians, does Putin then put his feet up, pour himself a vodka and toast himself, saying "Congratulations Vlad, tomorrow is another day and I can do the same, if not worse, again."
After finishing his vodka, I wonder if Putin then contemplates how history will remember him.
Does he think he will be seen as a Russian hero? Does he imagine he will be remembered with respect and affection? History tells us he will not.
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Hitler is almost universally despised. He is often referred to as the epitome of all that is evil, totally deranged or both. Stalin is remembered for killing, torturing and maiming many millions of people in the territories he ruled. His corpse has been removed from Red Square.
Of course, I don't know what Putin is actually thinking or what his family, friends and colleagues think of his latest actions. Nor do I know where on a legal, ethical or human rights continuum they would place his actions. I do know, however, where on an immoral or cruelty continuum they would have to place him.
No doubt those who admire what Putin is doing to Ukraine and the leaders of other countries who have chosen not to strongly condemn his most recent invasion, possibly in the hope of making money from his actions, will attempt to justify their stance by using the "ends justifies the means" argument. This argument does not work in many situations and can never been seen as acceptable in relation to the Ukraine catastrophe. What end, I find myself asking could ever justify the deliberate lies, deceit, illegality and targeted killing and maiming of innocent babies, children, teenagers, adults, the elderly, the frail and the seriously ill? Nothing, of course, ever can and that is what history will write.
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