| Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons CC0 1.0
In 1941, during the Second World War, Hitler invaded Russia. He imposed a blockade on Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg), which lasted an incredible 875 days.
With some help from the Finnish Army, the war of attrition inflicted by Hitler on that city claimed close to a million lives. Outgunned and cut-off from vital supplies, it was only through sheer courage and tenacity of the residents and defenders of the city that it withstood the assault by a more superior army. Eventually, the Russians prevailed at great cost, and Hitler’s campaign turned into a disastrous defeat.
The looming threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, with a possible siege of Kiev, reminded me of the infamous Siege of Leningrad, except this time, the aggressor is Russia. Should Putin decide to invade and march to Kiev, I think history will repeat itself with an ironic twist. The former aggrieved country is now the aggressor against a country that is culturally and ethnically closer to Russia than the West.
Under the pretext of a threat to national security, Putin continues to spin a narrative with a flimsy shell. Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, several former members, including Ukraine, decided to embrace democracy and joined or are joining the European Union and the Western defense alliance or NATO.
Let’s be reminded that since the end of the Second World War, and even during the Cold War, Western democracies, including the Scandinavian countries, have experienced continued economic growth and relative peace. With the U.S. included, these countries are part of what is often called the West. The European Union even boasts a unified economy with its own currency and citizens who enjoy a relatively high standard of living. None of these democracies has ever threatened a next-door neighbor with its military might. Besides, who would want to start a war that could potentially ruin a thriving economy.
“This development poses a greater risk to Putin more than what he imagined as the West’s military might. The prospects of these countries becoming wealthy and their citizens enjoying greater freedom are a source of nightmare for Russia.”
In these societies, government transparency or truthfulness is the normative way of life. It results from a democratic system where citizens demand government transparency, accountability, and a free press. In other words, the “truth” is highly valued and pursued.
The current ideological conflict can be distilled into a battle between the truth and organized lies and deception. In authoritarian regimes, the rulers control information and keep a tight lid on dissent. The basic freedoms and human rights enjoyed by citizens in an open society take a backseat.
It takes me back to Hitler, who started an apocalyptic war over his gripes and a large ego. He took it personally that Germany was humiliated after its defeat in the First World War. He decided to exact revenge on the rest of Europe by going to war. He invaded Russia because he viewed Stalin as a rival.
Now, we have Putin, who wants to restore the faded glory of the former Soviet Union. He resented seeing the broken pieces of the old empire go West. I think what scares him is not the West’s guns, rather the increasing numbers of former Soviet satellite countries surrounding Russia slipping his grips and embracing democracy on their own accord.
This development poses a greater risk to Putin more than what he imagined as the West’s military might. The prospects of these countries becoming wealthy and their citizens enjoying greater freedom are a source of nightmare for Russia. It doesn’t take much to imagine what could possibly happen when ordinary Russians begin to compare their lot with those of their neighbors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at email@example.com.