Putin’s existential fear

By | February 26, 2023

Reuters reports:

President Vladimir Putin cast the confrontation with the West over the Ukraine war as an existential battle for the survival of Russia and the Russian people – and said he was forced to take into account NATO’s nuclear capabilities.

A year since ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin is increasingly presenting the war as a make-or-break moment in Russian history – and saying that he believes the very future of Russia and its people is in peril.

“They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part – the Russian Federation,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview recorded on Wednesday but released on Sunday.

The NATO and the West dismiss such narrative, saying their objective is to help Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked attack.

Putin said the West wanted to divide up Russia and then control the world’s biggest producer of raw materials, a step, he said, that could well lead to the destruction of many of the peoples of Russia including the ethnic Russian majority.

“I do not even know if such an ethnic group as the Russian people will be able to survive in the form in which it exists today,” Putin said. He said the West’s plans had been put to paper, though did not specify where.

The United States has denied that it wants to destroy Russia, while President Joe Biden has warned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War Three, though he has also said Putin should not remain in power. [Continue reading…]


In an interview with Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg, Volodymyr Zelensky said:

“We can see what a tragedy we have, and it’s hard to live with it. But you have to live with it … You can’t be serious about what Russian politicians and Lukashenko say every day. If you take it seriously, you might as well go and hang yourself.”

Is Putin afraid of humor?

“Very much so,” Zelensky said. Humor, he explained, reveals deeper truths. The famous television series in which Zelensky starred, Servant of the People, mocked the pomposity of Ukrainian politicians, attacked corruption, and presented the little guy as a hero; many of his sketches were clever satires of political leaders and their attitudes. “Jesters were allowed to tell the truth in ancient kingdoms,” he said, but Russia “fears the truth.” Comedy remains “a powerful weapon” because it is accessible. “Complex mechanisms and political formulations are difficult for humans to grasp. But through humor, it’s easy; it’s a shortcut.”

Humor in Ukraine is now mainly of the darkest kind. At certain moments, Zelensky appeared stunned by the cruelty of it all. He tried to explain why he cannot feel—why most Ukrainians cannot feel—much sense of satisfaction in their underdog battlefield victories. Yes, they expelled the mighty Russian army from the northern part of the country. Yes, they killed, by their count, more than 19,000 Russian soldiers. Yes, they claim to have captured, destroyed, or damaged more than 600 tanks. Yes, they say they’ve sunk the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Yes, they changed the image of their country, and their understanding of themselves. But the price has been colossal.

Too many Ukrainians, Zelensky told us, died not in battle, but “in the act of torture.” Children got frostbite hiding in cellars; women were raped; elderly people died of starvation; pedestrians were shot down in the street. “How will these people be able to enjoy the victory?” he asked. “They will not be able to do to the Russian soldiers what [the Russians] did to their children or daughters … so they do not feel this victory.” Real victory, he said, will come only when the perpetrators are tried, convicted, and sentenced. [Continue reading…]

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