Any plan to deal with Putin must take into account the following:
1. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in the liberation of the Eastern European countries that came under the control of the Soviets after World Word II, to include, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungry, Romania, and the eastern half of Germany. Russia also lost dominion over 14 of the old Soviet Republics which were mostly lands that previously belonged to the Russian Empire that was ruled by the Tsars until the Russian Revolution in 1917 brought the Communists to power. Putin possesses a strong nationalistic fervor and he wants to restore Russian control over these lands that were once part of Russia. Ukraine is one of these countries.
2. While there are elections in Russia, Putin, the onetime Colonel in the KGB isn’t likely to relinquish power. He’s been the Prime Minister from 1999 to 2000, the President from 2000 to 2008, the Prime Minister again from 2008 to 2012, and the President again from 2012 to present. We must expect that he will remain the real power in Russia.
3. The Cold War remains dead. Putin is not pushing Communist ideology with the goal of world domination. Nor are there any threats to use nuclear weapons. However, he does utilize the Cold War concept of, “Sphere of Influence.” Putin knows that since most of these lands border Russia, the old Soviet Republics are totally within the Russian sphere of influence and that the US and Europe have little leverage to stop him as he attempts to expand the territory and prestige of Russia. What’s more, Putin knows that the United States used the sphere of influence argument during the Cuban missile crisis to oust the Soviets.
4. The Tsar-like Putin knows that the globalization of the world’s economies means that broad based sanctions by the West on Russia will eventually backfire because of the interdependence of the global market place especially between Europe and Russia.
Taking these four points into consideration, we must understand that Putin sees himself as a historic figure with a mission to restore Russia to its pre-Russian Revolution 1917 borders as much as possible. He will use the presence of Russian populations and ethnic unrest in these old Soviet Republics as an excuse to become involved in their affairs. In dealing with him in the short term, a strong condemnation by the European Nations and US, along with diplomacy and targeted sanctions may have some affect, but Tsar Putin will not leave the Crimea and it’s only a matter of time before he goes after more of the old Soviet Republics within Russia’s sphere of influence.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA”, visit: