David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, has written an excellent article about the dangerous dictator Vladimir Putin. Here are the last paragraphs of Kramer´s article:
Russia’s military doctrine from 2010 cites as Russia’s top “external military danger” the enlargement of NATO and its military infrastructure “closer to the borders of the Russian Federation.” The reality, of course, is that Russia’s most secure and stable borders are with those countries—Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Norway, and Finland—that are members of NATO and/or the European Union.
Citing this history is not to suggest that Putin is all rhetoric and no danger. On the contrary, a paranoid Putin is very dangerous for Russia’s neighbors and for internal critics. Just ask Georgia, which Russia invaded in 2008, or Estonia, the victim of a Russian cyberattack in 2007, or Moldova, which has endured trade cutoffs, or Ukraine today.
At the end of the day, Putin wants to destabilize Ukraine and other neighbors to make them unappealing to the West. Putin fabricates a threat to ethnic Russians in Ukraine to justify his invasion; the reality is there were no such threats, but more importantly he doesn’t give a damn about their welfare. After all, he doesn’t care about the rights of Russians living in his own country as evidenced by his nasty crackdown on human rights there and the import food ban. Whether Ukraine creates a federal model or some other form of governance is of no interest to Putin; fomenting chaos and separatism in Ukraine are his main objectives.
This is why calls by some commentators for Western leaders to “explore a quiet compromise” with Putin over the crisis in Ukraine and to “understand the Russian leader’s concerns, his demands, his ideas for possibly de-escalating the situation”are pointless, even counterproductive. Putin is not interested in de-escalating unless that would help him with his number one priority: staying in power.
Indeed, Putin is willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power, including, it appears, invading Ukraine under the phony pretext of a “humanitarian intervention.” Making matters worse, through his control over television programming, Putin’s propaganda has tapped into an increasingly ugly mood among Russians (see this “Bike Show” over the past weekend in Sevastopol) that will be hard to tamp down—and may even spin beyond Putin’s control. This makes Putin, and now even Russia, a serious threat. To deal with this challenge requires even tougher sanctions, including adding Putin himself to the sanctions list, and the provision of military assistance by which Ukraine and other neighbors—and not just NATO members—can defend themselves. The last thing we need is a renewed search for accommodation with Putin.