by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 24
February 2022
Analysis
11:56

Putin’s speech reveals a dangerous and distorted worldview

This is no longer a man the West can do business with
by Katja Hoyer

It was 5.40am in Moscow when Vladimir Putin appeared on the state-owned TV channel Russia-24 to effectively declare war on Ukraine. Reminding the world that “today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states”, he laced his speech with historical references, revealing a dangerous and increasingly unhinged view of the past.

Putin spoke of the US as an “empire of lies” whose ”satellites not only humbly and obediently say yes to and parrot it at the slightest pretext but also imitate its behaviour”. To the Russian president, Nato is an imperialist venture through which American ambitions to destroy Russia will be achieved via allied states in Europe. In Putin’s eyes, the weakness of Russia was proven when its Soviet Empire collapsed in the Eighties; it encouraged the West “to put the final squeeze on us, finish us off, and utterly destroy us”.

Eastern and northern European states have voluntarily joined Nato because they feel threatened by Russian ambitions. Still, that falls on deaf ears in the face of a worldview that sees the ‘territories adjacent to Russia’ as its ‘historical land’. The idea of Pan-Slavism behind such claims is of course older than the 20th century but it was compounded by the events of the Second World War, the commemoration of which is emotionally central to Russia’s self-perception.

In his speech this morning, Putin reiterated that “the outcomes of World War Two and the sacrifices our people had to make to defeat Nazism are sacred”. This is a direct echoing of Joseph Stalin who argued that the loss of over 20 million Soviet citizens in the war must be given meaning. Never again must Russia be exposed to Western aggression. A ‘sphere of influence’, or rather a wall of Soviet satellite buffer states, was to be erected between Western Europe and the Motherland.

Nearly eight decades later, Putin argued that “we have been hearing an increasing number of statements coming from the West that there is no need any more to abide by the documents setting forth the outcomes of World War Two”. In this way, Putin tries to portray the invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to reinstall a world order the West had once agreed to.

World War Two also allowed Putin to argue that the West is capable of unprovoked attacks on Russia. Practically equating the US and its allies with Nazi Germany, his speech said that Stalin had tried to appease Hitler “ahead of the Great Patriotic War [which] proved to be a mistake — it came at a high cost for our people… We will not make this mistake the second time.” This twisted view of a history in which the US and Russia worked together to defeat Nazi Germany now serves as justification of war.

But the biggest concern in Putin’s distorted worldview is the emotionality with which the Russian sacrifice in World War Two is evoked. The desperate existential struggle against Nazi Germany pushed Russia to its limits in every way imaginable. The country had been bled dry literally as well as economically. In this context, Putin’s acknowledgement that the West has “considerable financial, scientific, technological, and military capabilities” and that he has “no illusions in this regard” appears particularly dangerous and sinister. He is implying that Russia is willing to pay an enormous price when it comes to economic sanctions but, more worryingly, also those that would be incurred in potential military conflict.

Western leaders need to take heed of Putin’s worldview. For too long the attitude has prevailed that Russia is a rational, if somewhat difficult, country that can be included in international security structures and contained in diplomatic agreements. Putin’s actions and his public explanations of them over the last few days paint a different picture.

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
7 months ago

“Putin knows that when I am president of the United States his days of tyranny and trying to intimidate the United States and those in Eastern Europe are over.” (Sleepy Joe Bedtime 2019)
Chapter 487 in the ongoing saga of “Things Biden said that didn’t age well”
The western media reported Putin as saying his incursion into Ukraine was a Peacekeeping Mission. Putin is not a liar – it’s just a mistranslation. It’s a Piece Keeping Mission. He wants to keep this piece, and that piece and any other piece of the former Russian empire he thinks might be to his strategic advantage.
And what are we going to do about? Possibly threaten him with sanctions that he will already have factored into his calculations.
This is what happens when – despite our Politicians saying that they’ll ‘stand up to’ Putin or Xi – the west decides that Net Zero, Gender Pronouns and calling everything Racism is more important than protecting our geo-strategic interests.

Last edited 7 months ago by Paddy Taylor
George Glashan
George Glashan
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

you’ve hit a whole lot of nails on the head there Paddy, if £1 billion is applied in sanctions then the price of gas to Europe is going up by £1 billion. Putin has already won this war in real life whilst our Politian’s have been fighting and still losing imaginary wars on twitter.

George Glashan
George Glashan
7 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Trudeau is a great example, the only fascist’s he could defeat were imaginary ones.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
7 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

What’s the difference between Russian dictatorship and Canadian dictatorship?
Putin controls oligarchs.
Oligarchs control Justin.

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Is this an actual quote? I try not to listen to Sleepy Joe, and he will simply say anything to continue to keep his RICO enterprise going, i.e. BIDEN INC.
For my European friends, RICO is “Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization.” It was originally intended for the Mafia, but it also applies to BIDEN, INC. and many other “businesses” inside the Beltway.
Fortunately, the completely unbiased Department of Justice, under the capable and politically neutral leadership of Merrick Garland, is conducting a completely unbiased investigation into Hunter and Biden’s brother, and will soon find that, after an exhaustive investigation, Hunter did nothing wrong. Stay tuned.
As an aside–or perhaps it’s back to the main point–NATO may have failed in defending Ukraine–if that was even their mission–but NATO is second to none in gender equity, correct pronouns, gay and trans rights….This is so useful and needed on the battlefield.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I don’t know, having seen some of those sights. If I were a Russian soldier, I’d either run a mile or become paralyzed in confusion.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Totally agree. But I would add one thing. In this instance the whole Ukraine business could have been completely defused had the West, led by Sleepy Jo Biden, been a little less arrogant, and simply understood that all that had to be done is assure the Russian that Ukraine would never be part of NATO or any other western military alliance. The fact is that the US acted in a similar manner during the Cuban missile crisis: the US didn’t want Russian nuclear missiles stationed so close to the US mainland. Similarly, the Russians do not want NATO to advance right up to its borders. Further, in the case of Ukraine, it should be noted that it is the birthplace of Russian civilization.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Have you listened to his latest speeches? There’s no logic in his reasoning that you could work with – he’s left the reservation.

james curtis
james curtis
6 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The Russians also noted that Macron recently celebrated Napoleons victory at Austerlitz and when Prime Minister Cameron visited Ukraine a while ago he boasted how the EU would stretch from the Atlantic to the URALS !!!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Jeez we weren’t prepared for WW2 either, but when we had to we handled it, despite naysayers and defeatists saying let’s just work with Hitler.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
6 months ago

Quite a lot of commentary suggests Putin is ‘unhinged’, which is code for, he doesn’t think or behave like us. “No sh*t, Sherlock.”

Might it not be better to try and understand him on his own terms, however far away from our view of the world that is? To that end, may I recommend Giles Fraser’s essay in these pages, highlighting Putin’s religious and mystical sense of Moscow and Kiev being bastions of orthodox (as well as Orthodox) Christianity, in contradistinction to the corrupt West.

It may not be in any International Relations textbook but if it helps us to understand him, isn’t that a good thing?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago

Funny that Putin didn’t mention the massacre of the Kulaks and other atrocities committed by Russians in the Ukraine.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago

How about the atrocities committed by the Americans in Iraq ? do they compare, at all ?

Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers
6 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Assuming you don’t actually mean that, then no. They do not compare at all.
In the one case it was deliberate policy. In the other unintended consequence (admittedly of not very smart policy). You simply cannot run through history conflating such things. That’s a game children play and usually grown out of.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rogers

No, I do mean that. Everyone can see now that the United States is like the Emperor with no clothes – morally, and, increasingly, in material terms.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
6 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Whataboutism again. Sophistry really doesn’t work, Giles, not when it’s so blatant.

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago

“Western leaders need to take heed of Putin’s worldview. For too long the attitude has prevailed that Russia is a rational, if somewhat difficult, country that can be included in international security structures and contained in diplomatic agreements. Putin’s actions and his public explanations of them over the last few days paint a different picture.”
Why is this limited to the last several days?
Katja, there was a war of sorts for at least 8 years. Are you really suggesting that only in the last few days the West should have noticed?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

People thought he was reasonable and would pursue intelligent strategic goals for Russia, so they tolerated his adventures in Ukraine, Georgia, etc. I think they were right to follow a pragmatic approach based on dealing with a sane leader.
But his invasion of Ukraine on this scale, and his recent pronouncements (especially his latest speeches) show he really is unhinged. That wasn’t apparent until recently.
It does make me laugh about those on Unherd who credited him with being a tactical genius. His country is about to go down the plughole.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Yea, Obama’s line in the sand on the Crimea worked well.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Putin is not unhinged. That is a foolish thing to think. He has a deeply held view of Russia, its civilisation and historical position. He deeply resents the way that Russia has been treated by the West. I don’t think that is unhinged. It’s much more a commentary on the mindless ignorance and arrogance of the United States.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

…exactly Giles. and not just the US. It’s the whole of the “Rules Based World Order” crowd, who can’t see the imperialism in their own actions and thinking.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bernard Hill
Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

We’re on the same page. “Rules-Based” means “I can do whatever I like (eg. ignore the French veto of the Iraq invasion at the UN Security Council in 2002), but YOU (Russia, China, etc.) have to do what I say”. The United States – arrogant, ignorant, unfair, greedy – has dug its own grave.

Last edited 6 months ago by Giles Chance
James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Which people thought he was reasonable? On what basis? They should be sacked immediately.
What do you mean by “on this scale?”
Why was this not apparent until recently? Because his tone was more moderate, but his positions the same? Really?
This reminds me of people who liked Trump’s policies but hated Trump because he was a vulgarian. I get it, but was it really a good trade to get a demented, doddering, dotard with horrible policies?
By the way, Biden is also a vulgarian, an extremely mean and nasty guy. Always has been, despite that fake “Uncle Joe” act.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

in an attempt to get around the ‘Awaiting for approval’ am posting with some *** in a word it seems to not like….

Russia is in a crazy place now – look at the places which surround it! From China, through the ‘Stans’, Mongolia, Bl *ck Sea, Caspian, the Caucuses, Balkans, South East Europe, Central East Europe, North East Europe, Finland, and Belarus, Ukraine –

“Western leaders need to take heed of Putin’s worldview. For too long the attitude has prevailed that Russia is a rational, if somewhat difficult, country”

Well, Katja Hoyer, what would a rational person be doing differently in that place, with that reality, and the history and economics of it all????

The crazy head of the insane asylum may not be your typical, rational, person – but his world is not.

Lets take Pelosi, or Boris Johnson, or Macron and pretend they were leader of Russia – you know, someone ‘Rational’ – how would they handle it?

Would Biden, with his senile – leaning forward, whisper-threat voice and squinty eyed anger look, be able to get Russia going all ‘Rational’ if he were in charge? It is not a time and place where Western ‘Rational’ fits.

Dominic A
Dominic A
7 months ago

For too long the attitude has prevailed that Russia is a rational, if somewhat difficult, country … Putin’s actions and his public explanations of them over the last few days paint a different picture.

Well, that’s because it was rational, whilst communistic. It’s rapid decline from failed democracy to kleptocracy/oligarchy, now dictatorship has eaten away that rationalism. Your comment equates ‘Russia’, with ‘Putin’ – no doubt the same delusion Putin is wrapped up in.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago

It’s fascinating to see Unherd commenters obsessing about the woke, Trudeau, Biden when we have the latest version of Hitler knocking on the door. Even in the House of Commons they realise it’s now time to unite and stand up to a seriously unhinged opponent.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It is germane to the conversation. We are aghast at the appalling quality of the Western leaders. People will always be critical of leaders, but the latest crop beggar belief. Putin has observed this. Biden, Trudeau et al are the very reason Putin is striking now.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
6 months ago

There is a very constructive comment thread on an article over on the Common Sense substack:
America Is Afraid of War. Putin Knows It. – Common Sense (substack.com)
in which the sentiments of what I believe are a large proportion of the US population are evoked in response to the war-mongering of the article’s author, who perhaps not coincidentally is a Gender Studies professor!
The mood is essentially this: “why should we, the centre-right working class that every knows does the actual fighting, throw our lives away in the defence of ‘democracy’, when the woke left has been busy trashing our civil liberties (covid, 1/6) and arming our military with pronouns? We’re more worried about oppression in Ottawa than in Kiev.”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

do you know anything about the world?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I noticed that. I’m sure there is some D.I.E wasted energy within the armed forces, but I very much doubt it’s delivered severe impairment yet.

I agree with Lesley that our leadership has been poor, but that is far more based on poor strategic decisions (China building our power stations, Nordstrom 2, grotesque underfunding of our defence capability) rather than wokeism.

I know it’s all talk so far, but I have been reasonably impressed with Boris’s announcements. Biden is saying the right things but his stumbling delivery undermines confidence.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Comparisons with Hitler seek to draw on a deep well of hatred of the Nazis and their treatment of Jewish people. It’s not helpful, and distorts reality. Let us leave 1939 and Germany to one side, and look at things as they really are.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

….Putin is only “unhinged” in the sense that he does not operate within the Western groupthink framework. Have you read his recent comments about wokism ? Basically, he said the West hasn’t learn’t anything from what the Communists did to Russia !

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
7 months ago

Putin is correct that the West, especially the US, could not contain itself after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and rubbed it in unnecessarily and stupidly. The US tried to force everyone to be democratic; meanwhile, America has only set an example of foolishness, ignorance, short-sightedness and greed, instead of wisdom and fairness. Putin has done the right thing. I respect him for taking a very difficult and brave course which he believes to be right for his country. I suspect that most Russians will admire him for it. The West’s approach has been shown to have failed. Putin has won this round.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Hitler did the same thing, in the view of his supporters and many Germans. Based on your reasoning above, do you respect that too?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Yes, I do respect Hitler for bringing his country back from the depths of despair and bankruptcy. Of course, the Nazis were a very bad bunch, and Hitler lied and conspired his way to his position. His hatred of, and attempted destruction of the Jewish people has brought him eternal infamy. But he did restore pride and meaning to Germany, after the country had ben ground into the dust at Versailles, in 1919. The lesson is: if you win, be statesmanlike. Unlike America in the 1990’s, for example.

Last edited 6 months ago by Giles Chance
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

At the fall of the Berlin Wall we needed to begin a second ‘Marshall Plan’ and the world would likely be a safer place.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
6 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Exactly right. Instead, what happened ?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

…Putin on the Blitz indeed.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
6 months ago

Dear moderators,
I wrote a lengthy comment challenging this very strange assertion:
This twisted view of a history in which the US and Russia worked together to defeat Not-see [sic] Germany now serves as justification of war.
…on the grounds that it is not a twisted view of history at all. To say the US and Russia so worked together is history, full stop.
I went on to talk about a worrying trend among modern German to become positively irate when confronted with the consequences of their own past. I cautioned the author against this temptation, and suggested Herr Scholz should do likewise.
What happened to that comment?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
6 months ago

…its only a distorted view to those in the West, who can’t see or think straight.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bernard Hill
james curtis
james curtis
6 months ago

I am so relieved that the UK was obviously not involved in any hostilities during that time, by gum it could have been nasty what.
The Fly in the European ointment is France. Their ambition to rebuild Napoleon’s Empire or better has drawn in all these nations to a totally undemocratic structure ruled by the elite and their puppet courts. They have pushed NATO ahead of them up to the Russian border, Russia has been saying for weeks, this is a matter of our security, but the only response by the west was threats.To depict people as clowns and despots, saying NATO is stronger than Russia and China combined is again just total aggression. With the exception of the poor Ukrainians, Everybody else is culpable in what has happened.

Last edited 6 months ago by james curtis