Think twice before judging Putin too harshly

In a field where everything is opinion-based, there is one truth in politics. The truth is that it will always be “us against them.” There will always be a war on drugs, wars on poverty and regular war.

Politicians will always set themselves as representative of their constituents, and will always try to fight off “them” — the liberals, the conservatives, those godless atheists, and those god-forsaken commies. Can we really blame politicians for setting themselves up like that, though? After all, government is just an extension of the people it governs, so it is really we the people who like the dichotomy.

In fact, we love the dichotomy. Remember the Cold War, that 40-year-long conflict between America, with close allies such as freedom and God, against the totalitarian aggressor called the United Socialist Soviet Republics? It seems that even 30 years after the Cold War, we the people still love the same narrative. In recent months there has been a lot of coverage on Russia and its actions. But that is where the coverage ends; it does not delve into what caused the actions. Instead, it just seems like the media is trying to beat the drums of war and paint Putin as some warmongering, expansionist, neo-commie out to rule the world.

If there is one thing I know, it is that evidence points to Putin acting as a rational state actor. I think what is often overlooked in the coverage by the media, overlooked by the hysterics of “us against them,” is that Putin has his reasons. Whether good or bad, it does not matter, what does matter is taking into account our own actions in order to judge his response.

So let’s begin with Ukraine, what caused the “sudden” invasion? As pointed out by a Reuter’s reporter, Russia is largely landlocked with no real stable access to the sea. When Ukraine broke off from the USSR, it took with them the Crimea peninsula that gave Russia its access to the sea. The invasion and annexation of Crimea was for its ports, not protecting Russian nationals.

Why the invasion into the eastern parts of Ukraine? Because Ukraine wanted to join NATO, an organization heavily influenced by the U.S. Russia sees Ukraine as a buffer state between their homeland and NATO influences. If Ukraine joined NATO, NATO — and by extension the United States — would be on Russia’s doorstep. Imagine if Illinois suddenly aligned itself with Russia, how do you think Iowans would feel? Probably unsafe.

But what if instead of Illinois, it was Indiana that allied themselves with Russia? Iowans would probably feel safer then had it been Illinois. The same principle applies to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. Even in the past couple of days, Russia has received an immense amount of coverage about the military exercises it is carrying out. But I am sure that no one has heard of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which sees American servicemen trekking across 1,100 miles of Europe to show solidarity with NATO allies.

Taken into context, Putin’s actions are not all that extreme and war-hungry. Instead, Putin is deciding not to submit to American hegemony. Russia wants to maintain its own national identity and does not want to be stuck underneath the thumb of the U.S. like much of the world is. They want to stake out their own portion of the world. They are not aggressing against the U.S.; they are defying the Western world order. Putin is not a new Hitler that President Obama is appeasing, but a leader trying to carve out a place for his people in a world that is overwhelmingly influenced by the U.S.

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