Audacity runs in his veins. In a damn-the-world move, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin annexed the Ukrainian divisions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia on 30 September. In a bid to gain legitimacy, Putin had held sham referendums in these regions before annexing them. Reports say, in many places, the voting was enforced at gun point. Thus, the annexation ranks as the most audacious land snatch in Europe since World War II. As Putin’s juggernaut rolled on relentlessly, rest of the world did nothing more than uttering a few inanities. Threats of sanctions and more sanctions followed, but the threats rolled down the backs of Putin and his stooges.

An emboldened Putin broke into celebrations with his pompous declarations on Russian state television on 30 September. He carpetbombed incredulous Russians with his nationalist spins and patriotic pufferies. He brainwashed them by asserting Russia’s historical losses had been avenged. According to him, this territorial violation was not annexation, but re-unification. In orgasmic delight, Putin ended his demagogical deliveries in Kremlin by signing annexation documents.

Megalomaniacal Declarations

Seen from any angle, Putin’s territorial snatch is illegal. Expectedly, America declined to recognise Putin’s annexation and slapped further sanctions on Russia. Other nations simply waffled to issue weasel generalisations. An effete United Nations was content with its typical vote of condemnation dripping with diplomatese. Can the world expect such inanities to stop Putin’s expansionary juggernaut? Later, in his usual I-give-a-damn posturing, Putin delivered a victory speech in St George’s Hall in Moscow.

The content of Putin’s victory speech offered clues to what was probably crossing his mind. In his speech, Putin sounded triumphant. His declarations were megalomaniacal. He was pandering to patriotic sentiments in unconcealed glee. As he bragged over an expanded Russia, he was beaming with dictatorial delight. Clearly, he was projecting himself as the new all-powerful Tsar of a larger Russia. But, through these opulent optics, his countrymen remained doubtful of whether his emotions and thoughts had a place in a world of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

Hoodwinking the Russians

Russians had never been happy over Putin’s wanton aggression in Ukraine. They saw through his vainglorious euphemism when he dubbed the aggression as ‘a special military operation’. Many of them had no trust in his twisted logic of calling the invasion an existential struggle. Putin’s political legerdemain became evident to them when he began blaming the West for what was happening in Ukraine. Finally, they sat aghast before their television sets on that day, squirming at his warped rationale of having avenged the wrongs in Russian history.

Simply, Putin was hoodwinking his countrymen. They knew the Ukrainian forces were gaining an upper hand in many battlefronts, ably aided by American military equipment. They were aware of Russian soldiers retreating in many theatres. Bad luck for Putin, they were sure Ukrainian forces were gaining control over many key access routes on land in strategic regions. Undoubtedly, they were livid at the thought of being dragged into Putin’s mindless war in Ukraine.

Untrustworthy and Unreliable

More than these, Russians are enraged today over Putin degrading their country’s international borders into dens of discord. Russians are yet to come to terms with Putin’s uncanniness in transforming Russia into a simmering battlefield overnight. Worse, Putin loves to threaten a nuclear war, just to get even with the West. He has no qualms about accusing the West for Russia’s problems. He shows no remorse when he says the West is conspiring to take Russia under its wings. In this mumbo jumbo, he is driven solely by his desire to justify his aggression on the grounds of patriotism. As any unscrupulous politician, he is evoking nationalism to rationalise his military recklessness in Ukrainian divisions.

Such misplaced nationalism is not making Russians believe Putin. What is drawing their ire more today is Putin’s 21 September diktat on mandatory conscription for three lakh Russians. With his approval ratings dipping fast among Russians, Putin is growing desperate. With Ukraine showing no desire for negotiations, more so after Russia’s recent reversals, Putin is hitting a wall. As Putin declined to negotiate initially, Ukraine considers him unreliable and untrustworthy today.

Support for a Self-Defending Democracy

Sure, Putin is believed to be dishonest. In fact, Putin bolstered this belief by placing four puppet administrators soon after he signed the annexation papers. His idea was to erect a smokescreen of democracy.  He seemed to have overlooked Russia’s ‘Not Free’ status in Freedom in the World 2022 and Freedom on the Net 2021 rankings. Neither did he bother about Russia’s billing as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in the Freedom House Nations in Transit 2022 listings, wherein Russia holds the distinction of being one of the worst perpetrators of transnational repression.

Probably, Putin is planning now to stop Ukraine’s accession into Nato. Ironically, this stop-Ukraine move could accelerate Ukraine’s Nato entry. Whether this happens or not, Ukraine’s de facto alliance with Nato remains safe. Nato nations apart, Russian dissidents too are supporting a free democratic Ukraine. Russia’s jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny wants Ukraine to upgrade itself to an independent self-defending democracy. He emphasises the need for the current Russian regime to make way for a war-abhorring peacenik political dispensation. Such protagonists of peace are now hoping Russia is pinned down in the UN General Assembly, where it has no veto.

In Conclusion

Irrespective of whether Russia gets pinned down in the UNGA, a palpable fear continues to hang over the capitals of territory-threatened nations. As Putin stirs up nationalist fervours by misclaiming Russians fighting in Ukraine are in fact ‘defending’ Russian territory, he is showing the way for other expansionists in the world. Consider Putin is accusing the United States today for setting a precedent for using nuclear weapons in war. This is Ukraine war’s gravest fallout.