President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave an important speech on 21 February 2022. He gave his version of long historical evidence of the nonexistence of Ukraine. But his last few words gave away his game plan in Ukraine, “I consider it necessary to make a long-overdue decision to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.” But on the intervening night of 23-24 February 2022, all hell broke loose when Putin, in a televised address, declared war on eastern Ukraine.
Putin has demonstrated from his speech and acts that he is still in the driver’s seat, and it is his decisions that will shape the next stage of the confrontation, relegating the west to a mere observer.
His speech had contradictions and takeaways. His 23rd February actions further cemented this fact. He is the same person who had referred to the USSR’s fall as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” However, in this speech, he pointed out all the USSR’s mistakes. Such speeches present a unique opportunity to delve into the mind of an authoritarian leader.
Who Is Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in the household of a naval conscript. Putin studied law and joined the Committee for State Security (KGB) in 1975. In 1984 he was selected to attend the Red Banner Institute of Intelligence. He got assigned counterintelligence duties in Dresden (then East Germany) in 1985. In 1990 he became assistant dean for international affairs at Leningrad State University. 1991 saw him becoming chairman of the committee for international relations, kick-starting his political ambitions.
In 1997 President Boris Yeltsin appointed him as deputy chief administrator of the Kremlin. He became Chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 1998 and Secretary of the Russian Security Council in 1999. The same year he was appointed as prime minister by Yeltsin. In March 2000, he was elected as President of Russia, when in December 1999, Yeltsin abruptly stepped down from the Presidentship amid corruption charges. Yeltsin was granted immunity from prosecution, and a new Tzar had emerged on the horizon of the Russian Federation.
Don’t Be Naive
The whole thing looks very simple, but it isn’t. Soon after the break up of the USSR, Russia’s military-security establishment, collectively known as the Siloviki had started counting days. Siloviki means ‘Power Men’, and they were really powerful.
Finally, Siloviki’s time came in 1999. They launched a coordinated attack on anyone remotely connected with Yeltsin. Leaked damaging evidence of corruption made Yeltsin’s family, advisors and the oligarchs nervous. The Kremlin’s fixer-in-chief ‘Sergei Pugachev’ who was later known as Putin’s banker pushed for Putin. This was after Putin had proved himself an effective bureaucrat and a loyal man. Oligarch’s fatal mistake was that they ignored Putin’s background in the security services. The fox was in the hen house.
Putin was Siloviki’s man and with Yeltsin out they were firmly in command. They started targeting one company after another and amassed a vast slush fund that served both personal greed and to finance its subterfuge and interventions abroad. Along with power and money they had an ideological glue — dream of restoration of Moscow’s imperial might.