I recently talked to an Italian friend. He is keenly interested in politics and, in particular, the situation around Ukraine. For him, as for a European, a lot is unclear, so he bombarded me with questions.

– I absolutely do not understand the psychology and logic of Mr. Putin, – he tells me, – here you are, Marat, closer to Russia and Ukraine, you understand better what is happening there. Explain to me what’s in Putin’s head and why he started this war?

– You know, Luka, there are several reasons for this, but the main one is Putin’s desire to retain power for as long as possible. All other reasons, in fact, are subordinated to this main goal.

For example, Putin’s propaganda officially claims that the war was launched to protect Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians on the territory of Ukraine. But the whole world, including the Russians who lived in Ukraine, know that there was no genocide there. All this is a lie and propaganda of the Kremlin.

– Marat, but there is no smoke without fire. I didn’t see it myself, but perhaps there were some facts that are known to you, Russian-speaking Internet users?

– No, Luka, for all this time I have not met any facts either on the Russian-language Internet or in any other. There are made-up stories and provocations, fakes that were invented by Kremlin propaganda, but there are no facts.

There were speeches by Ukrainian radical nationalists against Russia and against the Russian language. But they did not exterminate the people, as follows from the definition of genocide. They demanded the speedy exclusion of the Russian language from state circulation. Such nationalist sentiments are present in many countries. For example, there are radicals in Moscow who proclaim “Russia is for Russians” and oppress non–Russian immigrants. Yes, even in Europe there are chauvinistic sentiments. But can these speeches be called genocide?

– Of course not! Then why is Russia so angry with Ukraine?

– Because Ukraine has taken a course towards Europe, towards Western liberal values: freedom of speech, electability and changeability of power, absence of corruption, and so on. But Ukraine’s orientation to the West meant the loss of a satellite for Russia. When the pro-Russian President Yanukovych was overthrown, Russia saw that it was losing Ukraine as an economic, political, military and, most importantly, ideological ally. The democratization of Ukrainian society in the immediate vicinity of authoritarian Russia posed a threat to Putin, as it would be a clear proof that the former socialist republic can quickly transform and develop with huge strides. Therefore, Putin, having failed to retain control over Ukraine through his henchman Yanukovych, decided to prevent the formation of a new Ukraine and destroy it in any way. He took advantage of the political crisis during the change of power in Kiev and the internal conflict between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian citizens of this country. He fraudulently brought his troops into Crimea, and also helped ethnic Russians and Russian-oriented Ukrainians of Donetsk and Luhansk regions seize power and practically become Russian territories inside another country.

– Marat, but how could it be possible in such a short time to turn the people of huge Russia against their closest neighbors, almost ethnic brothers? I can’t imagine!

– You see, Luka, the fact is that now Russians are driven more by hatred of the West than hatred of Ukraine itself, and Ukraine is regarded only as a traitor to the Slavic and Soviet world, as a servant of capitalism. And hatred of capitalism was nurtured and nurtured in the Soviet Union for 70 years. Therefore, one should not be surprised at such rapid changes in the attitude of Russians towards Ukrainians.

– And why do Russians hate the West so much?

– You see, Luka, for many years the whole Russian people have been inspired with two thoughts.

The first is that the Western way of life is wrong, it brings with it debauchery, lack of family values, conscience, and so on. Russians have been taught for many years that Western culture is homosexuality, lesbianism, child corruption, drug addiction, prostitution, and so on. For decades, Kremlin propaganda has shown and emphasized only the negative features of the Western world, suppressing the positive aspects, such as: individual freedom, the power of the people, real electability and changeability of power, the influence of ordinary citizens on the decisions of the authorities. This side of democracy was carefully obscured and not shown.

The second thought in relation to the West, which also returned in the Soviet Union and continues to be introduced into the minds of people in Russia every day, is that America, as the richest and strongest capitalist country, has established its dominance throughout the world and dictates its will to all other countries. Anyone who agrees with America’s position in international conflicts is recognized by Kremlin propaganda as an accomplice and agent of America, and anyone who opposes America is considered a strong and courageous person.

– You know, Marat, I and many Italians also do not like the dominance of America. I also condemn the United States for its bombing in Iraq, for its war in Vietnam, and so on. But it does not occur to us Italians to go to war on some other country because of this. It does not occur to us to cultivate hatred and aggression towards other peoples and countries in our society.

– But at the same time, Russians are also inspired with the idea that Russia is an invincible empire with a great history. Therefore, no one should be allowed to be stronger than her in the international arena.

– Listen, with all due respect to Russia, Italians probably have no less reasons to be proud of their history. But we are not behaving like a great empire today and are not trying to dictate our terms to the whole world.

– That’s the thing, Luka, that the differences between the Western and Russian mentality, as well as the opposition to American domination, are just a moral justification for the dictator to incite aggression and hatred towards an external enemy in order to unite the people around him. You know that this is an old trick from the history of mankind: if you want to unite people, find them a common enemy. This technique was used by the leaders of the Soviet Union and Russia to strengthen their power.

– So you think that ideological differences are not the main reason for enmity?

– No, Luka, not the main one. I am absolutely convinced that any person individually and any nation as a whole has low, as well as lofty feelings. And it is possible to develop and strengthen both low and lofty feelings in people, everything depends on propaganda and on the ideology prevailing in this society.

For example, I am sure that if some liberal Democrat, such as Anatoly Sobchak or Egor Gaidar, had come to power after Yeltsin, then this leader would have led Russia in a completely different direction: he would have directed all the power of state propaganda that existed at that time to cultivate friendliness, openness and tolerance in society, that is, tolerance for people with different views, as well as freedom of thought and speech. And in a few years of his administration, Russia could have moved strongly towards Western values and now be a partner of Europe and America.But, unfortunately, a former KGB official, suspicious and vindictive, came to power. And after a while, when he got into the taste, he realized that in order to retain power, it was easier to unite people against an external enemy and arouse base feelings. As a psychologist and a politician, he felt it when he ruthlessly dealt with the Chechen liberation movement, and when his principles of revenge and finding offenders anywhere, even “in the toilet”, met with an enthusiastic reaction from the main uneducated part of the population. And then he realized that it works and it brings him easy dividends. Vindictiveness, resentment and aggressiveness are easier to arouse in people and it is easier to win sympathy on these feelings. Therefore, after coming to power, being at first a reformer, he gradually began to slide towards dictatorship and opposition to the West.

I am absolutely convinced that the main goal for him is the preservation of personal power, and not ideological postulates. The proof of my words is that if right now Putin is offered to give up his post to a successor who will continue his policy, “raise Russia from its knees” and will fight for Russia’s interests as well as he does, then Putin will not give up power for anything, he will fight for it in any way. And this proves that the main thing for him is power, and the ideological messages on which he relies are just tools for achieving and preserving this power.

– Thank you, Marat, now it has become more clear to me what is going on in the minds of Russians. Tell me, but what should we, the Europeans, do? How to deal with this danger that comes from Russia? After all, do I understand correctly that if Russia defeats Ukraine, it will not stop there, it will continue its aggression further?

– Yes, Luka, I think so too. Ukraine is just the first outpost on Putin’s path. He wants to seize Ukraine, establish the power of his puppet there and dictate his terms to this country. Kazakhstan will definitely be next after Ukraine, and so on.

The crowd, whose bloodlust Putin himself aroused and encouraged, will demand new victories from him. One day, having embarked on the path of feeding his audience the idea of the greatness of the nation, its invincibility and infallibility, he will have to continue this path and throw more and more victims, new achievements to the crowd. Otherwise, he will start to disappoint the crowd, lose popularity.

He has already tried and knows the way to increase his popularity is to find a common enemy, turn the people against him and make a small victory. Just like Hitler, he will not be able to stop himself and will continue to conquer countries and territories until he comes across a superior force or until his own people overthrow him. Moreover, I consider the second option more preferable for the world community, since the Russian people who lost the war will hold a grudge and will wait for a new Fuhrer with revanchist ideas. And if Putin is overthrown by the Russians themselves, the anger of the people will be turned on the Fuhrer himself, which will allow the imperial idea to be buried in Russia for a long time.

Therefore, Italians and Europeans need to continue to provide military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, as well as to tighten sanctions against the Russian economy, which will bleed it dry. This will bring the people’s revolt against the emperor closer.

I see only such a path to victory.

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