Vladimir Putin has been a major player in designing the new Russia soon after the Soviet Union fell in the 1990s. During the height of the Communist empire he had been a member of the Russian security agency, the KGB, where he retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991 he entered politics and in 1999 he replaced Boris Yeltsen when he unexpected resigned as president of Russia. Since that time Putin has either been president or prime minister of Russia.
He took a demoralized Russia and allowed capitalism to grow while at the same time maintaining heavy centralized control of the country. During Desert Storm Russia backed the United States and turned its’ back on its’ own ally, Iraq. A weakened Russia had to capitulate to world pressure. This has now changed.
Yeltsin has been biding his time and waiting for his time to flex the muscles of the new Russia. While the world watched mid-east regime after regime threw off the yoke of anarchy to embrace democracy. Yeltsin and Russia stood on the sidelines and observed western countries stumbling through a feeble attempt to mentor new governments that had only observed how democracy had worked. While America and the west failed in its support of democracy in Egypt, Libya and now Iraq and soon to be Afghanistan, Yeltsin waited for his time. This time came compliments of Iran and Syria.
America was at odds with Iran over its’ nuclear program. Russia provided leadership and now the nuclear issue is quickly evaporating. Then the Syrian crisis developed and following lost opportunities and false expectations from America, Russia stepped in and provided the guidance that led to the destruction of much of the poisonous gas that had been used on
Syrian civilians. This allowed Putin to grow in the eyes of the world and when this happens a sense of superiority with a sense of little or no accountability takes over the psyche of the individual.
Yeltsin then took the bold action that has not been witnessed since Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia; he invaded the Ukraine and used the same excuses that Hitler had used for Germany’s invasion 60 years earlier. Now he is looking at taking the entire country by supporting a civil war. The world stood by and placed watered down sanctions on Russia. Then over time the sanctions have been expanded. Normally sanctions have little effect and take a long time to have a major affect. Russia is different. Russia changed it entire economy during the 90s and they are still economic infants. There are a lot of Russians becoming wealthy in the new capitalistic economy however Mother Russia is very dependent on the world for its’ economic growth. Sanctions have a much more profound effect on Russia than sanctions had on earlier more entrenched economies such as South Africa and Iran.
Putin responded to a cry from his country for nationalistic pride. He answered but went too far. While sanctions were beginning to make an impact on Russia and Yeltsin continued to flex his muscles, Malaysian Flight 17 loaded with civilians reroute from Amsterdam to Malaysia, was flying through the night and suddenly exploded at 33,000 feet. The cause; a Russian supplied missile fired from Ukrainian separatist. Then the indignant handling of the remains of the causalities by the Ukrainian separatist appeared on televisions around the world. This prompted the world to finally levy newer and heavier sanctions. Finally Putin is backed into a corner. His country sees him as a hero but for how long.
Will Putin discontinue his mission to add the Ukraine to Russia and take a step back in his personal and national power growth or will he continue his support of the Ukrainian insurrection and thus allow sanctions to hurt the internal growth of his country. The world is finally displaying the leadership to strangle the economy of Russia if required. Over the next several months it will be interesting to see how all this unfolds.

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