President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv this week says it all: Support to Ukraine is paramount. A year ago this week, the Russian army invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine, a reprehensible act of the vicious dictator Vladimir Putin. This war is not about ideology, nationality, religion, revenge, land or treasure. No, it’s all about the vanity of one person. Putin perfectly represents the danger of one-man, long-term rule.
After more than 20 years of imprisoning or killing opponents, he solidified control over all the levers of national power. His ego is the genesis of this conflict, a Mafia don in all but title. The Kremlin’s master transformed Russian governmental institutions into criminal enterprises that have given him and his supporters enormous personal wealth. He did so even while convincing himself that he is a heroic figure, standing strong against a decadent West. This lie can only be sold within the borders of his own country, where he enjoys draconian control of all media.
Putin’s goal was to replace the Ukrainian government with a puppet regime. But the Russian army proved to be both incompetent and cruel. With surprising dispatch, the West, led by the United States, provided massive assistance to the beleaguered government in Kyiv. Guns, ammunition and artillery pieces were shipped to Ukraine via an energized Europe that had not been so united since the Cold War. Putin misjudged not only the resolve of the people of Ukraine, but also the newly stiffened backbone of a defiant Europe. Death is the price for incompetence in war.
This is not a war of the Russian people against the people of Ukraine, who understand one another well and where there has been substantial intermarriage for decades. This conflict is about the lust for individual power and wealth.
The bottom line is that Putin fears the West’s democratic pluralism, which threatens his control, personal wealth and the imaginary legacy of a Russian empire with him as leader. While he lives, Putin will never admit fault. The Ukrainians will never submit to their country being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. So, the stage is set for continued death and destruction. However, I believe that Ukraine will eventually prevail.
Robert Bruce Adolph is a former senior Army Special Forces soldier and United Nations security chief. In May 2022, he served as mission leader for a multinational team in support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Ukraine. Learn more at robertbruceadolph.com.