Russian philosopher offers assessment of Putin's disturbing thought process amid Ukraine invasion

Russian philosopher offers assessment of Putin's disturbing thought process amid Ukraine invasion
Russian President Vladimir Putin in April 2020, Wikimedia Commons

A Russian thought philosopher is examining President Vladimir Putin's disturbing thought process as he navigates through the Russian Armed Forces' invasion in Ukraine.

In an op-ed published by The Guardian, Michel Eltchaninoff —Philosophie magazine's editor-in-chief who also studies the history of Russian thought— dived into the twisted mind of Putin as he attempted to analyze the dictator-style president's leadership. He began with a recent quote directly from Putin noting that the Russian president has already made his perspective quite clear.

"They have only one objective: to prevent the development of Russia," Putin said on February 21 where he discussed Ukraine. "They are going to do it in the same way as they did it before, without furnishing even a single pretext, doing it just because we exist.”

According to Eltchaninoff, the remarks are similar to Putin's statement back in 2014. At the time, he said, “The politics of the containment of Russia, which continued throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, continues today. There is a constant attempt to push us back into a corner because we have an independent position, because we stand up for ourselves.”

While Putin's actions are deeply disturbing to many who have watched the latest series of events unfold, Eltchaninoff notes that the developments are merely part of a vision the dictator has wanted to bring to fruition for quite some time. The attack also stems from Putin's perceived victimhood as if he and his country have been humiliated in some way.

"What is actually happening in Ukraine is the result of a vision of Russia that is deeply embedded in the mind of Putin," Eltchaninoff wrote.

To support his argument, he went on to offer a timeline of historical facts that offer insight into Putin's frame of mind. "In 2008, he punished Georgia for its desire to leave the orbit of the old imperial power. In 2014, he annexed Crimea and prevented Ukraine from joining Nato by starting the Donbas conflict."

Although Putin has managed to throw his weight around quite a few times over the last decade, Eltchaninoff argues that its not enough for Putin. "He wants a confrontation with – and a victory over – a west that he holds responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union, for the weakness of Russia in the 1990s, and for the autonomous tendencies of the old Soviet republics," he wrote.

Eltchaninoff also posed another compelling question: Why would Putin make this move now? The timing of Russia's attack may be the result of a multitude of different factors.

"In the years following his re-election in 2018, the patriotic exaltation that followed the annexation of Crimea faded. Everyday problems for ordinary people – declining living standards, increased poverty, inflation, a healthcare crisis – have become worse year by year. Meanwhile, the US has become more preoccupied with China than Russia," he wrote. "So in July 2021, Putin published the infamous article in which he proclaimed the unity of the Russian and Ukrainian people."

While others tend to focus on monetary gain and material possession, Putin emphasizes a different creed: “The Russian man thinks first of all … in relation to a superior moral principle.” Eltchaninoff warns it's something Putin may be willing to die for. In fact, on multiple occasions, Putin has even alluded to that fact saying, "for Russians, 'even death is beautiful.'”

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