Vladimir Putin 'believes deeply in the evil that he is doing': columnist
Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is not merely a political conquest for resurrecting the former Soviet Union, David Ingatius wrote in Tuesday's Washington Post. Putin, Ignatius explained in his editorial, is driven by a deep-seated and "dangerous" religious complex that is "almost mystical in its vision of Russia’s past and future."
Putin's close connection with the Orthodox Church – as well as its support for capturing Ukraine – underscores his way of thinking.
"Putin is something different — a Russian Orthodox Christian believer rather than an atheist, with an ideology closer to Benito Mussolini’s fascism than Vladimir Lenin’s communism," Ignatius said. The Russian leader is convinced that his mission in Ukraine is, in a sense, divinely ordained:
Penetrating the riddle of Putin’s psyche is a life-or-death matter these days, as the Ukraine war grinds on and the world worries about the danger that Putin will escalate with chemical or even nuclear weapons. Experts say Putin isn’t irrational in the usual clinical sense. But he has entered a realm where his decisions are driven by a grandiose sense of his place in Russian history. In his own mind, his mission is transcendent.
Putin described the bloody assault as salvation for Ukraine — and spoke of a religious duty 'to relieve these people of suffering.' Astonishingly, he quoted the Bible to justify his blitzkrieg: 'I recall the words from the Holy Scripture: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'
Putin’s words sound perverse, even blasphemous, to us in the West. Putin’s army has bombed maternity hospitals, shopping malls and opera houses in Ukraine. But this twisted version is evidently what Putin believes.
Putin's faith-based crusade makes him especially menacing, Ignatius warned:
Take a good look at the face of the West’s adversary in Ukraine. Putin does not appear to be simply a bully or an opportunist, who can be swayed by economic pressure or vanquished by arms. He believes deeply in the evil that he is doing. He sees the destruction of an independent Ukraine almost as a religious duty.
Two obvious warnings emerge from this narrative: Handle the volatile mix that is Putin with care, lest it explode in a far wider war. And do not let him succeed.
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