Russian president Vladimir Putin does have a soft spot: Mother Russia. The West continues to have a knee-jerk reaction of vilifying and demonizing the man. This is a huge disservice to the American people and Western world. If we continue to judge him based on assumptions, how will we ever understand the man behind Russia?
KGB. Those three letters seem to define Putin’s entire existent. Yes, he spent 16 years as a KGB officer, including working in Dresden when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. However, Putin’s personality—a cross between strategic and reactionary—originates from the sport of judo. As a child, he began in the sport; he practiced hard and earned the title of judo master. This sport requires strict discipline. Unlike the other martial arts, it’s seen as street fighting. One opponent makes a move, and the other must react quickly and strategically. There’s grappling, hair pulling, tugging; it’s not for the faint of heart. In other words, to excel in judo, one must be tough, resilient, strategic, and reactionary at the same time. Sound like someone we know?
Of course, all judo masters don’t act the way Putin does. That’s where the KGB comes in. The training is intense. Showers set to the exact temperature and learning how to imitate others’ facial expresses and gestures in order to break them down is just a taste of how KGB officers are trained. Training plus sixteen years in the field, combined with judo, turned Putin into a super disciplined human being. Like a robot.
Then there’s his heart. He certainly isn’t lovable and approachable on the outside, but he’s like the rest of us. He married and had two children, though his marriage has ended. By all accounts, he shows his love for his daughters by protecting their identities from the media—which is typical of a European leader. His true love, though, is Mother Russia. He’s intensely Russian and believes he is the man to bring Russia to the superpower it once was. Just because he loves Russia, doesn’t mean he hates the US. Americans mistake geopolitical positioning and keen strategy for dislike. He does what is best for his country. Exactly what America does for herself.
He continues to restore Russia’s broken image from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Look at the billions he spent on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. It’s been a long road for Putin, though. He was deeply affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and knew firsthand what a failing Russia felt like in the early 1990s. Though today, he’s reacting as one of the richest and most powerful people on Earth, I believe his still holds the not-so-distant memory of a broken Russia. At the beginning of his presidency, his mission was to heal her. Now that she’s healed and a superpower again, he’s plotted his course and strategized. He’s reacted in ways unlike a Western leader, which leads to confusion. And the world views him as viciously anti-Western.
The invasion of Crimea is not a “stick it to the West” move on Putin’s part. Instead, he reacted and seized an opportunity to expand upon and strengthen his border and continue his quest to restore Russia to her superpower status in the world. Many journalists say that he’s protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea. That’s not Putin’s mindset. Simply put, he’s in love. It’s a sickeningly unstoppable, unbreakable kind of love only read about in romance novels.
He loves Russia and won’t apologize for it. And when someone is in love, he will do anything for her. That’s where Putin’s mind is…where it’s been for the past 14 years.