Politics may be simply defined as the study of power, where upon any politically motivated act is an attempt to gain, maintain, or exercise power. In this sense, Vladimir Putin is thoroughly demonstrating himself as a master politician in the Ukraine Crisis. The real question is, what are his motivations in Ukraine and perhaps abroad?
Clearly, Putin is attempting to gain power in a few respects. He has been well documented as considering Ukraine a natural buffer territory between the East and West. With this in mind, his goals in Ukraine may simply be to put more distance between himself and NATO.
However, that is too narrow a perspective. After all, if its one thing that Russia has in excess, its land. So his motivations may perhaps be a little different. It should be noted that Ukraine, particularly Ukraine’s East, arms much of Russia’s armed forces with its various factories. It could be that Putin is trying to maintain a hold on the assets that he now feels threatened to lose as a result of Kiev’s shift to the West.
It is difficult to assume that his only motivations are military motivations. Another important fact to consider is that Ukraine in all of its corruption and financial ruin would more than likely be an economic burden for Russia to bear. In this sense, it might mean a smaller military budget to accommodate the expenses of seizing more territory. Considering these things, Putin may very well be exercising power. He is causing such trouble for the West to prove his power and his clout, and to demonstrate that he is a geopolitical force that parallels or surpasses the United States.
Vladimir Putin may have endless motivations, and likely has far more than the brief few outlined above. However, it is not these goals that make him a master of politics. It is instead his success at reaching these goals that makes Putin a calculated user of power.
It has been discussed in ample detail that he likely does not need to send in a traditional invasion to take South and East Ukraine, but if his goals are not being reached by his proxy-invasion thugs, Putin is unlikely to hesitate in acting. In this way, his goals are reached, and there is nothing that the West will do to stop him. Both at home and abroad, this shows that Putin plays by a set of rules entirely his own, and these rules can be adjusted so long as they serve to promote, protect, or prove his power.
He is a master because he is doing far more than NATO with far less. Putin’s will is far more influential as it stands than the West’s will, simply because he is willing to do whatever it takes to enforce it, whereas the West is hesitant to even claim it has any sort of power. Although it may not be possible to fully know or postulate as to what his motivations are, one thing remains clear: whatever Putin’s goals are, he is likely to achieve them as the current situation stands.
It should be stated clearly than many analysts rebuke this theory of a capable Putin forthright. They seem to think that he is winging it, and that his plans are collapsing around him. However what these critics fail to bring out is the fact that, despite any failings on Putin’s part (and more than several can be noted) he has all but taken control of Europe’s largest country (not including Russia of course) without firing a single shot. Now the consequences have been less than tepid in response from the West.
Power is the ability to cause change, in one manifestation or another. Based on how Vladimir Putin’s actions have required shifts in NATO policy and such upheaval in Ukraine, it is clear that he has the ability to cause change. Moreover, based on how the West’s politicking has been so lackluster in changing Putin’s ambitions, it is clear that Putin has power to cause change over the West’s power. He is a master of politics in this sense, and unless something is done to challenge that, he will likely remain as such.
Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane
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