By UCA News
By Father Shay Cullen*
(UCA News) — Vladimir Putin may see himself as a strong and heroic leader but in the eyes of the world he is a warmonger and dictator
To make a strong gesture of protest, for the first time in living memory, a pope went to the embassy of another country to express deep concern and protest about the invasion of another country.
Pope Francis did. He walked into the Russian embassy in Rome to express what hundreds of millions of people around the world feel and believe — that the invasion of Ukraine is immoral, evil, wrong and repugnant.
A return to war in Europe is shocking and unbelievable for many. It will be a war without end as its effects will last for a generation.
It is evil, destructive and vicious and causes the horrifying reality of death and wounded. All who approve, support, enable and applaud such evil action may also be participating in immoral acts of violent crimes against humanity and being companions of evil.
When we remain totally silent in the face of evil, wrongdoing and human rights violations, we can be part of the crime by our refusal to stand against it.
Who can approve war but only those who will benefit from it? The suppliers of weapons, ammunition and war material are the ones to gain.
The instigator of the war, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, hopes to gain prestige, power and praise by taking Ukraine back into his and Russia’s control and influence.
That is how it is with Putin, who tasted the bitter loss of national prestige when Russia collapsed in 1991 and the Soviet Union fell apart. Many countries once under its once-powerful sway declared independence as did Ukraine. That was bitter medicine for the old Soviets and they have been choking on it until now.
The driving force of Putin, now 20 years in power, is his desire to exert power and restore the twisted pride and image of the once-mighty Soviet Union of which he was a part and before which the world once trembled but then no more.
That is until he put his nuclear force on alert. He wants the world’s attention. He needs to be respected and feared. He hates the fact that so many former Soviet-controlled countries are now members of the EU and NATO and Russia is a second-rate power.
He wants to restore Russia as a great power and be respected. He wants his legacy in history but the quick victory and capitulation of Ukraine have eluded him as the Ukrainian people and army have put up great resistance and halted his advance.
Putin will eventually overwhelm them as the Western powers cannot intervene lest they start a world war. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and they will not start a war with Russia. The prospect of Ukraine joining the EU is what Putin fears. It will be lost to Russia forever, so he wants to capture Ukraine.
Putin resents the modernization of the Ukrainian economy and culture by being closer to the EU and the West. He may see it as a rebuke to him and a threat to the stability of the threadbare economy of Russia and the relative poverty of the Russian people.
Russians might want to oust him one day. They want higher standards of living and greater freedom and prosperity. That economic hardship is increasing with the sanctions being imposed.
Putin has stifled dissent and protest with cruelty and repression. This war and invasion could backfire badly for him but his generals are not telling him about the thousands of Russians killed and weapons destroyed.
The international sanctions suddenly cut off the Russian economy from the Swift system, a fast international payments system that speeds financial transactions around the world. It is damaging the Russian economy.
The freezing of financial accounts held by Russia in other countries is a disaster; his nation is now cut off from the world economically, culturally and even in sports. Foreign investors are closing down and leaving.
The value of the Russian rouble has dropped like a stone against all major currencies.
All this has to be a cause of concern. Putin has to be alarmed and worried.
Besides, his oligarchs whom he enriched with billions in personal wealth are losing their prestige, property and freedom to fly. Russian flights are barred everywhere. Their luxury, million-dollar yachts moored in Mediterranean ports may be targeted for sabotage after one sailor tried to scuttle one recently. Their ships will be held by sanctions in ports. The French government has held up one ship owned by a Russian oligarch.
The oligarchs created Putin and they are now losing billions of dollars as their stocks, shares and companies are failing. They may want to have a new puppet.
Putin cannot accept or endure any criticism, challenge or opposition. He ordered his opponents to be poisoned and assassinated in Russia and outside it. He totally controls the media and dissent is not allowed.
Thousands of Russians who protested the war are being arrested. Russia is a dictatorship and now Putin is the new Hitler as Time magazine pictured him on its front cover. He and not the Russian people have released the dogs of war, but they are suffering as a direct consequence.
Putin sees himself as a strong, heroic person with the tough leader image that Russia has always desired. Instead, in the eyes of the world, he will be seen as a warmonger and dictator, not the one that won Ukraine from the West.
As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flee the bombs as refugees, the eastern countries of the EU have opened their borders and allowed them to enter freely without formal asylum applications.
Compare this to the barbed wire fences and troops deployed to the same borders to stop Muslims and black refugees from entering. The dramatic change of immigration policy is because, as one commentator said, “these refugees are white, Christian and like us, not Muslim or black, they are one of us.”
Even in war, racial discrimination is a national virus and weakness.
*Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.