Napoleon and Hitler will always invade Russia. Megalomaniacs always go too far. Human history shows this again and again. This follows the famous maxim by Ariel Durant. “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”
Russia has a millennium of paranoid history because it has been invaded and occupied so many times. Putin does not understand the lesson, perhaps because he is Russian. He is following the ambitions of Napoleon and Hitler and cannot see it.
It is said several times in the Talmud that, “one who grabs much has grabbed nothing.”
He did not even learn from the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan, which is not called Graveyard of Empires for nothing. There was an anti-war movement because Russians did not see why their sons, brothers, and husbands were coming home in body bags from a distant country. Many who know the history believe this was a factor in the downfall of the Soviet Union only a few years after they withdrew from that land.
Ukraine is not Afghanistan. There are historic, cultural and ethnic ties between Russia and Ukrain going back to the origins of Russia itself. Soldiers are sent to make war on people who are very much like them. Military training involves making soldiers see the enemy as unlike them in order for them to overcome the natural instinct against killing one’s own kind. Putin claims to be saving Ukraine, because he cannot label them an enemy.
From what can be known from oujtside the Kremlin, Putin is isolated from the nation he rules. He is surrounded only by those of unquestioned loyalty. That likely means people who will not question him about anything.
It does not get near enough attention in the media, but anti-Putin activism has been ongoing for years. Some might think, what could unarmed citizens do against this kind of tyrant? In my work with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) I have met people who stood up to the KGB and lived to tell about it. Under the Soviet Union there were always dissidents. I have read much of that literasture, heard some of that music and I have seen Eisenstein’s “Ivan The Terrible,” which depicted the old despot as Stalin. I have met people who brought down autocrats in the Philippines, Chile, and Liberia. Protest movements brought down the regimres of all the Warsaw Pact nations. An attempted coup just after the fall of the USSR to restore the USSRF was brought down by a nonviolent protest movement.
As Margaret Meade put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The anti-war movement against our war in Vietnam started small and grew. It forced LBJ to quit and it had a lot to do with Nixon quitting.
Russian law has a universal male draft, but any member of the military cannot be sent into a combat zone without having assented by signing a contract allowing that. Russian soldiers who have not signed such a contract are in combat in Ukraine. Already there is a mothers’ movement questioning this and demanding that their sons be sent back home.
If Putin gets so desperate he orders the use of nukes, will those who actually have to do that comply with such orders? If they do, will the Russian people support that kind of mass murder? Even Hitler’s Wehrmacht had dissidents who refused to follow orders that violated their sense of right and wrong.
So maybe our country, the EU, and NATO cannot directly intervene (yet – and we have reason to fear what will happen if they do), it may well be that Putin has gone too far for them. His dreams of empire or a restoration of the Soviet Union are not based on reality. The Russian people, who already suffer from living in a poor nation, may not be able to tolerate the increased suffering this war is already bringing. His support is high now in the false glow of nationalism, but will it last?
When shortages of commercial goods increase and Russian men start coming home in body bags, the Russian tradition of anti-government movements under the USSR and now still lives.