By Michelle Porizkova
The internal turmoil between Russia and Ukraine has been simmering to the brim since 2014, and it is not surprising that years later, an insecure and desperate Vladimir Putin has taken the dive and placed brute force upon its neighboring country.
Ukraine, however, is just the beginning.
On November 9, 1989, the deconstruction of the Berlin wall began, and Eastern Europe lost the tight grip that Russia had held for nearly 30 years. The ’90s brought Eastern Europe a decade of restoration, with neighboring countries establishing their own democracies and developing trade with countries halfway across the world.
Eastern Germany was able to reunite with its Western half, allowing the country to slowly mold into continuity once again. The Czech Republic, one of the countries that the USSR had its tightest grip on, elected its first president post-communism: a writer and vocal anti-communist hero, Václav Havel.
Europe was able to dismantle itself from the iron curtain in just a few years, and Russia had struggled to gain momentum from the tremendous loss.
My parents immigrated to the United States while the Czech Republic was still under the blanket of communism, and my entire family has lived there until today. Throughout my childhood and when we would visit them, I’d hear the stories of how grocery stores were half empty and how foreign treats or fruits were unheard of.
Under this oppression, many found it difficult to financially support themselves and to climb their way up to the middle class.
Now, decades later, I still visit and see the relics that my grandparents have that the ‘communist’ look and feel to them, as my grandparents would point out. And with Ukraine being bombarded now with violence and persecution, it’s not difficult to see why central Europe is nervous about this conflict.
With decades of power, Putin has finally pulled the plug and has begun a war that doesn’t end with Ukraine. It ends with the reconstruction of the USSR.
Ukraine is simply a stepping stone for Putin, who has stated previously that he wishes to restore Russia to its glory days. Putin has stated on numerous occasions that the demise of the Soviet Union is one of the greatest tragedies in history; it’s something he has been vocal about.
Being a former KGB foreign intelligence officer, Putin has shown his Russian patriotism in more ways than one. Having served now for almost two decades as president of Russia, in 2020 Putin signed into law the possibility of him remaining in ruling power until 2036. That would allow him to be president for nearly 40 years.
So, what’s his end goal?
Since the conflict in 2014 began in Crimea, Ukraine has made it clear that they want to become more westernized, become a part of NATO and join the majority of Europe in their democracy. This threat of Ukraine becoming a part of NATO, and joining forces with what Putin deems as his enemies, appears to have been enough motive for him to attack with brute, and illegal, force.
With President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine fighting back with his own fervor, it appears that the control Putin was seeing to obtain in Ukraine is much more difficult than he could have imagined.
Yet, in an alternative universe where Putin would have gained control of Ukraine in a timely fashion, would he be satisfied with the conquer?
No, he wouldn’t.
Ukraine is merely a barrier that he needs to overcome to spread his violence to more of Eastern Europe. And why stop at Ukraine? Belarus, Latvia, Moldova – they’re all within reach for him and extremely small in comparison. If seeking the reconstruction of the former Soviet Union is what he wishes to accomplish during his years in office, as a sort of legacy, then Ukraine is just the first stop on the list.
Putin has the advantage of nuclear power in his arsenal, something he knows the NATO countries are afraid of him using. However, if Putin were to attack anybody with nuclear warfare, NATO would step in and put an end to Russia altogether.
So where does it end?
When will Putin be punished for his crimes of attacking Ukraine under false pretenses and killing civilians?
How long will the world be frightened of Putin’s bluff?
As of right now, it’s just a game of cat and mouse.
Image of Prague taken by the author