Western politicians have decried Vladimir Putin as a shameless expansionist. But is the Russian president actually a peacekeeper?
In his annual address to parliament ten years ago this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the demise of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. He went on to say “Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.” Fast forward to 2014 as tensions mount with the West, Russia reunites with Crimea — citing the will of the people. In a documentary, released this month, Putin says he was merely righting an historical wrong. For Putin, while Ukraine is more complicated, the same doctrine applies. Observers say he’s not looking to “annex” the country, but wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, and by extension, avoid a western military presence on his doorstep. As proof of his peaceful intentions, Putin’s supporters argue that it was the Russian president who helped broker the current ceasefire, preventing a military confrontation with the West. And in Syria, when U.S. President Barack Obama threatened military action against the Assad government’s alleged use of poison gas it was Putin who helped diffuse the situation convincing the Syrian president to give up his chemical weapons. Russia has also joined the fight against Islamic State arming Syria in its battle against the extremists.
So is Vladimir Putin a shameless expansionist or a peacekeeper? The Heat discusses this issue with these experts:
- Internationally syndicated and online columnist Eric Margolis. He was the first western journalist given access to KGB headquarters in Moscow 26 years ago.
- From Moscow is Vyacheslav Nikonov. A veteran politician and former staff member to Russian President’s Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin, he’s currently a member of Russia’s parliament, the Duma.
The Heat discusses Russian President Putin Pt1Western politicians have decried Vladimir Putin as a shameless expansionist. But is the Russian president actually a peacekeeper?
The Heat continued its discussion with Steven Pifer from the Brookings Institution in Washington. He served as the United States Ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton and is currently the director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at Brookings.