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Putin’s cautious temptation for war with the West: is it genuine or is it fearmongering?

The regular occurrence of RAF jets being scrambled in response to Russian jets approaching British airspace isn’t a new strategy of President Vladimir Putin attempting to terrify the Western governments and its citizens. The reasoning of these Russian missions has evolved, increasingly boosting Putin’s confidence to control the West how he pleases. However, this story is about more than a few Russian jets encroaching on our airspace or another NATO country’s airspace. 

After Russia threatened Ukraine with severe economic consequences in 2014, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych succumbed to Putin’s pressure – suddenly withdrawing from an association agreement with the EU which would have seen Ukraine align itself closer to the West. Putin believed this was a victory for his imperialistic ideology and policy with Yanukovych instead opting for a Russian trade deal and loan bailout.

Peaceful protests turned into violent clashes between citizens and police forces in Kyiv’s Independence Square followed. Millions of Ukrainians saw their hopes and ambitions diminished and were now being injured or murdered all because of Putin’s power-hungry mindset to blackmail an independent country. After the deaths of over 100 people and injuries of over 1,100 people, the Revolution of Dignity resulted in Yanukovych’s removal after fleeing to Russia. The new acting government promised to bring their country closer to Europe by signing the association agreement, but for Putin, it was a humiliating defeat which was impossible to watch. 

He swiftly executed his illegal annexation of Crimea and began his invasion into the Donbas with minimal Western resistance. This provided him with the freedom he desperately urged to continue reconstructing his Russian empire, six years after receiving the “green light” when he invaded Georgia. Three years before that, he described the USSR’s collapse as the 20th century’s “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” – a century which consisted of two World Wars and then the Cold War. Therefore it can’t be said that everything which has occurred since was entirely surprising, but rather these warnings were simply ignored by the West pleasing Russia as it wished thanks for its oil supplies. Putin was able to play with the West in so many ways that when it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the West had to play catch-up, and this remains evident today with meaningless sanctions and the slowing of military support. The Western response, albeit slow or lacking, suits his narrative that Russia is acting in self-defence because it is under attack from NATO and its allies.

These fabrications are part of a long list of how the Kremlin lies, not just to the World, but also to its own citizens. Whether it is coming directly from themselves or through state media still today, it remains the only source of information for many Russians. Whenever Putin has felt threatened by politicians, journalists, former intelligence officers, and even the catalyst of his war machine, Yevgeny Prigozhin, he has always eliminated his opposition. Innocent or ‘guilty’ (because of false charges), he has always sealed their fates wherever they were in the world. The poisoning and murder of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 signalled to Putin that if he could come up with falsifications then he could carry on with killing his opposition, as shown during the 2018 Salisbury Novichok incident in Salisbury. The failed poisoning of Alexei Navalny in 2020 meant he had to adapt his technique after Navalny survived and returned home to Russia – constantly increasing his prison sentence on new false charges, including the “rehabilitation of Nazism”, and torturing him in abusive jail conditions. Putin eventually caused his death a month ago.

Motivated by the USSR’s collapse, Putin’s worldview is more a product of the Russian Empire, with him likening himself to the 18th-century Tsar Peter the Great. His successful manipulation of the West and Ukraine’s drive for a Western future fuelled Putin to leave a bloody and totalitarian legacy behind. Seeing that he escaped lightly after all his human rights abuses, assassinations and barbaric assaults in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Ukraine, Putin realised that he always had the greater leverage against the West. This also drove him into extending his reign as the Kremlin’s leader disguised under uncompetitive and restricted ‘elections’. 

Whether Putin is seriously seeking confrontation with the West or just trying to incite fear into the people because their government supports Ukraine, it must be acknowledged that he is gearing up his population with hatred towards the West with state media. Putin himself frequently mentions nuclear strikes on the West in an absurd manner, ignoring the seriousness of this subject. Today, this senseless conflict acts as the catalyst of its economy with their government investing more in defence than in its social spending. Russia’s meat grinder tactic is evidence of how its citizens are either naturally being brainwashed or forced into a mental state of war with these numerous RAF interceptions of Russian jets. Another example of many is how Putin is preparing himself and his country for a war which would not only see the end of his reign but would also have no winners – the consequences of which he is well aware of.

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