Vladimir Putin

Prenote:  my good friend Louisa has a session on Forgiveness in which you might be interested.  The dates Wed March 2, noon; Thursday March 10 6 p.m.  Details here.  I can attest that Louisa conducts an excellent program.

Here is the initiating post about Ukraine, published Feb. 16, including the Ukraine National Anthem.  A Feb. 28 post from NBC on the situation in Russia, thanks to Carol.


In the end analysis, Vladimir Putin and all others of his ilk anywhere, including in our own country, is a human being just like us.  But….

When I was looking for the book Dr. Paul Farmer autographed for me in 2013 (yesterdays post), it was his “Pathologies of Power” c2003.  It has not been out of the bookshelf for years.  This might be a good time to reread.

Most all of us are open books, a sum total of our individual lives with all the component parts, our personal history in the universe as it were.

So it is with Vladimir Putin.

At the very least, check out Putin’s early life and background.

A decent, convenient source is found at Wikipedia: Vladimir Putin.  Scroll down to the two short sections on Early Life and KGB Career.

Just get a feeling of this current tyrant.  It won’t solve anything, but might help understanding as others wrestle with the immense issues we are witnessing live on television every day.


I had a couple of close calls with the person who is Putin back in 2003, when we went on a Baltic Cruise with my Winnipeg cousin and her husband as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

We had two days in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and in my recollection we signed up for two day long tours.  I have the photos, but I can’t access them at this moment so my memory will have to suffice.

June, 2003, was a less than calm time in our own country.  On March 19, 2003, the bombing of Iraq began.  “Shock and Awe”, you might remember.  You might remember, as well, the Project for a New American Century.  It may not be mentioned often, but our own skirts are not so clean.

A quick takeout of Iraq by the United States, marketed as a reasonable response.  You remember.

Honestly, we were essentially doing the same thing then, which are now being done by Russia re Ukraine.  I haven’t heard this being mentioned in my news media.  Doubtless it has come up in conversation at the highest levels everywhere.

Anyway, one of our early stops that pleasant late spring day in 2003 was at a hotel, where we were shown (I kid you not) the door of the elevator ascended by President Bush a few weeks earlier, when to my memory, he had first met Putin, then in his first round as Russia’s President.  There was nothing more.  We saw the elevator door.  No, no touching it!

Some time later we were in our bus being shown around the city, and went by one of the immense bland apartment buildings, and it was pointed out that Vladimir Putin had grown up in a particular building.

The next day, the lunch break was at a country restaurant proudly presented as being Putin’s personal favorite.  We had our lunch, and moved on.


The only reason we were in Russia on those June days was the 50th wedding anniversary of Canadian relatives.  We saw much much more.

But at this moment in history, getting to know something about the latest international terrorist is important.

Take some time.


MEDICAL AS OF SAT. FEB. 26: I came home Wednesday about noon, with no restrictions, but very tired.  My recovery is emphasizing rest.  My first outside foray was brief and independent on Friday.  First stop back in the house was bed rest!  Oh, so marvelous.  I will probably write a followup blog on the medical within the next week.


One of my French-Canadian cousins, a retired professor of political science in Montreal, had asked me to trans-ship some books he had ordered in the states.  They arrived before my surgery, and had titles like “from Catherine to Khruschev The Story of Russia’s Germans”.

I sent them off Friday, and in letting him know they were on the way sent a brief e-mail: “Sometime let me know your take on Ukraine at this point in history“.

Here was his response: “Thanks I will send you the money. All of my mother’s grandparents [his home province is Saskatchewan] were Germans born in Russia from the same town. Their history is even more fascinating than my father’s [French-Canadian] side. I am writing about it. 

[My spouse, who is Russian] and our children are very traumatized. They are ashamed of being Russian. Ordinary Russians are also victims. Children with Russian names are being bullied at schools in Montréal  like my mother was for having a German name. On the other hand it is heartbreaking to hear some of our friends in Russia repeating the disgusting propaganda they see on TV. It is also appalling to have loved ones in Canada saying that Trudeau is a much worse dictator than Putin or Hitler. They get this from Fox news.
Bon rétablissement !”

Cover of one of the books sent to my cousin.

Postnote from Dick: I grew up in North Dakota, which has a very large population of people we called “German-Russians” (another story for another time), now I think referred to as Germans from Russia.

One of the towns we lived in (1951-53), Karlsruhe, was virtually 100% Germans from Russia, whose first language was German.

I didn’t appreciate at the time, of course, the business of language.  We were new in town; we had to pay our dues before kids, even, would talk English to us (which they knew, of course, but you know, kids….).  I was a 6th grader.

My friend, Christina, brought the issue home to me some years ago.  She’s 90 now, and she was recalling childhood in rural Berlin ND (yes, Berlin).  Her ancestry was German from Russia, and her parents had purchased a farm east of their home area not far west of Berlin.  My grandparents were, like her, 100% German ancestry, but their ancestors had migrated to the United States from Germany beginning in the 1840s.  Their home territory in Wisconsin was heavily German and many of their homies to this new land had come from the same place they did.  They were Catholic, so was Christina’s kin, so St. John’s in Berlin, North Dakota, was faith home base.  They were almost certainly bi-lingual, judging from books, etc.  Each had a parent born and raised in Germany.

But it wasn’t quite so simple, Christina related.  Both German constituencies spoke German, but their German was different.  One group had difficulty understanding the other.  Simple as that.  I suppose that ‘social distance’ impacted the community. It was easier to associate with those you most easily understood, who had the same general background.  Then there was the matter of fitting in – the newcomer dilemma.  The Wisconsin Germans came in the early 1900s. the North Dakota Germans from Russia, later.  In a sense it was like our dilemma in Karlsruhe ND.

Memories of community….

COMMENTS (more at end of post): 

from Joyce: Heather Cox Richardson Feb. 26.

from John S.:   I think Putin has gone too far but I also support the separatist cause.  The media aren’t telling the whole story i.e. the oppression of the Russian minority.  Also why isn’t Biden also outraged by the continual systematic Israeli invasion of Palestine?

from Terry:  I think Putin has tried to use the “separatist cause” as a justification for his invasion.  Christopher Miller from BuzzFeed News posted this video a few days ago.  РИА Новости  is Russian state funded media.  It’s telling that Russian media couldn’t find more than 10 people to “celebrate” the “independence” of Donetsk (part of Donbas).  Donetsk has a population of 900,000 people.

Also the current president of Ukraine, Zelensky, who is Jewish, was born in a Russian speaking area of Ukraine.
from John:  Thank you for all you’ve done to make this planet a better place.  I am especially admiring your spiritual expression.

from Mike, responding to John S. re Ukraine:  There is also a long and strong response from Joyce below in the on-line comments.  Make sure you see that one as well.

Mike: I agree John [apparently responding to first comment].
The government of Ukraine fell on February 22, 2014. Call it a coup, or call it an revolution. Either way, it was an unconstitutional transfer of power, and it was encouraged and supported by the United States. It is under these conditions that Article 2 of UN Charter may be invoked; respect for the principle of equal rights and the self determination of peoples. The 1975 Helsinki Accords are also relevant. That treaty broadly affirmed post WWII borders, but also allowed for boundaries to change by peaceful internal means.The eastern regions of Ukraine objected to the violent ouster of their democratically elected president, and were aware that neo-Nazis comprised the tip of the spear. They recognized the new government as illegitimate and hostile to their language, culture, and well-being. Yet, they did not send their armies to Kiev to restore democracy, they simply said they wanted no part of it and would govern themselves.

The coup regime was not so peaceable. On April 15, 2014, it sent military and para-military units to reclaim the Donbas by force. That was three full months before Russia intervened militarily in support of the separatists.

The Ukrainian Civil War settled into a stalemate with a recognized line of separation. In November of 2021, Kiev began sending reinforcements to the line. Fearing a renewed offensive by Kiev, Russia responded by massing troops on its own territory, and with war exercises in Belarus.

The days prior to yesterday’s invasion saw a significant increase in ceasefire violations. The OSCE reported that the overwhelming majority of attacks occurred on the Donbas side of the line, indicating that Kiev again was the likely aggressor. This was the immediate trigger to Russia’s invasion.

The war did not begin yesterday. For eight long years the breakaway provinces have been besieged by an illegitimate government that has been in perpetual violation of Minsk II. This is where all the fighting and dying have occurred, 14,000 people to date. This past week, Russia said enough is enough.

The UN Charter allows the use of military force under three conditions:

  1. As a response to a military attack that has already occurred.
  2. To thwart a military attack that is imminent.
  3. When the UN Security Council has authorized it.

Russia’s invasion would have been entirely lawful if had it been limited to the breakaway provinces, where attacks had already occurred and were intensifying. The larger invasion of Ukraine falls into the gray area of what constitutes imminence. If one were to accept the amorphous definition of ‘imminence’ put forth in the 2013 DOJ White Paper on targeted assassination, the invasion of greater Ukraine would also be lawful. I rejected that definition in 2013, and I reject it now. Beyond Donbas and the immediate area around the line of separation, Russia’s military action constitutes aggression.

When this conflict is over, the prospects for peace will be determined by NATO. It poses an existential threat that Russia will not tolerate on its borders. Nor should it, considering the NATO wars of aggression that have devastated Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Africa in this century alone.

I call on my government to halt the transfer of weapons to the region, rejoin the INF Treaty, sign the ICAN Treaty to abolish nuclear weapons, and disband NATO.

from Jeff: Thanks.  Interestingly the critique from the far left has been about saying this is what the USA did in Iraq.  (my comment is yes, two wrongs don’t make a right)  Col. Francis Wilkerson was on MSNBC or CNN yesterday and made that point forcefully.

Putin: the latest info on him is since Covid he really went into a long period of isolation.  He didn’t have hardly any meetings with anyone in person.  Exceptions some internationall events.  but all  his internal Russian meetings were “zoom” type meetings… he isolated from people to avoid the virus mainly.  But isolation is not good for dictators…we saw what it did for Hitler in 1943-1945.    I am sure there many other examples…but it breeds delusional thinking.  I suspect he hasnt taken the long view on this whole thing.   I also think he looks physically bloated…it’s possible he has some conditions that would be not good if he caught covid, and also could explain this seemingly strange and impulsive move into Ukraine.
War is terrible. in my short career as a masters candidate and teaching assistant in History at the Univ of Oregon, I had to do one lecture to an Amer. Hisstory 101 class…and it was on the prelude to WWII and the USA’s decisions not to enter and what led up to Pearl Harbor.
It makes me wonder sometimes if the USA had entered on the Allied side in 1939, it would of course had meant more dead Americans, but maybe less dead European civilians and Jews?  I dont usually like alternative theoretical histories as they are mostly meaningless…but it is a point to ponder. It is totally barbaric to me that the world is essentially replaying what happened in WW2 to some extent. a bullying dictator with a stronger military threatening and invading on behalf of “Russians ” in the Ukraine (like the Germans in Czechslovakia, Poland, Austria, Hungary, etc. )
Russian Germans: I think alot of these peoples ended up in the Great Plains of the USA and Canada…primarily Manitoba/Saskatchewan/Alberta and North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.   I have dealt with many of them in business.  Also some of them were Mennonites and there are still significant Mennonite “colonies”  in Canada
and the Dakotas…at this time its not as it was in the 19th century, but many towns are primarily populated by descendants of these immigrants.  Being an old North Dakota
hand I know you are aware of this…..kuchen, runza, redeye…hahaha…these are all foods and drinks of the Russian Germans.
Catherine the Great.  two recent tv series about her.  the first was more serious, I think it was on HBO, but I am not sure, 3 parts,  Helen Mirren is CAtherine, in her later reign…..    and the other is on HULU, it is “The Great” which is a much more tongue in cheek satirical quasi history of Catherine’s early years in Russia…its a bit of a romp and not for the straight laced…but it is delicious if you like that sort of thing (I do) and it has some history within.  In both cases and the book you show…the German influence on Russia is very much pronounced.  Frederick the Great of Prussia was the great nemesis of Peter the Great…Prussia blocked Russian expansion west (Poland, as usual, paid the price) and after Peter died , CAtherine came as the wife of his son, bringing German and Western European ideas into still feudal Russia.  Then of course the Germans were invited in to modernise
agriculture and the country.   There was always a backlash to the Germans despite they prospered as middle class farmers, and also as a professional class and military class in Russia …but Mother Russia had a way of defining them (and of course Jews) eventually as the “other”.  Hence the emigration from Russia in the late 19th century.
I read a good novel that is about Russia over a couple generations…”The Goose Fritz” by Sergei Lebedev.  Essentially the onset of WWI spelled the end for the German heritage population in Russia..further after the Bolsheviks took over Russian nationalism became important…and German Russians were further marginalized.   The novel essentially traces one family’s descent during this period from the 19th into the mid 20th century….  it is a very interesting read.
from Joyce:
from Carol: Have you seen this?

Putin meeting with business executives at the Kremlin Feb. 24, 2022

from Bruce: This American Life [article here] had an interesting episode on Putin’s history of aggression to other border countries.

10 replies
  1. John Bernard
    John Bernard says:

    Excellent short piece and connection to the current disruption in global order. You are unfortunately correct in pointing out that our skirts are not that clean either. As an all wars, what is “right” depends on the end of the gun you are positioned. The primary winners are the persons (including their supporters in all forms) supplying those guns. The only real losers are ALL the others in that sphere.

  2. Joyce Denn
    Joyce Denn says:

    I take exception to John’s comment about the alleged “systematic Israeli invasion of Palestine.” I wonder if he is opposed to the existence of a Jewish state. I would remind everyone that Israel accepted the UN partition of Palestine (this was AFTER Britain had already partitioned off a huge chunk of the Palestine Mandate and created the Palestinian nation of Transjordanian Palestine, later shortened to Transjordan, and then to Jordan,) and Israel was then attacked by nearly every Arab country in the world. Jordan annexed the West Bank as a result of that war, and instead of either creating a Palestinian state in that region, or absorbing the people there, Jordan kept those people in outrageous conditions in order to foment terrorist attacks against Israel. Jews from all over the Arab world were expelled, usually with nothing more than the clothes on their backs; Israel absorbed all those refugees, whose numbers were almost the same as the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank, whom Jordan refused to aid. Israel was attacked time and time again, by hostile neighbors whose goal was to annihilate the Jewish nation. Some months ago I got into an argument with a woman I had thought of as a friend, after she stated that Jews belonged nowhere. I wrote this in response to her claim, and we are no longer friends: The world didn’t decide to create a Jewish state, out of guilt, because of the Holocaust, though that in and of itself would have been a good enough reason. Zionism started in the 19th century, in Russia, with Jews moving to what was then part of the Ottoman Empire, and buying land from the Arabs who lived there. Yes; they bought the land. Then, in 1917, well before WWII, Britain declared that it would create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. At about the same time, the British promised the Arabs a homeland in Palestine. The Jewish population continued to grow in the territory, which became a British protectorate after WWI. Now, here’s something Chomsky leaves out: the British actually did create an Arab homeland in Palestine, in 1946. They set aside more than half of the Palestinian territory, everything west of the Jordan River, and gave it to an ally, Abdullah, as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordanian Palestine. The name was later shortened to Transjordan, and then to Jordan, but it was originally part of the British protectorate of Palestine. Meanwhile, after WWII, the surviving Jews in Europe were in DP camps, with nowhere to go; no one wanted them, except their fellow Jews in Palestine. The US didn’t want them, Europe didn’t want them, Asia didn’t want them. At the same time, the British imposed strict quotas on Jewish immigration to Palestine, essentially closing the borders to Jews, and they began arming the surrounding Arab nations. The situation for the Jews became so dire, that the UN had to act; it created the partition plan, giving half of the remaining Palestinian territory (what was left after Jordan was carved out) to the Palestinians, and half to the Jews. The Jews accepted the partition, the Palestinians did not, having been promised the entire territory by the surrounding Arab nations. When the British left Palestine in 1948, Israel, poorly armed, was attacked by 5 British trained and British armed nations. Emaciated refugees, newly arrived from European DP camps, were given old weapons and sent to fight.
    Amazingly, the Israelis won their war of independence, but Egypt annexed the Gaza Strip, and Jordan annexed the West Bank, and all of east Jerusalem. Now, here’s the thing; Egypt and Jordan controlled those territories from 1948 until 1967. They could have absorbed the Palestinians living there. They could have created a Palestinian state. Why didn’t they? They kept the Palestinians in squalid refugee camps, and trained them in terrorist tactics, to use them as weapons against Israel. The Arab nations had no interest in creating a Palestinian state; their interest was in eliminating the small Jewish state.
    At the same time, the Arab nations expelled all their Jewish residents, whose ancestors had been living there for as long as 2000 years. They were expelled with just the clothes on their backs, and Israel welcomed them, and absorbed them. There were more Jews expelled from Arab countries than there were Palestinians who left Israel, some of them expelled, but most left willingly with the promise that the Jews would be eliminated and they would get the entire territory.
    Throughout its history, Israel has been subjected to terrorism and wars, which were deeply traumatizing to the Israelis. Of courser they don’t trust the Arabs; they’ve been shown no reason to trust them. Also, bear in mind that, when Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, Egypt got back every bit of land it had lost in 1967, the Jewish settlements on that land were dismantled, and the Jewish settlers were forced to leave BY THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT.
    The Palestinians have had many opportunities to have their own land, but their corrupt leadership turned those opportunities down.
    It is extremely unfortunate that the religious fanatics in Israel laid claim to the West Bank, and started settling there, and it is extremely unfortunate that Netanyahu allied with the religious fanatics, who helped keep him in power. But, Netanyahu is now out, so perhaps there is hope for an agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, IF the Palestinians are willing to recognize Israel. Hamas, which was originally elected, and then refused to allow any more elections, will probably never recognize Israel, but certainly the other Arab nations could wield enough influence to get Hamas out of power. That is, IF the other Arab nations are willing to accept the existence of Israel.

  3. norm hanson
    norm hanson says:

    Putin is an authoritarian dictator trying to restore Russia to the “good old days” of the old USSR, nothing more and nothing less no matter how understanding folks might try to be. Let us also not forget that the former president and man-child who would be king recently told everyone that Putin had made a brilliant move in invading Ukraine. Let’s call them both who and what they are and with no quibbling about that!!!

    • Mike Maddden
      Mike Maddden says:

      Putin is not a dictator. He was elected president three times. He enjoys domestic approval ratings greater than most American presidents of his era.

      Russian elections are not the most free and fair in the world, nor are they the least, The same must be said for American elections.

      • Joyce
        Joyce says:

        Wow, where did you get these ideas? Comparing Putin to Hitler is entirely apt in this case; think of the Munich Pact, after Hitler demanded the annexation of the Sudetenland, supposedly because a majority of its population were ‘ethnically’ German. How is this different from Putin’s intention to annex Ukraine, and make it a part of Russia? His goals are to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine? Well, that’s what Putin claims; I hope you realize that the President of Ukraine is a Jewish man who lost family during the Holocaust. Viktor Yanukovych may have narrowly won the presidency in 2010, but he very quickly had his political opponents arrested and placed in prison. He was strongly supported by Putin, and when he was impeached by the Ukrainian parliament, he fled to Russia. He is currently on Interpol’s wanted list. Yanukovych’s successor, Petro Poroshenko, was elected in a landslide, but his popularity took a huge hit when the Panama Papers revealed his assets were hidden in the British Virgin Islands. In 2019, Zelensky defeated Poroshenko in the presidential elections. “According to Michael McFaul, a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, ‘There is a history of some Ukrainians fighting on the Nazi side … but a very small group.’

        McFaul made the remarks in an appearance on MSNBC Thursday.

        Putin, he said, ‘is pulling on that thread from history to say that what you had was a neo-Nazi usurpation of power [in Ukraine] in 2014,’ when Ukrainian protesters ousted the Russian-backed leader and the new government pushed to join NATO….

        …Operating in Ukraine are several nationalist paramilitary groups, such as the Azov movement and Right Sector, that espouse neo-Nazi ideology. While high-profile, they appear to have little public support. Only one far-right party, Svoboda, is represented in Ukraine’s parliament, and only holds one seat….”

        It seems you are simply repeating Putin’s propaganda here.

      • Joyce
        Joyce says:

        Putin isn’t a dictator, because he was elected 3 times? Funny thing, the results of those elections were never in doubt; no one had to wait up on election night to find out who the winner was. Putin’s opponents “mysteriously” die, or end up in prison on trumped up charges. Is it any wonder people express approval? They’re terrified of him. Putin runs a kleptocratic autocracy, and is supported by kleptocrats who profit from his corruption.
        Of course American elections aren’t perfect; big money interests have too much influence, there’s extreme gerrymandering, and in many states People of Color are prevented from voting, but, to compare our elections with Russia’s is ridiculous.

        • norm hanson
          norm hanson says:

          They were absolutely never in doubt given that there usually was only one serious candidate listed with any and all serious candidates arrested and/or detailed in some way prior to the election. Not a dictator, my bottom!!!

  4. Catherine Rivard
    Catherine Rivard says:

    No nation’s skirts are clean, but democracy throughout the world is standing on very wobbly legs right now and we must stand united to save it. If we we do not, we will be ruled once again by fascists so admired by Trump and his type. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen, in fact it is already well under way. Putin seems to think he can invade a sovereign country not in defense but to claim it as his own a la Hitler. He has to be shown that it’s not acceptable behavior by him or anyone else, especially if it’s intent is to destroy freedom of life, thought, and everything democracy gives us. Every single situation has its own complicated twists and turns and many mistakes have and will be made, but I know one thing: this is a war against democracy and it must be saved because once it’s gone, it is gone forever.

    • Mike Maddden
      Mike Maddden says:

      I don’t understand this comparison of Putin to Hitler.

      Fascism is ascendant in Ukraine. Real swastika adorned, sieg heil Nazis led the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president in 2014. These same Nazi’s formed paramilitary battalions (Right Sektor, Azov, and others) that went to the breakaway provinces after the putsch to reclaim them by force. They are tolerated because they are Ukraine’s most ferocious fighting force.

      There are growing torchlight marches celebrating Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators in WWII. Monuments to men like Stepan Bandera are being erected, and monuments to the expulsion of Nazi forces are being sacked. This not just tolerated by the current government in Kiev, it is endorsed.

      Putin is not Hitler, literally, figuratively, or ideologically. He is the opposite, His goals in this current invasion, which I consider to be aggression, are to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine.

  5. Vincent L. Petersen
    Vincent L. Petersen says:

    The citizens of the United States have a very short memory. They forget the ‘war of choice’ that Bush began on Iraq. All based on lies and false pretense. We bombed that nation back into the stone age. I said back then that we are going to reap the whirlwind with this awful invasion. We do not see the plank in our own eyes – so blinded by this crazy thing called the American Dream. Now this ’empire building’ by Putin is coming back to visit us.


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