On Friday, writing for The Atlantic, foreign policy commentator and former Naval War College professor Tom Nichols laid into Vladimir Putin for his "most unhinged speech yet," in which he declared eastern portions of Ukraine his after a sham referendum in which Ukrainians were forced to "vote" to join Russia at gunpoint.
"Putin’s rant was meant to make the world quake in fear," wrote Nichols. "In reality, Putin is likely more terrified than anyone right now: He’s a Russian dictator losing a war of aggression, and he knows how that could end for him. In his speech, he justified the war in Ukraine using everything from the boundaries of ancient Russia to what he sees as the illegitimate dissolution of the Soviet Union. With sheer brass, he then complained about Western colonialism and human-rights violations — this, from the leader of a country with a long and bloody history, from the tsars to Stalin and beyond, of enslaving and murdering millions."
Putin did not stop there, citing a laundry list of imagined grievances against the West, including explicit U.S. right-wing culture wars.
"Addressing the regime in Kyiv and 'their real bosses in the West,' Putin dove into a steaming vat of paranoia, grandiosity, and inferiority, a stew whose toxic fumes have always permeated the Kremlin," wrote Nichols. "He claimed that the West hates 'Russian philosophy and thought,' as if people in Washington and London spend a lot of time thinking about any of that. He fulminated about trans people — almost certainly hoping that the usual useful idiots in the right-wing American press will pick up on it — and referred to the 'overthrow of faith and traditional values' in the West as equivalent to 'Satanism.'"
According to Nichols, Putin is "trying to rally the most retrograde segments of Russian society while seeking to split the West with his usual rhubarb about defending Christian values."
And in order to recast his illegal invasion as a defense of the Russian homeland, he has "turned occupied Ukrainian territory into 'Russia' and magically transformed subjugated Ukrainians into “Russians.'"
"We can’t let him get away with it," concluded Nichols. "We didn’t stand down in the face of the Soviet system that created this gangster, and we should not stand down now. As NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said today, Ukraine has every right to recover its own territory and free its people. If Putin’s position is that this is cause for an even wider and more reckless conflict, then it is his choice, not ours."