He sits alone in his bunker, watching the bombing of Ukraine, rockets being fired, buildings being set on fire or demolished. He has just got news that his forces took over Chernobyl, north of Kyiv.
He does not yet know the number of dead, on either side.
The sanctions didn’t stop him from invading. Whatever additional ones the West promises to impose, won’t either.
Sure, some of his wealthy associates will be harmed by such restrictions but he will remind them that they owe him. That they are where they are because of him.He is having the time of his life, relishing being top of the news worldwide and being feared.
He is rich, but that brings him little solace. The acquisition of wealth is not what drives him.
Power is what moves him. And he’s living his grand moment.
For too long he’s been in the shadows of world leaders he considers his inferiors when it comes to drive and sheer ambition.
He’s had to live with the frustration of seeing other economies rise and rise, becoming the envy of the world. Apple, for instance, the American technology company, has a value greater than Russia’s entire economy. How did they do that?
He wishes he had been able to unleash the full creative potential of his fellow Russians.
But he didn’t. Somehow, he reflects, his concern with power, stood in the way.
On a clear night, when he looks up at the sky as he is fond of doing and sees the international space station orbiting the earth, he thinks of the Russian cosmonauts up there. And he reminds himself that it was two Russians and an American who first went up to that station. Years ago.
He knows he presides over a powerhouse of talent. Russians with great ability in many fields. And yet, economically, Russia is in the shadows of America and now China.
It is hard to stomach.
In his clearer moments, he recognizes that the world sees him as associated with brutality.
Supporting the vicious Assad in Syria, for instance. The Generals in Myanmar. The repressive government of Maduro in Venezuela. And associates of his, with his consent, of course, have mercenary troops spreading through Africa, aiding in the coercion and subjugation of hundreds of thousands of people.
All of that and yet, somehow, whatever the pain being inflicted, doesn’t keep him up at night.
He sleeps soundly.
How interesting the human mind, able to put things in separate spaces – boxes or compartments, call them what you wish – so that there is little spilling over between them.
Ah, but enough of that introspection.
He has invaded his beloved Ukraine because it belongs to him, belongs to Russia, and whatever the costs to be paid he will pay them.
His troops have acted quickly and decisively so there will be little chance for an armed resistance to make a difference.
He will put Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in a plane and send him to Poland, or Moldova. Anywhere but keep him in Ukraine. Let him blah blah all he wants about Putin in exile, but he will not set foot in Ukraine ever again.
He is surprised that Biden had the gumption to rally Europeans to oppose him. He likes that about him. Feisty. But he’s always liked feisty people. And then being able to outwit and dominate them.
He pauses and swivels around in his chair. The mood pensive.
‘I grant that during my reign, I did not have the ability to free up the creativity and imagination of Russians… that’s just not me… but I did have the genius to develop a terrific armed force, to facilitate the development of an arms industry, and make Russians proud’.
He closes his eyes as he rubs his face softly.
‘Biden will not give in but neither will I. And I will drive my army all the way to the border with Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Poland. And scare the West… so Russians will be happy, like they were when we went into Crimea.
As to the sanctions, I’m not worried. We will find ways around them. China will help, of course. They know they need me. Though now and then I will have to remind them I have lots more nuclear warheads than they do.’
‘In America, Trump likes me. How interesting. Something about my charismatic personality. I never imagined that would happen. I love it, of course. And when the next elections come around, well, I’ll think of something. Anyway, whether Trump gets reelected or not, sooner or later, an American president will be chosen who doesn’t care about Ukraine, and the sanctions will be lifted. Europe may complain but without American support, they will slowly yield. It will be their excuse to appease me. And all their presidents, chancellors and prime ministers will come to Moscow to endear themselves to me, to buy my oil and gas and wheat and aluminum and nickel and palladium, for we have it all, and get back to business as usual.
But Ukraine will be mine.’
He leans over to the desk next to him and picks up a globe of the earth.
He looks at the area where Ukraine is drawn.
He taps on it and says, ‘how many men can boast that they redrew the boundaries of a country?’
And he laughs loudly.
‘I can see the title of an upcoming book by some writer, “Putin, the Conqueror”. Maybe even become a film.’
He laughs again.
Behind him, in the wall monitors facing his desk, Russian war planes fly over cities in Ukraine.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.