A Gen-X’s take on Putin’s war  

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

The war in Ukraine is 9,000 kilometers away from home but it has short-term effects on prices of basic commodities here and lasting consequences on our world economy and politics. Yet I was taken a bit by surprise when our usually unpolitical high school batch group chat came alive on the said topic recently.

It started with a lamentation about rising gas prices. A batchmate who is now based in Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, expressed pride about Poland’s policy of welcoming war refugees. But she also expressed concerns that the conflict could spill into the rest of Europe.

As expected, an exchange of views and banter ensued on the question of the justification of Russia’s aggression. At some point, the light-hearted mood seemed to quickly take a turn toward barely-veiled hostility when a batchmate started making his arguments from false news and conspiracy theories.

There’s an implied agreement not to talk about politics among high school friends. But the war in Ukraine finally signaled my batch’s evolution from young professionals trying to make their mark on the world to middle-aged parents concerned about what future is in store for their young children.

Between ageing Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin who is stuck in past Russian imperial glory and 44-year-old Volodymyr Zelensky who embodies market economy and democratic values, our group’s sympathies, except for one or two among us, lies with fellow Gen-Xer Zelensky. Our generation has lived and known today’s freedom --a freedom paid for by the blood and sacrifice of past generations. We are now seeing the possibility that we may have to pay a heavy price to defend it.

If prudent and sober minds prevail, thankfully we wouldn’t have to pay that heavy price. Thankfully also, President Zelensky is not backing down and the Ukrainian people have put up a fierce fight against the invaders. This gives negotiators enough room to allow Putin to try to save face while packing up his large but lumbering army back to where it belongs, in Russia.

We’re now in Day 16 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and while we are seeing the might of the Russian military wreak destruction on Ukraine, the war has also exposed its fundamental weakness. Putin’s shock and awe turned into a lumbering invasion force that became a logistics nightmare for Moscow. Two of Ukraine’s main cities are still in the hands of Zelensky’s government.

I don’t know what Putin’s goal is but his misadventure in Ukraine woke Western democracies from their decades-long slumber and reinvigorated the NATO alliance as well as galvanized all except five or so countries in the world, putting Putin in his rightful place as a pariah in the global stage. Even China distanced itself from Putin’s madness. It abstained from voting on a UN Security Council draft resolution that deplored in the strongest terms Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week, China has refused to supply Russian airlines with aircraft parts after Western sanctions halted supplies of components from Boeing and Airbus, according to a report by Reuters.

How about Putin having his fingers well within reach of a nuclear button, isn’t that a major concern? It is, but the more important question is, what will he use Russia’s nuclear arsenal for? To obliterate his own people when NATO strikes back with its own nuclear arsenal?

Those who suggest that the world just stand down and appease Putin’s Cold War-era resentments and delusions of an old-world Russian empire simply because he has a nuclear weapon at his command, are pawning the future of democracy’s freedom for a short-term and fragile peace.

The fact is, Putin is a goner as the Russian economy, in tatters after over a decade of stagnation and corruption, now collapses under the weight of Western sanctions. And Putin isn’t exactly an inspiring ideological figure, just a former spy turned wily autocrat who has his best days behind him yet still trying to catch the wind in his tattered sails.

The world should not make the mistake of acting out of fear of what this outdated autocrat can do. If the exchanges in our high school group chat is any indication of our generation’s sentiment of this war, it is that leaders like Putin have no place in a society we dream for our children.

After he saves his face with a few concessions from the West just to end this war, we hope to see Putin shown the exit door by his own Russian people.


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