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Russia — and Putin — have been here before

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Vladimir Putin's aggression against Ukraine has more precedent than many might think. Both Russia and Putin have been here before.

The invasion of Ukraine by the dangerously aggressive Vladimir Putin has dismayed the international community — most people abhor war. 

But this conflict is not a one-off event. Putin has a strong and explicit desire to restore the Soviet sphere of influence by reclaiming its lost satellite states and those that once belonged to the Russian empire under the Romanov rule. 

If the West needs any further proof of this desire, it can look both to recent history as well as further back. In 2008, Russia and Putin invaded Georgia and continued with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Russian state has a history of rejecting individual freedom

To understand what is truly going on we need to explore the Russian mindset. The United Kingdom and the United States are both founded upon the English tradition of limited government. On the other hand, Spain and its former colonies in the Americas uphold more of a collectivist mentality. But the ideals of both are fundamentally rooted in individual rights and the liberal tradition. 

In Russia, things are different. It has always conformed to both authoritarian rule domestically, and hostile, violent intervention in foreign affairs. Various incarnations of the Russian state have, over the course of history, continuously rejected individual freedom.

This is not the first Russian aggression against Ukraine

This rejection has manifested many times in various forms, and resulted in repeated conflict, but few people realize this is not the first time Russia has clashed with Ukraine.

In 1932, Joseph Stalin decided to close off Ukraine in a catastrophic policy of agricultural reform that cost the lives of millions of Ukrainians. During the Ukrainian famine, known as the “Holodomor,” a word that combines starvation and death, Stalin repressed small Ukrainian farms to implement a robust state-run collective farming system in the true nature of a socialist system.

Part of the aim of this policy was to repress any sentiment in favor of Ukrainian independence.

Putin’s authoritarian expansionism must be stopped

The current crisis in Ukraine is yet another denial, by Russia, of Ukraine as a state, yes, but also the sovereignty of the individual. Western powers must act against Putin, because in doing so, they also will be acting against authoritarian rule in general, as it threatens to expand in the European and Central Asian regions.

Instead of simply lighting the colors of a war-torn flag, we must recognize that the very ideals the Western world is built on are under siege by an ambitious, authoritarian leader.  

And ambitious, authoritarian leaders always — always — have further, more murderous intentions.

If you would like to help the people of Ukraine, you can make a donation by clicking on the button below and checking the “Ukraine Crisis Emergency Campaign” box.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, send your piece to [email protected], and mention SFL Blog in the email subject line for your chance to be published and be seen!


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