Everyone, as Arno Geiger writes in a beautiful sentence in the novel “Unter der Drachenwand”, which is filled with beautiful sentences, has the chance to decide several times in life: “whether he wants to go swimming or make plans”. That’s not entirely true, not all people have this freedom – the war takes it away from them, and it will come, including to the Drachenwand.
When we hear Vladimir Putin say, after more than 130 days of war, that Russia has not yet started its war in earnest, and when we ask ourselves why he is devastating a neighboring country and turning Russian eighteen-year-olds into murderers, some things are obvious.
The democratic movement that emanated from the Maidan in 2014 was a threat to Putin, as was the eastward expansion of NATO; Russian revanchism and the disparagement of strangers are added. But is that all?
The historian Dan Diner, recalling texts by Hans Blumenberg, wrote in the “FAZ” about the “forced convergence of ‘lifetime and world time'”, and he meant the aging ruler P., “whose political timetable is subordinate to his personal life expectancy”. .
Diner compares Putin’s pathological distortions “with the delusional impatience of the Reich German leader”, meaning Hitler. And he cites a second reason for Putin’s impatience: “In addition to the short life span of the mortal individual, there is a structural one: it applies to the foreseeable end of the need for fossil fuels.”
For Putin, Ukraine should no longer exist “because it is anti-Russian,” writes Masha Gessen: Ukraine experienced the same tragedies as the Soviet Union in the 20th century and is still striving for its own history, “and this idea is for totalitarian leaders absolutely unbearable”.
Gessen once emigrated from Russia and writes reports and essays for the “New Yorker”. “Whatever happens in five or ten years,” Gessen told the Austrian “Standard”, “it will be a post-Ukrainian war construction, and it will look completely different. The way Europe sees itself – if there is still a Europe – will be different.”
I had to let those words reverberate after reading them. If there is still a Europe? And what does Putin want now? Gessen says, “What Putin wants to restore is Russian greatness, and Russian greatness is amorphous and geographically ambiguous.”
The defining event was the “Great Patriotic War” and the victory in that Second World War “was a gift from the Russians to the world, which, however, was ungrateful and betrayed Russia,” Gessen said. “And secondly, it was a means of excusing the terror of the Soviet Union, because that terror was precisely the price of Russian greatness.
We should focus on size and not small problems like the gulags. And third, he gave Russia the right to be a superpower. For all eternity. And the US has wrested that right from Russia.”
Then there is something else. Dan Diner and Masha Gessen say that the NATO operation against Serbia in 1999, which was not mandated by the United Nations, is still having an impact today. “The conclusion that Putin drew from this, namely that he took the right to bomb Kyiv, was not obvious,” writes Gessen, “but 1999 was a turning point in the history of the post-Soviet era.”