My experience and knowledge of foreign countries is limited, but I try to understand foreign leaders by putting myself in their place, and imagining what I would do if I were them.
Peter Hitchens, a Briton who was a foreign correspondent in Moscow for many years, invites us to imagine how we would feel if we were Russians, a nation that, unlike the USA, has been invaded not once, but many times, and lost millions, not thousands, of lives to invaders within living memory.
Safety, for Russians, is something to be achieved by neutralizing a danger that is presumed to exist at all times. From this follows a particular attitude to life and government.
If the U.S. had China on the 49th Parallel and Germany on the Rio Grande, and a long land border with the Islamic world where the Pacific Ocean now is, it might be a very different place. There might even be a good excuse for the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
If Russia’s neighbors were Canada and Mexico, rather than Germany, China, Turkey, and Poland, and if its other flanks were guarded by thousands of miles of open ocean, it might have free institutions and long traditions of free speech and the rule of law. It might also be a lot richer.
As it is, Russia is a strong state with a country, rather than a country with a strong state. If it were otherwise, it would have gone the way of the Lithuanian Empire or, come to that, the Golden Horde.
Source: Peter Hitchens | First Things
That is not to say that life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is good, or that Putin is a benign ruler. But he is no worse than many of the despots with whom the United States is allied, and life in the Russian Federation is infinitely preferable to live in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans.
Far from being a new Hitler, Hitchens wrote, his goal is to keep territories formerly controlled by the USSR from joining anti-Russian alliances. Whatever you think of this, it is not a threat to the United States or any other Western nation.