Your nation is engaged in a war against innocent people who have posed no military threat to any neighboring country. Moments prior to the commencement of the airstrikes against Ukraine, your president, Vladimir Putin, televised his twisted justification for the invasion claiming, “Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide…and for this we will strive for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s President Zelensky is Jewish, the same religion of which Adolph Hitler sent six million to their executions. Granted there are people around the world who idolize Hitler and the Nazis. Zelensky and his government are not among them.
You must recognize Putin’s claims are in keeping with his ongoing effort to create an alternative history of Joseph Stalin. Putin is downplaying Stalin’s aggression against the people of his own nation, including the gulags and famines.
Have you forgotten the 20 million Soviet deaths caused by Stalin? It was Stalin who signed with Hitler the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact, allowing them to carve up Eastern Europe. Only after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union did Stalin join the western alliance. It takes a twisted mind to idolize Stalin.
Born in 1931, Mikhail Gorbachev was too young to suffer from the Stalin purges, but old enough to witness the horror. When Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, he introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). These gave all of us, you included, the hope of peace and tolerance.
We all witnessed the Politburo Old Guard’s attempt to suddenly strip Gorbachev of power and end his reforms. Russian citizens rose up and stopped the coup. We admire the young officer who complied with his orders to deploy tanks to the Russian Parliament. After allowing Boris Yeltsin to climb onto a tank and speak to the world, the young officer positioned his tanks to defend the Russian Parliament.
Together, they led the way to stop the insanity, and the coup quickly collapsed. The actions of both Yeltsin and that young officer exemplified Russian courage. This is the very kind of Russian leadership needed today.
Vladimir Putin was born months before Stalin died. Surely he must have been told of the horrors by his elders. Yet, instead of being repulsed by the Stalin legacy, Putin embraced it. Putin entered the KGB with a pre-existing mindset that made him a perfect fit.
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in Putin losing his job, but not his loyalty to an empire based on Stalinism. It was from former KGB officers that the modern Russian criminal mafia was organized. Putin was smarter. He built his criminal mafia from the inside of the government. Within ten years, Putin maneuvered himself into being supreme ruler of Russia. You must admit Putin has destroyed everything Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and hundreds of millions of Russians built.
Unlike the Old Guard, Putin never tried to suddenly return the government into being an authoritarian state. He did a slow erosion. Now Putin feels comfortable in recreating himself in the image of his life-long idol, eliminating opposition as did Stalin, and committing Stalin’s aggression on neighboring countries.
If you feel safe because today you are on Putin’s good side, you need to take a lesson from history. General Zhukov used his military power to end the coup attempt against Nikita Khrushchev in 1957. Four months later, Zhukov was falsely accused of crimes and fired by Khrushchev. The logic was that if Zhukov was powerful enough to keep Khrushchev in power, Zhukov could remove him as well.
While the entire world turns against Putin for the illegal invasion of Ukraine, he speaks of invading Finland and Sweden. His threat of using nuclear weapons must be taken in context of his ongoing deployment of thermobaric and cluster bombs. Per the Geneva Convention, those weapons should not even be in the Russian arms inventory. Launching rockets and artillery into schools, a nuclear power plant, and civilian population centers are war crimes.
Against international law, a hit list of specific Ukrainian leaders has been issued. Murdering his adversaries is not new for President Putin. The victim list gets longer every year.
Putin is currently suffering from a loss of logical thought, as evidenced by his rambling speeches. Forcing groups of people to sit at the opposite end of a table, while attempting conversation with him from over twenty feet away, reflects extreme paranoia.
You must remember another Putin and his negative role in Russian history. Grigori Rasputin, the self-proclaimed mystic, captured the trust of the Czar’s family. We all know the failure to control Rasputin was catastrophic for Russia. The same is now true of Vladimir Putin.
Putin, and all of you, will one day be judged by history and, increasingly likely, by an international court. Putin’s actions, like his mind, have already gone over the edge.
Now comes the ultimate test for you as generals. The harder ethical right is to remove Putin from power, withdraw from Ukraine, stabilize Russia, and return your country to the rule of law. You must step forward with the same courage displayed by that young tank commander and stop the insanity.
Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin – While in the Berlin Brigade, Col. Martin worked directly with the Soviet Army and, 25 years later, with the Ukrainian Army in Iraq.