Putin has always been a willing advocate of brutal violence. It was that willingness that got him into power in the first place. Putin’s successful invasion of Chechnya in 1999 did much to cement his power. Since then, he’s murdered ‘traitors’ who defected to foreign countries. He was all too happy to support the tyrant Bashar al-Assad in the horrific Syrian civil war.
Each time he acted brutally and decisively. Each time his military succeeded. Each time Putin’s power was consolidated. And most importantly, each time, the west looked on, not willing to act against his violence.
Putin must have imagined that his latest act of brutality would have been met by a similar response in the west. Only this time, was different.
Putin’s fatal error of judgement is that while he doesn’t recognise the sovereignty of Ukraine, he has completely and utterly miscalculated who he was invading. He wasn’t attacking Muslims or one of his countrymen, he was invading a white European Christian country. A country with strong ties to the west. This wasn’t just a declaration of war against Ukraine; it was a declaration of war against the civilised world.
A reporter was brazen enough to make that suggestion early in the war when he said that invading Ukraine was different as Ukraine is ‘relatively civilised’.
Putin overstepped the mark, and he has learnt the hard way; you don’t f*ck with white European Christians.
Sanctions would have come as little surprise to Putin. But Putin can’t have imagined that hoards of businesses in the free market would run away from his regime in their droves. Driving the market is self-interest, after all, so companies wouldn’t dare cut themselves off from a significant revenue stream.
What he didn’t bargain for is the unprecedented support for Ukraine and disgust for his actions. Even if a western company wanted to continue operating in Russia, it would be a PR catastrophe. Continued operations would have amounted to support for Russia, and the backlash at that perceived support would have been ferocious.
Even oil companies, forever seen as evil entities, have run away from Russia. Take BP, who is set to lose an eye-watering $25 billion from divesting from ventures in Russia. This figure pales in comparison to the reputational risk of remaining. And any losses are sure to be made up from the record-high oil prices.
It’s hard to imagine BP being so willing to lose so much if the war was in any other continent other than Europe or North America — the ‘civilised’ regions of the world.
It’s unheard of for private companies to give up profits for a greater cause. For something worth more than money; morals. Never before have so many companies take the moral high ground.
This must have come as a total shock to Putin because money always wins out over people. Money has always been more important than Israel’s brutal attacks on Palestine. Money has always been more important than the despotic regimes of Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates; or the countless other regimes around the world that defy human rights laws. Their money is still more than welcome in the west and the global economy.
Money has always been more important than people, apart from when you f*ck with white European Christians, that is.
The result of sanctions and the mass exodus of private companies has been swift and unparalleled in freezing Russia out of the world economy. Russia is now on the brink of defaulting on debts and Putin’s decision now looks more and more foolhardy.
While his actions have been reprehensible, and the unity and cooperation that has been shown against his actions are laudable, at the heart of the matter is a gross double standard.
Many authoritarian regimes could be stopped in their tracks if a moral high ground was always maintained.
The underlying hypocrisy for support for Ukraine is symbolised through sport. Usually, sport is apolitical, and sportspeople aren’t allowed to voice political views. Now sports can’t be louder in their vocal support for Ukraine. Russian athletes have been banished from competing. It wasn’t so long ago that Norway was questioned for highlighting Qatar’s horrendous human rights record, a country set to host this year’s football world cup.
The world cup is due to take place still, as are other countless sporting events in authoritarian regimes.
The fact of the matter is that none of those victims of oppression are white European Christians. They are the ‘other’; they aren’t civilised, so it’s almost as if these people are expected to live in disharmony. But not white European Christians.
The remarkable and decisive action taken to threaten Russia’s war machine shows what can be done when the world unites against tyrants. The same cannot be said for the countless other examples of injustice. What it shows is that systematic racism is still alive and well. When it suits the west, they are more than happy to turn a blind eye.
If the same disgust and unity were shown towards other oppressive regimes, if each person was shown the same respect that Ukrainians have been shown, think how effective the world would be at stamping out horrific regimes? But unfortunately, not everyone is a white European Christian, so it looks likely the double standards will persist.