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Putin watched the Berlin Wall fall and then blamed the West, trying to restore the Soviet empire

Putin took this collapse personally

… then Eastern European countries joined NATO

Why did Vladimir Putin take the brutal step of invading the Ukraine?

Most of what you read online is wrong. Some stories have valid points, but when you look at something like this, people have to look at history for its guide.

Not one story that I have read, and I have gone through quite a few, has talked about Putin being in Berlin when the wall fell in 1989. That is the genesis of his anger at the West, at NATO, and even at the Soviet leaders.

His humiliation on Nov. 9, 1989, was intense. As the head of the KGB, he was — and still is — a diehard Communist in the sense that he is a brutal autocrat.

Here is the back-story of the fall of the Wall and Putin’s deep depression because of it.

The speed of the Fall surprised the Soviets

The initial story is that the fall of the wall and the fall of Communism would lead to a triumph of liberal democracy. That was fleeting.

However, the man who was in Germany when the fall occurred, and viewed the protests during that week, was one who was humiliated by the event,

As the world came together this past weekend to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was understandable triumphalism in the air. Desperate not to miss such an opportunity, political leaders were falling over themselves to stand beside this memory, to cheerlead the victory of liberal democracy.

And quite right too! This was the dizzying end of the Cold War, the reunification of a long-divided Germany, and the public failure of the promise of totalitarianism.

Yet as the concrete was being torn down all those years ago, the losing side was internalising a very different lesson. A new, evolved, despotic Russia, was being dreamt up in that very moment.

On the ground, in the thick of this upheaval, was a young KGB (the Soviet Union’s spy agency) officer who had spent the previous four years uneventfully running cables back to Moscow. This was the edge of the Soviet empire, the signs of the coming collapse were unambiguous, and then-Lieutenant Colonel, Vladimir Putin, expected more from his government.

The protests and discontent were there to be seen – as was a natural target for this anger. The Stasi – East German secret police – had run an elaborate surveillance system over the decades, stretching themselves into every inch of their citizens’ daily lives through a vast network of informants, and had formed a brotherly relationship with the KGB.

When the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, the slow pace of history lurched forward. A few weeks later, on December 6th, those same crowds stormed the Stasi headquarters in Dresden – directly across the street from the KGB headquarters where Putin was hastily burning every document that would catch light.

Jed Lea-Henry, “Putin’s memory of the Berlin Wall,” November 11, 2019

Putin was bitter — at everyone. This was his life, his dream, which was to be the Communist leader of the Soviet Union. His dream of continuing the autocracy.

Finger-pointing: “Naivete”

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had hoped to keep the USSR alive by making some token changes that would give the people more say in how their government should be run. He called it “Perestroika.” Putin called it treason,

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union stepped back, letting East Germany’s communist government collapse and then quickly accepting German unification. Russian President Vladimir Putin now blames the Soviet leadership for naivete that paved the way for NATO’s expansion eastward.

Many in Russia share that view, seeing the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany as a moment when Moscow reached out to the West hoping to forge a new era of partnership but was cheated by Western powers.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged the Communist leaders in Central and Eastern Europe to follow his lead in launching liberal reforms and took no action to shore up their regimes when they started to crumble under the pressure of pro-democracy forces. During 1989, reformers took power across Soviet bloc countries, ending more than four decades of Communist rule.

Vladimir Isachenkov, “Berlin Wall’s fall stokes memories of lost

hopes in Russia,” Associated Press, October 31, 2019

Cheated by Western powers?

That is at the root of Putin’s moves today, and why he — and former President Donald Trump — have tried to destroy the organization that was responsible for the end of the Cold War.

Soviets were ready to fight

The AP story notes that the USSR had 12,000 tanks and more than 300,000 troops in East Germany at the time. However, it decided that using them “would be futile.”

“Practically they could have closed the entire border with their tanks, but they stayed in their barracks,” said Vladislav Zubok, an expert on Soviet history with the London School of Economics. “It was clear to the Soviet leadership that it was impossible to put the paste back into the tube. A new era started.”

Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press, October 31, 2019

However, the USSR wanted changed, and they received it,

The Soviet Union itself was going through a tumultuous period of change. Liberal reformers in the newly elected Soviet parliament pushed for ending the Communist Party’s monopoly on power and pro-independence movements quickly gained leverage in Soviet republics. The Soviet media, transformed by Gorbachev’s policy of openness, freely reported on the Berlin Wall’s collapse.

Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press, October 31, 2019

Gorbachev betrayed them, Putin thinks

No doubt, Gorbachev did not foresee what occurred in Germany, at least in the short run.

They trusted the West, but why?

Somehow, the Soviets thought that if they allowed this to fall without a fight, the West would be kind to them.

Thus, some of the animus in Russia goes back to this time,

As the Kremlin was negotiating German reunification, the Soviet Union began to unravel amid a massive economic crisis and political turmoil. The country’s hard currency reserves depleted and the Kremlin was struggling to pay its bills, leaving Gorbachev and his government in a weak negotiating position.

“The Soviet Union was in crisis and couldn’t negotiate from the position of equality with the West,” Zubok said …

“The mistrust toward the West, toward the potential partners on the other side, is still there,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s upper house. He argued that the West, eager to claim victory in the Cold War, squandered a chance to build a safer world.

“In a certain sense, this damage is somehow irreversible,” Kosachev said. “The Soviet Union and then Russia did make its own choice to stop confrontation with the West and start cooperation. It could have been a win-win situation, but for that the Western countries should have been much wiser, much more generous.”

Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press, October 31, 2019

After everything that the Soviets had done to the West, they expected gratitude?

They were delusional, and now they are in the Ukraine trying to restore the Soviet empire.

And that are delusional to think that they can put the genie back in the bottle — as the world outrage is demonstrating.

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