Special Report

Vladimir Putin: What We Know Now

Professor William Burke-White / University of Pennsylvania

Understanding Vladimir Putin

The roots of today’s war stretch all the way back to the start of Putin’s reign and reflect his unhealthy obsession with Ukraine. Putin has never made any attempt to conceal his contempt for Ukrainian independence, which he regards as an accident of history and the most painful of the many injustices brought about by the 1991 Soviet collapse. The Russian ruler is fond of declaring that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people,” by which he means that Ukrainians are really Russians who do not deserve a state of their own. 

Putin’s extreme animosity towards Ukraine is shaped by his imperialistic instincts, and it  is often suggested that Putin wishes to recreate the Soviet Union. Putin’s burning resentment over the demise of the Soviet Empire and Russia’s reduced role in world affairs has helped fuel his fixation with Ukraine. He has been particularly enraged by Ukraine’s post-Soviet efforts to embrace democracy, which he regards as both a betrayal and a threat to his own authoritarian regime.

William Burke-White

University of Pennsylvania

William Burke-White is a renowned professor at the University of Pennsylvania and served in the Obama Administration from 2009-2011 on Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff. He has received the Levin Award and the Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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