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The next shoes are dropping in the standoff between the western nations and Russia over Ukraine. In a rambling, nearly hour-long televised speech this morning, full of grievance and authoritarian claims, Russian president-for-life Vladimir Putin delivered a message to the Russian people. He announced that he would recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine in the far southeastern side of Ukraine, known as the Donetsk and Luhansk, as independent states.

Vladimir-Putin-Russian-troops. Courtesy of Express.UK

His announcement and manufactured drama come after eight years of Russia encouraging these separatists with weapons and supplies, in the process killing 14,000 Ukrainians.

Given Putin has now amassed an army of nearly 190,000 on the borders of Ukraine, and positioned its navy in a literal blockade, it is hard to believe that Putin will stop at just recognizing these regions. He is following a nationalist agenda and what he wants may be far beyond the borders of Ukraine itself.

The historical diatribe that Putin delivered is exactly what Ark Valley Voice (AVV) predicted. AVV has reported more than once (and recently) on the situation and Russia’s intentions about Ukraine.

Putin, in making his announcement today, rewrote portions of the history of Russia and the Slavic peoples, claiming that Russia has every right to do what it is doing because Ukraine, and indeed most all the countries of the former Soviet Union, were and are, historically Russian lands, not their own sovereign countries.

According to Putin’s version of history, for 1,000 years Ukraine has been part of Russia. All the Ukrainian population and especially eastern Ukraine, as well as Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine), are ancient Russian lands, so he doesn’t even recognize Ukraine as its own country. According to Putin, he calls Ukraine “a colony with a puppet regime.”

He went on to focus on the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that wiped out hundreds of years of Czarist rule, blaming Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet Union, for creating independent states out of non-Russian-speaking populations. That created the conditions for them to break away, even though (as he inaccurately claimed) “they have always been historical Russian lands.”

“Historic Russia, the Soviet Union, despite all of these lies, it is our people, yes it is our people who recognize these areas, helping our partners in the independent countries, and that includes the Ukraine,” (he includes the word “the” prior to Ukraine, as a direct contradiction to Ukraine’s sovereign nation status).” He went on to call Ukraine “an integral part of Russia.”

Putin complained that when the Soviet Union broke up, it allowed the independent states to rush off, and “when they left, they left Russia will all the debts of the Soviet Union. It was madness that those former Soviet counties were allowed to leave so easily,” said Putin. He is now blaming NATO for endangering Russian security.

“Ukraine right away started asking for all kinds of things, energy, and various preferential benefits that Russia has given to Ukraine from ’91 up until 2000,” said Putin, in his justification of his claims on Ukraine. “We invested the 250 billion (in Russian Rubles) that have helped Ukraine move from Russia. However, Russia was ready to take on itself all of the Soviet debt and paid it in full in 2017. And the [western nations] created this newly independent country, to give up some of their foreign assets, and we had those agreements, but Ukraine was not satisfied with those agreements.  Despite all of this, Russia has always had great cooperation with Ukraine and its interests … however, it seems as if Ukraine has historically acted in a way they want all the benefits of the cooperation and no responsibilities.”

Mindful of his primary audience — Russians — he went on to blame those in Ukraine and the West, who he said are “constantly seeking their greedy interest and no interest in the needs of the Ukrainian people.”

With this step of recognizing Ukrainian Regions, while still surrounding the country, Putin’s statements imply that his grievances go beyond Ukraine. He appears to be making a case to claim even more territory than Ukraine. This sword rattling from a nuclear-armed Russia is unnerving to the western nations. It comes as these two regions remain populated by large numbers of Ukrainians who don’t want to be part of Russia — and who will fight.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by STEFANIE LOOS / POOL / AFP

It is almost as if Putin is saying, without using these words,  “I’ll refrain from rolling tanks if you give me X,Y,Z of my demands.” He might just be bettering his negotiating position, but it is more likely he is laying the groundwork for something far more sinister.

By 12:30 p.m. MST today, Putin had completed the signing recognizing these two regions of Ukraine as independent states. In conversations with France and Germany earlier in the day, they warned him not to, and Putin told them he was going to go ahead. Already the steps Putin has taking have broken international law to respect the sovereign borders of neighbors.

This brings into question – exactly when do the western sanctions get applied? What does the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) do that stops this man, and this country, from such massive aggression?

As Putin began his rambling ‘Russian history lesson according to Putin’, the Russian stock market fell 17 percent, it’s worst drop since he annexed Crimea in 2014.

Within 30 minutes of the announcement, the U.S. government released an intelligence report that the Russian government under Putin has assembled a list of Ukrainian people that Russia intends to target for arrest, concentration camps, and possible execution.  The list is reported to include government leaders, and vulnerable populations including LGBTQ and religious groups, aid groups, and those with western connections.

Historians looking at the unfolding situation have pointed out that this is the worst threat to peace in Europe since World War II. Others are reminding us that in 1938 British Prime Minister Chamberlain led the negotiations with Adolf Hitler that gave him Czechoslovakia under the mantra “peace in our time.” Hitler didn’t stop there. What comes next, could be more terrible than any of us can imagine. Once again, western democracies may be called upon to stop authoritarianism. The question may not be, can there, but will they?