As sanctions keep hurting Russia’s economic outlook, we keep hearing that the Russian people are able to endure anything, and that they will tolerate all of this, that it would be pointless to sanction the country and that we should just give in to Putin’s genocidal demands. Yet it is not the West which is at war with Russia, it is Russia’s leadership which is doing everything it can to pit Russia against the West, or more correctly, to undo the Westernization of Russia.
But when Putin praises the ability of his people to suffer, this is a poisoned compliment, especially because the suffering is caused by none other than Putin himself. Russians are suffering because their deluded leader for years has sabotaged their democracy, their justice system, and their economy. In a way, it is a recognition of Putin’s own failure to take care of his own people – in fact, he is praising his victims that they can tolerate the punishments doled out by him and only him.
A country’s leadership should not maximize their people’s suffering but their potential for happiness and self-fulfillment. For if people are happy, if people can live their lives, if people have the chance to shape their own future, they do not need to be given a false sense of pride because of their country’s size and alleged greatness. In an interconnected world, a country’s size matters less than it’s people’s potential. This is a lesson that most dictators routinely fail to learn, and the real reason why functioning democracies are always stronger and more resilient than dictatorships in the long-term.
It would be absolutely fantastic if we didn’t have to keep relearning this very simple lesson. But take note Putin: just as Ukraine has been fighting for democracy and independence already three times, once when seceding from the Soviet Union, a second time during the Velvet Revolution, and the third time during the Euro-Maidan, the Russian people in the past have also fought for democracy, got used to it, got used to being able to travel, trade and live in the West and became Western themselves. Eventually Russia will be free again because it simply has suffered enough and its people deserve better.
The only people who deserve to suffer in Russia are Putin, his cronies and supporters. Their time will come. After all, isn’t Russia known for its revolutions also?