OPINION: Vladimir Putin is reprehensible but he isn't the only war-hungry leader
Vladimir Putin addresses a huge Russian crowd and talks about the ongoing war in Ukraine: GettyImages

Vladimir Putin has taken centre stage as the world’s mainstream villain but our planet is full of violence, ignorance and blatant hypocrisy when it comes to taking the moral high ground. 

We sit back and, quite rightly, condemn the actions of Putin and his tyrannical push to control Ukraine. While the Russian President holds nuclear codes, it doesn’t make sense to intervene with violence because you simply don’t want the gaze of an apparent psychopath to be fixed on your country. In that respect, you have to accept passivity. 

Politicians are enacting severe economic sanctions on Russian Oligarchs, hoping that these powerful Russian figures will convince Putin to stop his war. Such a tactic seems feeble, however, as he has his eyes transfixed on writing his name into the history books – for better or for worse. 

The West seems stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to effectively tackling Russian violence. But Putin’s action should not come as a shock to us. 

A 2014 lecture by John Mearsheimer explained how the West would have to take some accountability for Putin’s future – now current – actions regarding Ukraine. The American educator reflected on Russia’s decision to invade Crimea without much opposition and highlighted it as a worrying marker for what Putin felt he could get away with. 

Mearsheimer also claimed that the United States, and NATO as a whole, simply weren't taking Putin seriously enough. Ukraine was seen as a buffer-stop between the East and the West but NATO – always seeking expansion – made little secret of their desire to bring Ukraine into their group. 

It’s almost bragging about territory and land; you don’t want to do that with someone like Putin, somebody Mearsheimer described as a “19th century man” in that he sees the world in a very different light to his western counterparts. If you poke the bear, the bear will attack and Putin doesn’t need too much poking. 

Nonetheless, it never looked like the Ukrainians would actually join NATO and the Ukrainians have recently confirmed that they wouldn’t be linking up with the intergovernmental military alliance. They are proud of their sovereignty and understanding of their place in the world.

Unfortunately, Putin never needed much of a push as his desire to rewrite history and take back control of Ukraine could not be easily dislodged. But he isn’t the only one with a hunger for war. 

Conflicts galore

President Xi of China has similar ambitions with seizing control of Hong Kong. Israel wants to take back Palestine in a long-running conflict that you could write several dissertations on. Saudi Arabia are in a continual bloody dispute with the country of Yemen.

And let’s not forget that wars in the Middle East have often been backed by Western hands. Many make huge economic benefits from selling weapons to the East and they are often the facilitators of violent wars between countries. We all help each other financially in some capacity. China feeds the West in so many ways; Russia provides cheap energy to European countries. It's a toxic web of exchanges. 

The Independent believed that Britain recently agreed a deal with Saudi Arabia for up to £20-billion in terms of weaponry and artillery.

President Joe Biden – who promised to bring arms deal sales in the Middle East to an end – provided a $24-billion arms package to the United Arab Emirates. Major world leaders sit on their chairs of morality but they also sanction global violence. 

In fact, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hope to ween Britain off Russian oil and gas had led him back to Saudi Arabia. What a wonderful transition! Not too long ago, the Saudi regime executed 81 people in one day – some of whom for simply challenging the country’s status quo. In the end, the two parties couldn’t agree on a deal.

To try and add some balance to this, if a country like Britain didn't supply arms then another country would probably take up the baton. Many people would lose their jobs as the business would move overseas. And for what? Weaponry would still be made and wars would still plough on; Britain just loses out on the economic gain. 

Of course, these insidious agreements are far from ideal but they are somewhat inevitable. With that in mind, it's how we react to the fallout. 

Open minds

Ultimately, the world is full of hypocrisy and nuance. Nothing is ever simply black and white. We show compassion to Ukraine and condemnation to Russia but we don’t follow that simplistic narrative across the board in other situations. We don’t talk about Yemen. We don’t talk about Palestine.

A young child is dying of malnutrition in war-torn Yemen: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images
A young child is dying of malnutrition in war-torn Yemen: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

Whatever your political allegiances, millions have been traumatised, injured or killed in those two aforementioned conflicts – millions  of innocent people who have been caught in a crossfire. And that's not to take the spotlight away from the situation over in Ukraine. 

Poor Ukrainian citizens have had their lives turned upside down over the past few weeks. It has been abhorrent. We absolutely should be opening our arms to those poor refugees.

But we shouldn’t pretend that wars elsewhere do not exist and we shouldn’t ignore the fact that our Western countries help to fuel many of them. The very we can do it show kindness and compassion to those who fall under the wrath of terror and violence. 

At the same time, the marginalisation of poor Russians – who have nothing to do with their country’s movement – is also rather shocking. It’s virtue signalling oppression. 99.9% of Russians will have zero impact on the actions of Putin and severely punishing them will only force them further into the land of hardcore Russian propaganda. It’s a nonsensical attack on millions of other innocent people. 


Kindness and solidarity has to be the pathway in moments like this but it's worth remembering that Putin isn’t the world’s only villain and this terrible crisis isn’t the only one happening in our ever so imperfect world. 

In fairness to the much maligned Priti Patel, she is a key cog in the Brexit-backed government. Her stance on immigration was expected to be hard-line and she isn't disappointing with her pretty whimsical attempts to help Ukrainian refugees.

However, the more publicity that these brutal wars get, the more empathetic and compassionate that the British public should become. Hopefully, that can help to change the toxic narrative around the poor souls who move heaven and earth to make it into the United Kingdom. Hopefully, we can start treating humans like humans.