Vladimir Putin has spent the past three decades building himself up as the undisputed strongman of the Russian Federation. Rising through the KGB ranks and becoming Boris Yeltsin’s successor, Putin consolidated his hold over the vast swaths of Russia through hardline measures, such as war, assassinations, and intimidation tactics.

Perhaps using overly diplomatic measures towards the autocrat or fear of his strongman aura, the West gave Putin the green light to murder with impunity with little consequences until 2022. Even during the ongoing war in Ukraine, Western heads of state have hesitated on military aid Ukraine needs to win the war, such as Army Tactical Missile (ATACMS) and F-16s, over fears of Putin’s “red lines.”

Reluctance has played into the hands of one of the world’s most dangerous kleptocrats, who has used the fear of nuclear war and energy blackmail to receive anything he wants. By appeasing the Kremlin strongman, we make this world more cataclysmic than stable.

Putin’s Aura Relies on Fears

Vladimir Putin, a careerist in the then-Soviet premier intelligence agency, the KGB, has always relied on fear and strength to enact loyalty and respect amongst his peers. During his rise as a statesman, the Russian President used an enlightening image in public, but behind the scenes, it was always callous

The Kursk Submarine Disaster would show how little Putin had cared about his own troops’ lives, solely so he wouldn’t look weak in public after Britain and Norway requested to rescue the doomed sailors. Future displaying his lack of empathy just to prop up his strongman aura, Putin and elements of the FSB were complicit in the Ryazan Bombings that instigated the Second Chechen War.

In the Second Chechen War, Russian Forces used scorched earth tactics, and Putin would pay hardline Chechen factions to work for the Kremlin. One of these factions ended up being the Kadyrov’s, who, with the blessing of the Russian President, murdered, abducted, and tortured anti-Russian dissidents and journalists.