The Putin problem

Another leader on a power trip

Allison Hinrichs

More stories from Allison Hinrichs


Vladimir Putin has similarly experienced the inconvenient, economically ruinous COVID-19 contagion like the rest of us.

For someone who wants to be a travel journalist, COVID-19 picked the lousiest time to show up, especially when things were going so well. 

Pre-COVID-19, I managed to impress a well-known travel photojournalist and she offered me an internship at her magazine. The internship seemed a lot less like work and a lot more like how I imagine Jeffery Bezos spends his weekdays: jet setting off to a tropical oasis or flying into a glorious foreign metropolis.

I was on my way to a life spent cruising the skies in style and sipping apple juice in my business class accommodations that cost me nothing since it was all-expenses paid.

Instead of that reality I was unfortunate enough to live in the one that got hit with the modern plague. If I sound bitter it’s because I am.

Instead, I was grounded, literally. COVID-10 had scared away sponsors from funding any potential trips and my autoimmune disease was enough to bar me from travel until I had some vaccinated protection.

Things pretty much hit rock bottom and stayed there after that.

First my study abroad to Australia in the Fall of last year was canceled, then my rescheduled trip to Costa Rica started to look like a bust and after that I stopped putting effort into what seemed so untouchable and far away.

But all that changed when I found a study abroad location that finally seemed like my ticket to freedom.


At that point, I was willing to go anywhere, do anything to escape the mundane, dopamine-depleting, politically unhinged, post-outbreak train-wreck that is home right now.

I was ready to let myself hope again before I remembered that my life is a joke and the world —, a sitcom.

Pestilence wasn’t cutting it for a plot, I guess, so the universe decided to throw everyone’s favorite deranged tyrant and the threat of World War III into the mix to spice things up a bit more.

Stalin — I mean Russian President Vladimir Putin — has similarly experienced the inconvenient, economically ruinous COVID-19 contagion like the rest of us.

However, instead of pushing his boiling rage and anguish deep down inside where it can fester as a mental illness, again, like the rest of us, he instead wants to throw a hissy fit.

When Ukraine started to make strides to leave Putin’s sphere of influence, he took it as a very personal loss but allow me to explain the situation in this analogy:

Think of Putin as the crazy ex-boyfriend that refuses to accept that Ukraine broke up with him. Ukraine is a hot, single, freely elected government and has set their eyes on two new potential boyfriend options: NATO, who’s not really interested in starting a relationship with their ‘frenemy’s’ Ex, or the European Union, who also doesn’t want to get in the middle of the lover’s quarrel.

On top of Putin’s unreciprocated obsession, his failure to transform Russia into an economic model where domestics want to stay, and foreigners want to visit has left him with a nationalistic inferiority complex.

What else is there to do when you are in a messy breakup than to stage a de facto occupation and consider going to war.

As per usual, the United States, isn’t a blameless party in the matter. Particularly for their decision in the 1990s to expand NATO by bringing in Eastern European Nations, including ones that were bordering Russia.

At the time Russia wasn’t viewing NATO as a romantic rival for Ukraine’s affections, but rather saw the organization as an acquaintance. However, Russia has intimacy issues and for such fresh friends, having NATO get all up on Russia’s border business was extremely triggering for the former soviet nation.

In the New York Times article “Foreign Affairs; Now a Word From X,” George Kennan, the engineer of America’s victorious containment of the Soviet Union and the American government’s Russian expert, described the NATO expansion as a, “tragic mistake.”

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” Kennan said. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies.”

Circling back to the present and following The United States President Joe Biden’s announcement Tuesday about his plans to implement sanctions with Russia for what he called, “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,.” iIt appears that Kennan’s prediction may be closer than anyone imagined.

In my case, a Ukrainian invasion would be a lot closer, approximately 876.3 miles away.

So next semester when you are reading the news and happen upon an article about a clumsy, American student journalist being thrown in the Gulag for talking trash about Russia’s president, know that I made this sacrifice for you.

Allison Hinrichs can be reached @[email protected].