The Humiliation That Pushed Vladimir Putin To Recast Russia’s Global Image
It was December 5th, 1989, a calm normal day in the East German city of Dresden. Barely four weeks ago on 9th November, the Berlin Wall, infamously known as the Iron Curtain was demolished by the German people. The atmosphere was still euphoric, and protestors’ ambition knew no bounds. Until a year ago, the secret police agency of the German Democratic Republic, officially known as the Stasi was one of the most hated and feared institutions. And now it lay siege to the frenzied mob.
The Stasi headquarters were combed thoroughly by the unruly mob, ransacking all the secret archives and freeing political prisoners. All this was happening right in the backyard of the KGB outpost in Dresden. Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Putin was on the fringes, watching the mob closely. A new officer Major General Vladimir Shirokov had replaced the previous one, earlier that year. He was not present at the outpost, leaving Putin as the senior-most in line of command.
A fraction of the unruly mob broke from the main demonstration and turned outside the KGB outpost. A sole security guard posted outside, scrambled inside to inform Lieutenant Colonel Putin about the unruly mob. Being the only one in charge, he ordered the guards to ready for an assault and dialled the Soviet Military Command in Dresden for additional military reinforcements.
An officer on duty told him he could do nothing because “There were no orders from Moscow.”Albeit he promised to inquire through other channels. When the officer did not call back, Putin called again and prodded him for an answer. The officer replied, “Moscow is Silent”.
This single phrase hit Vladimir Putin like a freight train. It was one of the formative moments in his lifetime. And he realized the whole country was no more. Recalling the bitterness still raw years later, he said “It became clear that the Soviet Union was ailing. It was a deadly, incurable disease called paralysis — a paralysis of power.” He could imagine the end of his career, and altogether his life.
With the mob getting unruly by the hour and with no reinforcements on the way, it was in this nadir that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin donned his KGB uniform and went outside to confront the mob himself. Before venturing out he had ordered his staff to burn all the classified documents in the furnace, which they duly obeyed until the furnace broke.
Eye-witness accounts of the event, tell that once the guard ran inside, a short officer emerged from the main door, walked a few steps, and approached the people. He did not speak initially but was calm and composed in his demeanour.
“This house is strictly guarded. My soldiers have weapons. And I gave them orders: if anyone enters the compound they open fire.” He spoke in fluent German, astounding the mob.
He then turned his back on the mob and calmly walked back into the house. The crowd murmured amongst themselves and left. They had already toppled the Stasi but toppling the KGB was for another day. A few hours later, the Soviet Military Command in Dresden received orders from Moscow and sent in reinforcements, only now they were not needed.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, calmly with a stoic determination avoided a security fiasco for the KGB. He avoided any kind of intelligence failure all without any bloodshed. And yet there was no official recognition of his actions, that night. No commendations, medals or accolades whatsoever. Moscow is Silent, that single phrase haunted him for years afterwards.
Analysts, sceptics all agree that Vladimir Putin is deeply motivated to restore Russia’s might at par with the former Soviet Union. He has a great ardour for the former Soviet Union. It is quoted that Putin once famously said, “ Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains. “ Putin is smart enough to understand that restoring the former Soviet Union is an unviable option. Instead, building a stronger, reliant Russia is feasible.
Moreover, he has assumed a role of a messiah in Russia. He believes he has been chosen to resurrect Russia from the ashes of the Cold War and recast itself as a global superpower. The humiliating trounce of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the subsequential fall of the Berlin Wall, and the tragic collapse of The Soviet Union all made a deep lasting impact on Russian society.
The flexing of Russia’s military muscle under Vladimir Putin is seen as the revival of Russia might by ordinary Russians. It is not surprising that amidst the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan, Russia has decided not to vacate its embassy in Kabul. Global policy analysts are clueless in terms of deciphering Russia’s new stratagem in Afghanistan. On a concluding note, one can surely state that Vladimir Putin is going to avenge the lost Soviet pride in Afghanistan.