Putin will keep playing the victim to get what he wants, Vittert says

Russia At War

(NewsNation Now) — Russian leader Vladimir Putin will keep playing the victim and spreading false information until he gets what he wants amid heightened fears of war in Ukraine, NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said on “Morning in America.”

Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence Monday.

“Vladimir Putin is a KGB expert. The KGB, one of their tricks or playbooks is to play the victim,” Vittert said. “And he’s setting this up, ‘Oh, well, eastern Ukraine, there’s a genocide going on against these ethnically Russian people. They’ve stolen our gas, therefore it is worth going to war for.'”

Russia has long denied it has any plans to invade Ukraine, instead blaming the U.S. and its allies for the current crisis and describing Ukraine’s bid to join NATO as an existential challenge to Russia. Putin reiterated those accusations in an hourlong televised speech on Monday when he announced that Russia would recognize the rebels.

“Ukraine’s membership in NATO poses a direct threat to Russia’s security,” he said.

Sweeping through more than a century of history, Putin painted today’s Ukraine as a modern construct used by the West to contain Russia despite the neighbor’s inextricable links.

The relationship between Ukraine and Russia has evolved in the more than 20 years since Ukraine has become its own nation. 87% of those born after independence was declared in 1991 identify as Ukrainian while 21 percent of those born before 1991 call themselves “Soviet people.”

But this does vary by region, 80% of Western Ukrainians want to be economically tied to the EU versus just 26% in eastern Ukraine.

“These are people who are ethnically Russian, who live in the area that is now Ukraine, almost as if this was the difference between Virginia and West Virginia when West Virginia split off from Virginia, and you’d say, well, they’re Virginians. Well, yes, but they’re living in West Virginia,” Vittert said. “But these are ethnically Russians. They speak Russian. They have a very different culture than the people in Western Ukraine that said if they wanted to go back to Russia, they could they back in 2014 is when they fought this war. And effectively Putin is using them and using this nationalistic language to try and spark this conflict.”

Russia says it wants Western guarantees that NATO won’t allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. Moscow has also demanded the alliance halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe — demands flatly rejected by the West.

Putin has remained stubborn throughout the Ukraine crisis with his insistence that he send troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine  to “keep the peace.” Vittert explained Putin’s strategy by using his own dog, Dutch.

“I brought Dutch, the black Lab here, to help us understand what Vladimir Putin is saying. Dutch is a black Lab, but Vladimir Putin will tell you he’s a Chihuahua. And he will just keep telling you, he’s a Chihuahua until you believe him or until he gets what he wants,” Vittert said on “Morning in America.” “The issue here for Vladimir Putin is, the longer he continues to say, Dutch is a Chihuahua. And the longer the world and the media has to continue on this farce of, ‘Well, Vladimir Putin says he’s a Chihuahua,’ then he gets to continue marching into eastern Ukraine.”

Russian propaganda has continued to spin unconfirmed reports of genocide in eastern Ukraine and gas theft.

“If you watched Russia, which is the Kremlin propaganda arm in English, they talked about how the West is ignoring the genocide in eastern Ukraine of 14 million people. And the Ukrainians have blackmailed and stolen all of Russia’s gas, neither of which are true in the same way, Dutch will never be a Chihuahua,” Vittert said. “But if you tell the Russian people this, then it gives you a reason to avenge all of these wrongs.”

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

Watch “On Balance with Leland Vittert” weeknights at 7/6C.

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