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Understanding Vladimir Putin

Two weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the mayor of Motyzhyn, Ukraine. The article read:

Mayor Olha Sukhenko took care of her village like a family for more than a decade, locals said, sprucing up public buildings, organizing concerts and settling disputes.

When the Russian army withdrew last week after a monthlong occupation, her neighbors found Ms. Sukhenko’s lifeless body in a shallow grave, her hands bound. Her husband and son lay next to her, dead.

Olha, Ihor and Oleksandr Sukhenko are but three of the faces of the brutal aftermath of Russia’s occupation that Ukrainian officials and villagers said left civilians dead on the street and buried under thin layers of dirt.

The world is appalled by the senseless violence and death of innocent citizens in Ukraine. How can Vladimir Putin and the Russian leaders be so cruel and heartless, and have such a low regard for human life? I don’t think it’s difficult to understand.

Before he became a Christian and recanted his opinion, Mortimer Adler, one of the most prominent philosophers of the last century, saw human beings as nothing more than sophisticated animals. For this reason, he said, “There is no logical reason to treat mankind differently from any other animal. Therefore, to exploit minorities or to exterminate the homeless could not be condemned any more than killing steers in a slaughterhouse.”

If there is no God, Adler is logically correct.

This view of man started with Charles Darwin. Many people are not aware of the complete title of his highly influential book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. A key idea in the book is how good it is for the least favored races to become extinct. He said:

“According to the laws of natural selection, the European race will emerge as the distinct species homo sapiens, and all the transitional forms—the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the Negro, and the Australian Aborigine—will be extinguished in the struggle.”

Darwin concluded that what we today call evil is merely inherited animal passions. The genes of the violent animals I descended from made me do it; I have no free choice in this matter.

This is how Adolf Hitler justified his enormous cruelty by reasoning, “Why should I not be crueler than nature itself?” He saw that nature was naturally cruel and that there was no reason for him not to unleash this cruelty onto the world.

Vladimir Putin is unleashing his cruelty on the people of Ukraine. I am sure he believes there is nothing wrong with these actions, that what he is doing is for the common good of Russia.

The great mathematician, Dr. John Lennox has spoken often with Russian intellectuals. Many of them of high standing would remark to him that they truly believed that they could get rid of God and retain a value for human beings. Eventually, they all acknowledged they were wrong. They said, “We destroyed both God and man.”

This is what has happened in Russia, God has been eliminated from the public square, and human beings therefore are routinely destroyed without any compunction.


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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