Visual Statement

Putin’s Moment

“To me, the term ‘energy superpower’ is a little optimistic; that is, a reliance on oil alternately enhances and handcuffs a nation. With Russia today, I’m left to wonder how Putin and Co. are relating to their own massive, oily assets—particularly as their economy suffers under the weight of sagging energy prices and sanctions levied over the crisis in Ukraine.

Should Vladimir Putin support the rebels in eastern Ukraine too much, Russia will find itself overstretched: The country has larger concerns than fueling up the army and spending political capital on minor adventures. On the other hand, push too little, and Russians might wonder why their leader is a failure at both managing the economy and defending the rights of Russians abroad. Ukraine, I think, can look forward to a stable, awful stalemate in its east until oil prices recover. After that, all bets are off.

I care about this situation’s facts, as far as they can be known. Yet I have no way to affect Putin’s moment, nor it a way to affect me. I read such circumstances as if they were Hamlet, studying them in hopes of understanding how people make decisions in different situations. Here, Putin is looking over his shoulder at Russia’s massive oil infrastructure, sanctions, and economic decline, and making up his mind about what to do in Ukraine—which he holds in one of his hands.”

Raymond Biesinger is an illustrator and artist based in Montreal, Canada.