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Dear Mr. Putin:

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert A. Hunter
March 10, 2023

The purpose of this letter is simply to ask you to stop the war in Ukraine. I’m entreating you for a change of heart.

A message of this nature is most appropriately conveyed in a personal, private way, but circumstances do not make that possible. This is the best avenue I have considered. Hopefully, you’ll have an opportunity to read it. If not, perhaps it will stimulate positive thoughts about leadership among those who do read it, as it has for me.

Like you, I have held a variety of leadership positions in my career. Unlike you, my jurisdictions have involved hundreds of thousands of citizens as measured against your millions. Nevertheless, I believe the same leadership principles apply regardless of the size of the arena.

Regarding the Russo-Ukrainian War, you are as aware as anyone that during the annexation of Crimea a handful of lives were lost, during the War in Donbas almost 15,000 lives were lost and now, with the invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. When will this end? When is enough enough? Even the unnecessary loss of one life is one too many.

As I present my thoughts, please do not assume I’m lecturing you with a wagging finger. History tells us that many countries, including my own, have aggressively executed invasions, usurped territories and committed offenses costing lives and causing devastation. But none of those actions may be used as justification for repetition.

As told in the motion picture Gandhi, the Mahatma said, “The only devils in this world are those running ‘round in our own hearts, and that is where all battles must be fought.”

When asked what kind of warrior he was in these battles of the heart, he smilingly responded, “Not a very good one. That is why I’m so tolerant of all those other scoundrels out there.”

Wars seem to have become so common that some would argue, “That’s just how it is. It’s human nature. We must learn that atrocities will always be with us.”

In the tale of Man of La Mancha, we learn that Don Miguel de Cervantes (creator of Don Quixote) is arrested for heresy during the Spanish Inquisition. In response to mockery of his idealism, he gives a speech:

“Life as it is. I’ve lived for over 40 years and I’ve seen life as it is. Pain, misery, cruelty beyond belief. I’ve heard the voices of God’s noblest creature – moans from bundles of filth lying in the streets. I’ve been a soldier and a slave. I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. These were men who saw life as it is. I’ve held them at the last moment. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes filled with confusion, questioning why. I do not think they were asking why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams – this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness. But maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

It is my postulation, Mr. President, that you have before you the extraordinary opportunity to make life as it should be for the people of Russia, the people of Ukraine, indeed, the people of the world.

Leaders of the world are currently wringing their hands. They’re proposing so-called peace plans. They’re trying to figure out ways to help you back out of the war and “save face.”

I propose, sir, that you don’t need to save face. All you need to do is just stop the war. Just stop it. That’s it.

You are a powerful world leader. Some would say you’re the most powerful. Stopping the war requires no explanation. Ending the war will bring you the respect of your comrades. That singular act will demonstrate to them and to other observers the vast extent of your power. The young Russian soldiers will respect you for it. The mothers of Russia’s young men will adore you. The exhausted people of Ukraine will appreciate your action. Your colleagues around the world will be relieved as they’re able to focus on more productive matters. The world economy will be enriched.

Your power will remain. You have an ego. We all have egos. It’s human nature. Perhaps history will treat you as the great Russian leader who’s change of heart served as an example of the rightful use of power. And perhaps the acts of warmth and generosity will even bring about the relationships you seek for the “mother country.”

I believe most political scientists would agree that democracy is not the best form of government. A benevolent dictatorship is. But the dictator must be genuinely benevolent.

A positive change of heart is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of courage. It’s a sign of wisdom. It’s a sign of strength.

Please consider these thoughts.


Bob Hunter

Author: Robert A. Hunter is a longtime political, nonprofit, and academic leader in Utah, who currently serves a public policy advocate for United Way of Northern Utah and teaches Leadership and Political Life at Weber State University. He may be reached at [email protected].

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