One of the questions asked over and over about Putin's callous invasion of an inoffensive neighbor, an invasion that is mysteriously rationalized by an amazing number of people on the right who were apoplectic over Trudeau's brutality with the Freedom Convoy, is what was his objective. It's obvious that he was torqued about Ukraine flirting with EU and NATO membership, but if he wanted regime change, a few million dollars, an AstroTurfed mob, and a GRU or Spetsznaz hit squad could have accomplished that (look at how easily Putin installed his previous stooge, Yanukovych) with much less melodrama and loss of life.
the number of people whose intellectual curiosity is sated with "He's a Bad Person so of course he does Bad Things" is close to infinite— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) February 27, 2022
i understand the very plausible hypothesis that he wants to install a puppet regime in Ukraine— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) February 27, 2022
the key to this would be doing so in a way that would be at least somewhat recognized internationally, which invasion would not seem to get him (even ignoring the enormous costs)
Some have postulated that Putin launched this invasion as a way of warning any country thinking about joining NATO that NATO would do nothing to help them.
Good questions. If we don't understand what motivated Putin to engage in this adventure, it becomes much more difficult to anticipate and deter future instances of him acting out.
What follows next, I think, fills in the blank spaces on what was behind the Ukraine invasion. I present it with grave reservations because I'm not all that familiar with the sources and am relying on the credibility of Christo Gorzev, an award-winning investigative journalist who is now the Executive Director of Bellingcat. Allegedly, the Russians have accused Bellingcat of being a front for Western intelligence; I don't have an opinion on that. My sole experience in following their coverage following the downing of Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 by an Iranian SAM found them to be so slavishly pro-Iran that I wondered if they were on retainer (It Looks Increasingly Likely That Iran Accidentally Shot Down That Ukrainian Airliner). Anyway, here goes.
..this essay was apparently written for a scenario where Russian armed forces had taken over Kyiv and subjugated the country…Which didn't actually happen. So, what did state news agency do? They deleted the article, as if the plan had never been published in the first place.— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) February 27, 2022
Ok, one can assume this was just an editorial mistake that was caught early, and the essay did not reflect the State view..EXCEPT.. this same essay was carried on other state-run channels too, like @SputnikInt : https://t.co/ZSGKumbl46— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) February 27, 2022
So indeed, this was meant to toast a Greater Russia outcome that never happened. Here's the plan the author had – and apparently, was seen as endorseable by state media: pic.twitter.com/UoGPTIaEIh— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) February 27, 2022
So, the same essay appeared on Saturday in at least three Russian outlets, including Sputnik. Then it disappeared without notice. You can read the archive.org version here; I've provided some key snippets below.
A new world is being born before our eyes. Russia's military operation in Ukraine has ushered in a new era – and in three dimensions at once. And of course, in the fourth, internal Russian. Here begins a new period both in ideology and in the very model of our socio-economic system – but this is worth talking about separately a little later.
Russia is restoring its unity – the tragedy of 1991, this terrible catastrophe in our history, its unnatural dislocation, has been overcome. Yes, at a great cost, yes, through the tragic events of a virtual civil war, because now brothers, separated by belonging to the Russian and Ukrainian armies, are still shooting at each other, but there will be no more Ukraine as anti-Russia. Russia is restoring its historical fullness, gathering the Russian world, the Russian people together – in its entirety of Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians. If we had abandoned this, if we had allowed the temporary division to take hold for centuries, then we would not only betray the memory of our ancestors, but would also be cursed by our descendants for allowing the disintegration of the Russian land.
Now this problem is gone – Ukraine has returned to Russia. This does not mean that its statehood will be liquidated, but it will be reorganized, re-established and returned to its natural state of part of the Russian world. In what borders, in what form will the alliance with Russia be fixed (through the CSTO and the Eurasian Union or the Union State of Russia and Belarus )? This will be decided after the end is put in the history of Ukraine as anti-Russia. In any case, the period of the split of the Russian people is coming to an end.
And here begins the second dimension of the coming new era – it concerns Russia's relations with the West. Not even Russia, but the Russian world, that is, three states, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, acting in geopolitical terms as a single whole. These relations have entered a new stage – the West sees the return of Russia to its historical borders in Europe . And he is loudly indignant at this, although in the depths of his soul he must admit to himself that it could not be otherwise.
Because the construction of a new world order – and this is the third dimension of current events – is accelerating, and its contours are more and more clearly visible through the spreading cover of Anglo-Saxon globalization. A multipolar world has finally become a reality – the operation in Ukraine is not capable of rallying anyone but the West against Russia. Because the rest of the world sees and understands perfectly well – this is a conflict between Russia and the West, this is a response to the geopolitical expansion of the Atlanticists, this is Russia's return of its historical space and its place in the world.
Incredible article. The reasons for 'reuniting Ukraine' with Russia are said to be not simply geopolitical, but to heal Russian self-esteem and identity, and to show the rest of the world that Western domination is over.— Anna Rotkirch (@AnnaRotkirch) February 27, 2022
As I've noted a couple of times, my professional assessment is that Russia thought the Ukraine operation would be over by Happy Hour on Friday. Everything indicates they were moving on a tight timetable that assumed the flight of the Ukrainian government, the collapse of the Ukrainian armed forces, and the passivity of the Ukrainian people. The article would have coincided with photo ops taken in Kiev as soon as a new government was installed. When that didn't happen, Russia acted like CNN covering up a mistake.
The content of the essay fits in very well with what we've seen from Russia for the past few years. I think the fact that the essay talks about uniting the Russian people and Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus acting as one polity is much closer to the view I expressed yesterday than to the idea that Putin wants to recreate the USSR. This is a quote from Putin's Threats to Sweden and Finland Are Much More Real Than They Are Being Given Credit For; “If you think the goal is a reconstituted USSR, I believe you have it wrong. The goal is the Russia of Nicholas II. He's not interested in Potemkin Soviet Socialist Republics. He sees Ukraine and Belarus, and Moldova as integral parts of Greater Russia.”
It is also interesting that Putin is targeting the entire international security order as it has existed since 1945. In fact, he's actually trying to reestablish the security environment as it was on the eve of World War I with multiple centers of gravity and endless opportunities for Russia to expand her influence into areas where NATO has frozen her out.
I'm sure we'll see more on this over the next days; if it turns out to be accurate, we've had a window open into Putin's thinking that clarifies what his endgame is. Whether Joey SoftServe and the White Rage Warriors are up to dealing with it remains to be seen.