To understand the conflict in Ukraine, you must first reflect on the history of the standoff between Russia and the West.
The fall of the “Iron Curtain” resulted in significant territorial losses for Russia by the detachment of the republics of the former USSR, the loss of resources and markets and above all the abandonment (deemed humiliating for the Russian establishment and a large part of the population) of the status of world superpower. The 1990s, which by Western standards should have led to the democratization of Russia, the establishment of civil liberties and a market economy, in fact led to institutional chaos and widespread corruption. The year 1999 marked the coming to power of Vladimir Poutine and his loyal KGB team, with strong popular support for a change in state affairs.
The first years of this century were marked by attempts at rapprochement between Russia and the West, through association projects and EU treaties aimed at reducing strategic weapons and ballistic missiles.
In 2008, Russia proposed a new European Security Treaty on the principle of “no dividing lines” which aimed to prevent the former Soviet republics from joining NATO.
In 2010, Russia proposed a common defensive perimeter for the management of ballistic missiles which would lead to a “de facto” military alliance between Russia and NATO.
All of these initiatives failed in the midst of NATO’s second wave of enlargement in Eastern Europe, which included Romania and Bulgaria accession, and especially after the Bucharest summit in 2008 as a UNITED STATES and NATO announced admission plans for Ukraine and Georgia, with Putin anticipating civil unrest in Ukraine Therefore. Their membership was later blocked by France and Germanywith Ukraine and Georgia receive a promise of membership on an indefinite date.
The West’s lack of reaction to Russia’s demands for respect for its political sphere of influence, as well as the West’s suspicions of Russia’s neo-imperialist ambitions, as well as the indirect military conflict in Syria, have led to irreparable relations and the escalation of a new Cold War.
Since returning to the presidency in 2012, Putin has made significant changes in terms of military doctrine and political rhetoric, as well as concrete preparations for future armed conflicts. These included:
- Focus domestic and foreign policy on the idea of achieving full sovereignty, eliminate foreign influences on Russia’s domestic policy, and reinvigorate nationalist rhetoric. The launch of the “Russian World” project marks the introduction of a new concept designed to promote Russia’s national interests on a global scale and occupy the position of exclusive leader in its “space of historical domination”. Thus, the “Russian world” is seen as a distinct civilization, associated with traditional Russian values, including the Eastern Slavs of Ukraine and Belarus. Defining “rossiiskiy” state nationalism meant transforming the Russian Federation into a leader and center of attraction for all of Eurasia, and for the first time in modern history, Russia rejected Europe at the both as a mentor and as a role model.
- Challenging the unipolar world order personified by the United States, erecting barriers to promoting the democratic concepts, norms and practices by which Western societies operate, as well as established arbitration mechanisms.
- The transformation of Russia into the center of a great geo-economic unit called the Eurasian Economic Union reinforced by political, cultural and security components. It would be built on the foundations of the former USSR in order to free Russia from economic pressure coming from the EU and China and become a viable competitor for them around the world. Including Ukraine, this supranational project would include a population of over 200 million people.
- Massive priority investments in the arms industry to equip the army with the latest weapons, while the investments were also seen as a locomotive for the reindustrialization of Russia.
- Redefining the West as a powerful competitor, an important rival and the source of most military risks and threats.
- The inclusion of opposition protest movements in the realm of Russian domestic intelligence, associated with military dangers, and their inclusion in the sphere of “external threats”.
- Consecration of a new type of war, called “hybrid war”, by the perpetuation of the state of war on a territory of confrontation between different combatants, the participation in military actions of irregular armed troops and private military companies, and indirect and asymmetrical intervention in conflict regions. This new type of warfare was successfully implemented by Moscow in Crimea and Donbass.
- The inclusion of the legitimacy of a military response to “military aggression on its territory, either aggression against its allies or against Russian citizens living outside the Russian Federation”.
Once this ideological, doctrinal and military package was formed, the opportunities for its implementation were not long in coming.
In 2009, the EU launched the Eastern Partnership project with six countries of the former Soviet bloc: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The year 2013 marked the competition between the EU and Russia to attract Ukraine to one of two major projects: the European Union or the Eurasian Economic Union promoted by Moscow. Under pressure from Moscow, the then Ukrainian president suspended negotiations with the EU, but what the Russian media called a major victory for Russia’s grand Eurasian plan was thrown into question by the revolution in Kyiv known as Euromaidan. Under the specter of the return to power of the representatives of the pro-Western Orange Revolution, the centrifugal movement of the former Soviet republics and thus the collapse of all his revisionist and expansionist plans, Putin took the decision to annex Crimea in March 2014.
Caught off guard, Western countries had a pale reaction. The sanctions have not been convincing, in particular because of the important economic interests of certain European countries vis-à-vis Russia. However, these sanctions have led to an increase in popular support in Russia for Putin, with the sanctions being interpreted as a Western attack on Russians. This extremely easy victory validated Putin’s strategies and assessments as well as the New Hybrid War theory.
However, Ukraine’s long-awaited destabilization plan failed, and the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine failed to react to Putin’s plans to challenge power in Kyiv and federalize the country. As we can see, this overestimation repeated itself in February 2022, with consequences to the detriment of the invaders.
Instead, the Crimean “victory” highlighted a new Putin project called Novorossiya (New Russia). This new Russia would include the eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine Kharkiv for Odessa, areas supposedly populated mainly by ethnic Russians sympathetic to Moscow’s plans. At the same time, he revealed to the whole world the mechanism by which Russia intends to impose a New World Order, in particular through territorial conquests and the reconfiguration of borders.
The invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is therefore an obvious consequence of the new Russian military doctrine and Putin’s imperialist plans. Although all these plans were public, the West did not react and did not prepare a coherent response until the annexation of Crimea. However, it is difficult to take seriously the ambitions of a country whose GDP is almost equal to that of Spain, crushed by corruption, with an ill-equipped army and an economy almost exclusively dependent on the West and export of raw materials, but owner of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
Would you like to be informed of DiEM25’s actions? register here