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How to stop Putin’s war against Ukraine

30.05.2022 Download pdf (387 KB) Vladimir Dubrovskiy shares his understandably raw and personal views on what lies behind Putin’s war against Ukraine and what can and should be done to halt it.

Commentary for The Foreign Policy Centre.

…Some in the West think Putin is obsessed with Ukraine because he sincerely believes that Ukrainians and Russians are ‘just two branches of the same people’, and there is a small group of ‘Nazi-Ukrainians’ that sway this ‘part of Russia’ towards the West. This is why he is waging his war. But he does not call the rest of the European nations ‘the same people’, and that may mean he is unlikely to go further west and attack NATO countries – especially given that they are much better protected. Therefore, the argument goes, ‘let us sit on the fence and wait until this madness ends, then get back to business as usual – especially because we do need Russian resources’.

There is perhaps some truth in that line of reasoning. Putin seems to be obsessed with what he and his ideologists call the ‘Ukrainian problem’. Putin seems to hate the Ukrainians not for their ethnicity, culture and language (which are, indeed, quite close to the Russian ones, although still distinct), but first and foremost for the difference in values. The freedom and dignity that Ukrainians proved to cherish above all are precisely those European values that are inimical to the Russian system of rules based on a strong patronal ‘vertical of power’. Putin indeed feels threatened by Ukraine, though not in the military sense, but rather through the idea of spreading these values and exemplifying their virtues to the Russian people. Therein lies the main thrust of the Kremlin campaign against Ukraine – but couched invariably as a ‘threat from NATO’.

The main enemy for Putin and his inner circle is the West that ‘defeated’ the USSR in the Cold War and imposed (as the Kremlin depicts it) its ‘unnatural’ values on the Ukrainian and Russian people. The Russians, in his opinion, have mostly withstood this pressure (except for some ‘traitors to the nation’), and some ‘wrong-turns’ in the 1990s. However, ‘the Ukrainian branch of the Russian people’ in Putin’s view emerged as ‘turncoats’ who had succumbed to the West’s soft power and betrayed their ‘common past’. They rejected pro-Moscow Yanukovich in 2014 and instead turned towards Europe. Those ‘traitors’ are detested even more than the main enemy (the West), but the latter perversely remain the ultimate target.

Any approach to tackling Putin and to stopping this war, the author says, has to be premised on a realisation that Russia is already engaged in a war with the West, and not only with Ukraine as part of it. And what has not worked thus far is a policy of pandering to Putin.

The full commentary can be accessed here.