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Tags: putin | russia | ukraine

Putin Unlikely to Let Up on Ukraine

a map of russia with a profile of putin inside
(Dreamstime)

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz By Friday, 22 July 2022 06:55 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

President Vladimir Putin has no incentive to stop the war in Ukraine. He has no reason to seek a peaceful settlement.

After its initial failures of an all-out invasion, Russia’s military performance has significantly improved. The Russians have regrouped and proceed incrementally.

Everywhere the Russian forces deploy their pincer movements, isolating, encircling, and overwhelming the Ukrainian enemy, who has been consistently on a defensive. The Ukrainians reel under a relentless artillery and missile barrage in support of massive numbers of attacking troops.

The sordid tragedy of the defense of Mariupol has been now reenacted in a number of other eastern Ukrainian cities. The Russian gunnery reduces them to rubble.

The Ukrainian soldiers fight like lions but they are helpless to protect their civilians dying all around them. Ultimately, the Ukrainian defenders are either overwhelmed or they retreat.

The Russian losses are allegedly enormous, but that has not yet created serious problems at home. Most of the Russian Federation’s population supports the invasion of Ukraine.

Many front-line Russian troops are not draftees. They are professional soldiers, domestic mercenaries, and foreign auxiliaries, including from Syria. Reportedly, Moscow has even enlisted pardoned criminals, freshly released from jail, to fight in Ukraine.

The war is going rather well for Putin now. Russia aims to subjugate Ukraine, no matter the price.

Moscow perceives Kiyv as an existential threat at two main levels.

First, Ukraine stands in the way of Russia’s imperial expansion. Its independence threatens the Kremlin’s imperial project. The Russian Empire will be incomplete without the Ukrainian component.

It is an open question whether we shall witness an outright annexation and absorption of the Ukrainian state into the Russian Federation. Perhaps, if Putin is in a good mood, he will settle, temporarily at least, for the Minsk solution: a separate puppet satrap in Kiyv on a malleable leash.

The return to the 1990s then would be an optimistic outcome of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But even such a “generous” arrangement is unlikely to endure for long. For the very fact of Ukraine’s existence challenges Russia’s monopoly on the cultural and historical narrative in this part of the world.

Kiyvian Ruthenia (Rus’) was not Kievian Russia. It was the first “Ukrainian” state. Its heart and immediate environs were located almost precisely where contemporary Ukraine sits today.

After centuries, the historic state’s inheritance split into the three parts of the Intermarium, the lands between the Black and Baltic Seas: the Russian — in the east; the Ukrainian — in the south; and the Belarusian — in the north. All three can claim descent from the Rus’ but Ukraine’s claim for legitimacy is the strongest on the account of its location, history, and culture.

Moscow’s uniqueness as “the Third Rome” and the champion of all “Slavic peoples” rests on suppressing this historical fact. Everything must be Russia; there is no room for any alternative tales of the past.

Ukraine begs to differ. Russia perceives that as an existential threat perhaps even greater than a physical threat to the imperial project at the geopolitical level.

Hence, the war rages on.

There is also no reason to suspect that even if Putin stops the war presently, he will not re-launch it at a latter date. Should the master of the Kremlin die, his successor is unlikely to apply any other logic and measures to Ukraine.

The attempt to subjugate Kiyv is not a function of a particular ruler of Moscow but, rather, of the Muscovite strategic culture.

A hundred years ago, Professor Jan Kucharzewski posited continuity between autocratic Russia and totalitarian Soviet Union, a theory brilliantly popularized in the United States by Professor Richard Pipes.

When Lenin conquered the Empire of the Tsars, he inherited their geopolitics. The Bolshevik leader immediately started acting on the reality of that inheritance, reintegrating the imperial state in no time: starting with Ukraine.

In the 1990s, Boris Yeltsin and his supporters, to get rid of the collapsing superstructure of the Soviet Union conjured up to replace it with the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States. Then they bemoaned the failure of their artificial contraption to arrest the centrifugal nationalist forces which gave birth to over a dozen of newly independent states in the Intermarium and Central Asia.

Yeltsin wanted to keep everyone within the Russian-led state. Ukraine and others refused.

Now, Putin vows to restore the empire, including Ukraine. Kiyv needs a miracle to escape this fate.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.

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MarekJanChodakiewicz
President Vladimir Putin has no incentive to stop the war in Ukraine. He has no reason to seek a peaceful settlement.
putin, russia, ukraine
786
2022-55-22
Friday, 22 July 2022 06:55 AM
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