https://ahvalnews.com-An article posted and later deleted by a state-backed media outlet in Russia that declared premature victory over Ukraine offered insight into Moscow’s motivations for launching a destructive war on its neighbour.
On Saturday, RIA Novosti, a Russian-government backed newspaper, posted an article titled ‘The offensive of Russia and the new world’. The article declared that it was celebrating what it expected to be the victory of Russian military forces over Ukraine and highlighting it as a victory of President Vladimir Putin over the Western-dominated bloc.
Tellingly, it echoed many of the irredentist themes of the Kremlin about the struggle between Russia and the West, framing the war as the start of a “new era” that addresses the “tragedy of 1991”, the year the Soviet Union disintegrated. Putin himself is well known for calling the Soviet collapse the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the century, but he has frequently invoked a variety of grievances about the subsequent advance of NATO into the old Soviet-bloc and the apparent dominance of the United States during this so-called “unipolar moment”.
In regard to the war in Ukraine, the author framed Putin’s decision as one of utmost urgency lest he risk the permanent loss of Ukraine, something he framed in civilisational terms.
“We can say without a drop of exaggeration that Vladimir Putin took upon himself a historic responsibility, by deciding not to leave the resolution of the Ukrainian question to future generations,” the author wrote.
Putin has made clear that he does not perceive Ukraine to be anything more than an artificial state and the Ukrainians themselves are one in the same as Russians.
Last summer, Putin penned a lengthy article on the “Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, that was riddled with what historians, analysts and politicians dismissed as ahistorical claims. In his speech that announced the start of the war against, Putin claimed that modern Ukraine was a creation of the Soviet Union and that its current government is encouraged to hate Russia by the West.
But this also continued in a pattern of rejecting Russia’s role in breeding enmity among what it considers a fraternal neighbor. Following the Euromaidan revolution in 2014 that cast off the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych government, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula later that February and began fomenting a war in the Donbas. The result was that Ukrainians went from holding positive views about Russia to sharply negative ones about it and Putin himself.
What is perhaps the most stunning revelation from the article is that it appears to have been completed in advance of the war. In one passage, it wrote that the problem of an anti-Russia Ukraine “no longer exists, Ukraine has returned to Russia.” By the time of the article’s posting on Saturday, Ukrainian soldiers were still holding every major city in their homeland while continuing to inflict serious casualties on Russia’s military.
This sense of victory before the first shot was fired follows a series of pre-planned actions by Russian officials on Ukraine.
A week before the war, journalists discovered that the separatist leaders pre-recorded their appeals to Moscow to recognise their independence and defend them from Ukraine. Last Monday, Putin’s speech explaining his decision to recognise the separatists’ independence dragged on for about an hour, giving the impression it was planned in advance.
Since invading Ukraine, Russia has been slapped with layers of new sanctions by the United States, the European Union and other allies like Japan that have dealt a strong blow to its economy. The ruble has rapidly shed its value and the Moscow Stock Exchange experienced one of the worst collapses in history. At the same time, thousands of Russians took to the streets to protest against the war, resulting in hundreds of arrests and more moves to clamp down on dissent.
While Putin indicated that he expected sanctions, it is apparent that he may have underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people, leaving him more isolated than ever and likely losing the battle for hearts and minds in Ukraine for the foreseeable future.