Putin’s Russia and the War in Ukraine

Valerii Ivashchenko

Military and Political Expert,
First Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine in 2007–2010,
First Deputy Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine in 2020–2021



The Russian military aggression committed against Ukraine by the Putin regime in early 2014 produced an irreversible destruction of the existing world order, established in the international relations after 1975 (by the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe). This destruction affected not only one of the largest countries in Europe — Ukraine, but also the fates of individuals, families and entire nations that lived on Ukrainian land for decades and centuries.

The terrible tragedy of this destruction (as a consequence of Russian aggression) is in the fact that it had split the mind and conscience of millions of people:

  • both who were cruelly affected by the war, unleashed by Russia (because of killing their relatives and friends, of depriving them of worthy life conditions), and those who live safely and peacefully far from the war;
  • both ordinary citizens and influential politicians, leaders of states (many of whom stubbornly and cowardly refuse to recognize military aggression as military aggression and war crimes as war crimes, despite the more than 13,000 human victims of war).

It was strange for me to hear and see that many influential, respected politicians get lost among the false notions and definitions (speaking: “internal Ukrainian armed conflict”, “the civil war in Ukraine” etc.). While, for example, the young cadets of the Royal Danish Defense College, with whom I worked for several years, accurately, unmistakably named both the date of the official declaration of war on Ukraine by Russia (March 1, 2014), and the time of its actual commencement, and its real consequences — the capture and occupation of part of the Ukrainian sovereign territory by Russia.

Russia has openly, rudely violated the norms of international law, the fundamental principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation of the states, the inviolability of their borders, enshrined by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Russia also has trampled on other international treaties to which it was a party (such as the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the so-called “Big” Ukrainian-Russian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, and the Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet’s Stay in Ukraine of 1997, etc.).

…Putin threw a very insolent, cheeky challenge to the international world community. At the same time — a very risky (for him) challenge…

Everyone in the world understands that Putin threw a very insolent, cheeky challenge to the international world community. At the same time — a very risky (for him) challenge. Therefore, for such actions, there should be very important, weighty reasons, as Putin was undoubtedly aware of the great risk to receive cruel retribution for aggression against peace, for bloodshed, for killings people. So, what were the reasons for this, what were the “driving forces” of these Putin’s actions in early 2014?

Everyone who attentively watched and analyzed the history of Putin’s power, as well as changes in recent years in the economic and political life of Russia, had to notice that during Putin’s time at the top of power, the Russian economy and national wealth were rapidly depleting.

And there were the following main reasons for it:

  1. the total scientific, technical and technological backwardness of national production assets, compared with the advanced countries — world leaders. Therefore, orientation toward the raw material nature of the economy was adopted. Attempts to reach success in high-tech, in knowledge-intensive industries had not brought results, and still do not have ones;
  2. the destruction of the former Soviet industrial cooperation in the most important, capital-intensive sectors of the economy, because the crucial part of it remained in the newly independent states — former Soviet republics (and the most significant part remained in Ukraine);
  3. the total corruption and the plundering of resources that remained after the former Soviet Union collapse;
  4. the refusal of the political course of liberal economic reforms that were started in the period of the “early” Yeltsin. As a result, the “death” of small and medium businesses, which are the economic basis of social and political changes during the transition from totalitarianism to democracy;
  5. the polarization of the society in terms of property and financial status, the pauperization and demoralization of the majority of the population of Russia; mass emigration and reduction of the lifetime of the most educated and employable part of the population; as a result, the rapid degradation of the labor force quality and, as a consequence, the degradation of product quality.

…Putin’s criminal-KGB’s “team” had no prospects in the nearest future to stay in power…

Even this list, far from being complete, gave reason to believe that Putin’s criminal-KGB’s “team” had no prospects in the nearest future to stay in power and therefore — no prospects of unlimited disposal of the resources of the largest state territory in the world. As well as — no prospects to be able to save in the personal property a huge wealth of criminal origin. At best, this criminal “team” could only have the perspective of going into oblivion and losing its former omnipotence. But at worst case … — I don’t know, I can’t even assume.

Beyond doubt, for Putin’s criminal-KGB’s regime, these reasons were quite enough to go “Va Banque” in their struggle to preserve power. And Ukraine just happened to be at the intersection of three of Putin’s “target designations”, tasks:

  1. to prevent Ukraine from “leaving for Europe”, tearing it apart, weakening it in a military conflict, and then keeping it under the “protectorate” of Russia. Then turn Ukraine into a subordinate quasi-state, like Belarus or Armenia; further — to include Ukraine in the Russian economic space, and then completely — in the so-called “Russian world”;
  2. to divert the public consciousness of the Russian population from internal problems (economic and political) to an external enemy — the “fascist” Ukraine; then, “with the help” of external enemy, to revive the militant Russian patriotism, that should become the main content of national public consciousness. In order to solve this task (the revival of militant patriotism) to use a state Orthodoxy, giving the “second” part of the national consciousness to the archaic, obscurant Russian Orthodox church. In other words, this means that today’s official Russian ideology is based on militant patriotism and state Orthodoxy. Nothing more. Accordingly, the main task of this ideology is to form the Russian public consciousness from the same two parts: militant patriotism and state Orthodoxy.
  3. to test the strength of Western democratic institutions: to find out how far it’s possible to go, violating the international law and destroying the established world order — until, to get an adequate, brutal rebuff from the West. (Or using military slang: to identify the “limit of what is permitted” with the help of “recon by fire”).

…Today’s official Russian ideology is based on militant patriotism and state Orthodoxy…

Today, the best of all, Putin has succeeded in implementing the second task of his plan. Not so successfully Putin is implementing the third task, as the process of achieving the goal is still ongoing. The West also is “in the process”: it is still looking for relevant solutions. But the West “plays” by its own civilized rules (unlike Putin). It’s difficult today to guess where and when this “game” will stop.

Unfortunately, the only thing that is clear: Ukraine is neither a player in this game nor a chess figure. Ukraine is only a “chessboard” on which Western leaders are still playing chess, but Putin — from the very beginning — played hockey, on this chessboard.

The so-called “Minsk process” is proof of it. The famous “Minsk Agreements” is The Big Lie. Therefore, Putin is the most comfortable with this big lie. The West, European Union are still developing their attitude: to consider “Minsk Agreements” as an achievement (the real, valid, and effective international treaties) or — not. Ukraine is not satisfied with them at all. (If it suits Ukraine at least a little bit, then no more than the 1938 Munich Agreement suited Czechoslovakia before the Second World War).

…The international community must finally face the truth: Putin’s Russia committed an act of military aggression against a European state…

The international community (especially the European community) must finally face the truth: Putin’s Russia committed an act of military aggression against a European state. The aggressor must be punished, just as the USSR was punished in 1939 for aggression against sovereign Finland. At that time (before the Second World War) the world community excluded the aggressor from the League of Nations. But today, in a global, interconnected world, there are more opportunities and tools for impact on persons and the states, committing crimes, killing thousands of people.

The financial and economic sanctions against Russia because of the military aggression against Ukraine are very far from a commensurate, adequate response to its criminal actions. And they are not the only possible. The West, the Democratic Europe must realize that the aggressor, intoxicated with impunity, is not able to stop until it receives a cruel repulse and inevitable retribution.

…The aggressor, intoxicated with impunity, is not able to stop until it receives a cruel repulse and inevitable retribution…

In Ukraine, the Russian aggressor still has not stopped and has not been punished for his crimes. Will Europe wait to see who will be chosen by the Putin horde as the next victim of its aggression? This question is very close and similar to the famous Hamlet’s question: “To be or not to be, that is the question?”

Without exaggeration.


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