Putin Agenda in Ukraine

Geofrey RobertApr 17, 2022

Moscow has unleashed the most significant war in Europe since WWII without justification but a few ironic arguments. At first, President Putin stated that the special operation was to ‘'Denazify" Ukraine with later statements noting that Ukraine is a constant threat to Russia. The Kremlin said that it could not develop or exist due to the continuous threat posed by Ukraine. However, Ukraine has not posed any threats, and it is Russia that constantly attacks Ukraine through espionage and territorial invasion. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and captured the Crimea region annexing it into Russian territory.

After thousands of deaths and the destruction of property worth a half-trillion dollars, Russia failed to capture Kyiv and retreated, facing the offensive in east and southern Ukraine. President Putin had issued a deranged justification for the invasion of Ukraine, stating that Russia was saving innocent citizens by toppling the government, claiming that neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists had seized it. Due to the conflicting statements, questions have emerged on what Moscow wants to achieve in Ukraine with the unprovoked invasion of its neighbor.

Ukraine NATO Membership

Kremlin's main issue with the current Ukrainian government has been the desire to join the NATO military alliance. The Russian invasion sought to topple the government of Ukraine and end the desire to join the military alliance. Experts have opined that joining NATO would bring the most lethal weapons near Russia, something the country fears. The Ukrainian President is the number one supporter of the country's membership in NATO and stated that Russia had designated him as the number one target. In Russia, the government refused to describe the action as war or invasion and criminalized the terms instructing the media to refer to it as a ‘'special military operation''.

Former CIA director Robert Gates stated the collapse of the Soviet Union brought humiliation, domestic chaos, famine, and great poverty but a triumph for the west, which still affects Russia today. Russia considers NATO to be an enemy, and it fears that Ukraine joining would bring the west nearer to Russia.  President Putin has been focused on restoring Russia to its historical role as a significant power, and Ukraine's plans to join NATO pushed Moscow to breaking point. However, the fears justify having countries with limited military power near Russia that can be used as a buffer in any war with NATO. Ukraine is a sovereign country with the power to make decisions, and Russia must respect the decision by Ukraine's government to join NATO.

The predecessor government in Ukraine was bending the knee toward Moscow and rejecting western influence. A change of government saw the new government that allies with the west and seeks to be incorporated into the larger Europe, including NATO. Moscow's invasion was based on the idea that a change of government would end the risk they perceived the current Ukrainian government poses. Rodric Braithwaite, former UK ambassador to Moscow, posits that Kremlin sees the current Ukrainian government as a dagger pointed to its Slavic heart.

Putin has proclaimed that Ukraine's membership in NATO is a red line that must not be crossed and wants guarantees from U.S and NATO that Ukraine will never be allowed to join. On 14th April, Sweden and Finland took significant steps in joining NATO, with their prime ministers noting that the Russian invasion of Ukraine poses new threats to their countries. Dimitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of the Russian Security Council, said that Finland and Sweden's NATO membership in the alliance would force Russia to reinforce its naval, land, and air forces adding that Russia's territory in the Baltic, Kaliningrad, would become a nuclear zone.

Failure to Capture Kyiv and Change of Goals

After facing resistance from Ukrainians, Russia declared its primary goal was the liberation of Donbas. Donbas refers to Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions which were seized by Russian proxies in a war that began in 2014. Russian officials have continued with the deranged language of ‘'denazification'' and now focus on seizing two major eastern regions and creating a land corridor in the east and southeast. However, the plans are also slow due to fierce resistance on the Ukraine Black Sea coast.

Experts have warned that after capturing the eastern regions, there is a high chance he may continue and annex them like Crimea. Before the invasion, Moscow had recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as belonging to the Russian republics. The head of the Luhansk region suggested that a referendum would happen in the near future, similar to a sham referendum in Crimea. The international community has blamed Russia for arming Ukrainian separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk regions to wage war against Ukraine to annex the areas to Russia. The regions are closer to Crimea, and annexation would form a corridor between Russia and Ukraine that can be used to destabilize Ukraine.

Professor Paul B. Stephan, a professor at Virginia School of Law, states that since 1991, Russia has been used as a friendly regime in Ukraine, where the governments have taken decisions to appease Moscow. Stephan noted the current government has sought to address the interests of its people rather than appeasing Moscow. Further, Russia is determined to create discord with Europe and paint the United States (U.S) as ineffective. The mentality of Moscow for the entirety of the century has been dissatisfaction, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  

Pope Francis has stated the forces of evil are clearly at work in Ukraine, leading to horrific attacks on innocent people and the widespread destruction of their homes.  The Pope noted that suffering was inflicted on many defenseless and frail civilians. The result is many civilians being massacred, which troubles the conscience of humanity. On April 13th, 2022, Organization for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE) nations found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russia in Ukraine. On a mission comprised of 57 participating countries looking into the possible offenses in Ukraine, including war crimes, and passing information to relevant international tribunals.

Geofrey Robert is an experienced freelance researcher and writer with over five years of experience. He holds a Bachelor of law. His research interests are: International law, Peace & Security, Conflict, humanitarian issues, and climate change. He worked as a peace and security news writer for Peacehumanity.org. and also contributed to their periodic PEACE MONITOR MAGAZINE as a peace researcher and writer focusing on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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