Putin’s vision of the future rooted in the past

By | August 25, 2022

Fiona Hill and Angela Stent write:

Vladimir Putin is determined to shape the future to look like his version of the past. Russia’s president invaded Ukraine not because he felt threatened by NATO expansion or by Western “provocations.” He ordered his “special military operation” because he believes that it is Russia’s divine right to rule Ukraine, to wipe out the country’s national identity, and to integrate its people into a Greater Russia.

He laid out this mission in a 5,000-word treatise, published in July 2021, entitled, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” In it, Putin insisted that Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians are all descendants of the Rus, an ancient people who settled the lands between the Black and Baltic Seas. He asserted that they are bound together by a common territory and language and the Orthodox Christian faith. In his version of history, Ukraine has never been sovereign, except for a few historical interludes when it tried—and failed—to become an independent state. Putin wrote that “Russia was robbed” of core territory when the Bolsheviks created the Soviet Union in 1922 and established a Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In his telling, since the Soviet collapse, the West has used Ukraine as a platform to threaten Russia, and it has supported the rise of “neo-Nazis” there. Putin’s essay, which every soldier sent to Ukraine is supposed to carry, ends by asserting that Ukraine can only be sovereign in partnership with Russia. “We are one people,” Putin declares.

This treatise, and similar public statements, make clear that Putin wants a world where Russia presides over a new Slavic union composed of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and perhaps the northern part of Kazakhstan (which is heavily Slavic)—and where all the other post-Soviet states recognize Russia’s suzerainty. He also wants the West and the global South to accept Russia’s predominant regional role in Eurasia. This is more than a sphere of influence; it is a sphere of control, with a mixture of outright territorial reintegration of some places and dominance in the security, political, and economic spheres of others. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports:

Fires caused by shelling cut the last remaining power line to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, temporarily disconnecting it from Ukraine’s national grid for the first time in nearly 40 years of operation, the country’s nuclear power firm, Energoatom, has said.

There have been growing international concerns about safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant. It has been occupied by Russian forces since the start of the war, and they are now using it to house military vehicles and equipment.

The White House called on Russia to agree to a demilitarised zone around the plant, after the US president, Joe Biden, spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Biden congratulated him on the country’s 31st Independence Day, celebrated on Wednesday, which was also the six-month mark since Russia invaded.

“I know it is a bittersweet anniversary, but I made it clear that the United States would continue to support Ukraine and its people as they fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden tweeted after the phone call.

Negotiations are under way for the UN’s nuclear watchdog to visit the site, and Ukraine’s top nuclear official told the Guardian that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors could arrive by the end of the month.

Until then, continued fighting puts the plant, and potentially much of Europe, at risk. A nuclear accident could spread radiation far across the continent. [Continue reading…]

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