“The pandemic was the moment when Putin started to think that the conditions necessary for what Nietzsche called ‘great politics’ were in place. In the domestic realm we call it constitutional politics, the politics of order. In foreign policy it is the attempt to create a new geopolitical order, a new balance between the great powers, including the arrangements by which they govern their relations.”
Putin has always aspired to rebuilding Russia’s status in the world, including reclaiming the territories of the Soviet Union, he’s been in power now for nearly 22 years, during that time he’s seen NATO expand into several of those former Soviet territories. His ambition to become Russia’s twenty first century Peter The Great certainly must look in jeopardy to him these days, and so, with a weak man in the White House (who actually told Putin weeks ago that the US would do little to oppose the Russian expansion), Putin decided to make his move. Given his time in power it’s not surprising that he’s become less cautious, more arrogant, that’s what happens to people who’ve been in power for decades.
I think David Starkey is more or less correct on Putin, the man is living in a world in which Great Leaders are people who are not Liberals (using the old meaning of the word) looking to do the best for their people, rather in Putin’s world ordinary people exist to serve the ambitions of their leaders. I’ve no doubt Putin sees any leader willing to subjugate themselves to democratic principles as weak, foolish and naïve.
Starkey does get a couple of things wrong, for example Russia and Ukraine between them produce not 60% or 30% of the worlds grain, but about 15% of it’s wheat, and while Western political/military systems are terribly inefficient at producing weaponry - I suspect the difference between what we could achieve and what we actually do achieve is similar to the difference between Old Space and New Space (i.e. Elon Musk).
But NATO is still about 4 times as strong as Russia in terms of conventional weaponry and troop numbers.
Garry Kasparov gets it, has got it for a long time, including the failings of both Democrats and Republicans.
From the article @mitchellporter links to:
Imperial narrative managers have been falling all over themselves working to dismiss and discredit the abundantly evidenced idea that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was due largely to Moscow’s fear of NATO expansion and the refusal of Washington and Kyiv to solidify a policy that Ukraine would not be added to the alliance.
The glaringly obvious hole in the theory that Putin “feared” NATO expansion is Putin’s character, was Putin too fearful to invade Georgia? Was Putin too fearful to invade Crimea? Was he too fearful to deploy troops in Syria? Was he too fearful to murder and attempt to murder adversaries abroad with nerve agents?
Is Putin a man to live in fear, or one that has nothing but contempt for those living in fear?
And then we have the gem:
even though Putin again specifically mentions NATO expansion in the speech.
So Putin’s actions were due to his fear of NATO expansion because Putin was against NATO expansion . . . but to anyone other than a fool it’s obvious Putin is going to be opposed to NATO expansion if countries joining NATO are an impediment to his own desire to conquer those countries as part of his empire building.
Putin has been clear, many times, that to him Ukraine is, and always has been, part of Russia.
If there was ever a reason for a European nation to want to be in NATO, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is it. Ukraine would love to be in NATO right now.
From what I can tell, you’re not actually denying that NATO is a factor in this war. Instead, you’re arguing that the invasion of Ukraine is not purely a fearful reaction, and that postcommunist Russia has had designs on Ukraine for a long time and NATO is viewed as an impediment to those plans.
I am happy to have discussion of Russian strategic thinking, worldview, and so on. But I insist that it be combined with a discussion of NATO’s strategic thinking and worldview, in the years leading up to this war. And if we can do the same for Ukraine too, all the better. (I am interested, for example, to understand how the divide between modern Ukraine and modern Russia became so wide in the first place.)
But can we please at least agree that NATO and the west helped to precipitate this? NATO advisors and American politicians have been traveling to Ukraine for years. Just before the war, Russia was asking the west for a treaty to guarantee Ukraine’s neutrality. Our leaders had every chance to calm things down, by declaring Ukraine off limits to the expansion of western economic and military alliances. They refused to do so, and here we are.
I don’t have my sources at hand, and not all sources are true, but if I recall correctly, there was a time when NATO was saying that, yes, Ukraine and Georgia, we’ll find room for you. And at that that time Putin asked whether Russia as well could have a place in NATO. But in effect, they laughed in his face, and said, “really? You should know we don’t like you. The whole purpose of NATO is to encircle whatever peoples have a bear as their traditional tribal totem.”
Ukraine has been rated by some agency as “the most corrupt country in Europe, and the 9th most corrupt country in the whole world.” That would make it even more corrupt than Russia. And yet, this NATO collective would welcome it, as somehow ‘Western’ in its orientation?
Russia asked about joining but on the condition that it didn’t have to go through the same process as the other countries that were interested. It would have solved a lot of problems if Russia could have joined - but only as long as Russia wasn’t too corrupt and shared the democratic western values and practices of the other NATO countries.
In terms of corruption, Ukraine ranks at 122 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (I think the foremost authority in such things) Russia at 125, both countries rank lower than any current NATO members, so their not being granted membership I think sensible.
In the Economists EIU Democracy Index Ukraine ranks 86th and Russia 124th, both are lower than any of the recent East European additions to NATO, though Ukraine ranks higher than Turkey.