The sources of Russian behavior in Ukraine — THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS REVIEW
The calamity of Russia’s maniacal war in Ukraine stems from a security policy rooted in deep distrust and a desire to control the Russian-speaking world. The entirety of the Russian Federation’s security policy, when boiled down to its simplest elements, can be defined by one phrase: “debilitating insecurity”. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the leaders of the Russian Federation have sought to maximize their influence through aggressive actions that they see as justified and necessary to regain the primacy they once held. This fabricated crisis will continue to escalate – both within the legal borders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
The collapse of the USSR
Similar to the USSR of the 1920s, post-Soviet Russia of the late 1990s was plagued by chaos, rampant instability and anarchy – much like the chaos that George Kennan Remarks the USSR was born. The conditions on the ground justified the return to the old system of dictatorial power. This, in turn, led to the installation of a robust security apparatus to neutralize the sheer anarchy that enveloped the Russian Federation in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR.
The near-anarchy that enveloped Russia in the closing years of the 20th century also left the Russian Federation devoid of cultural identity or core ideology. Although not all citizens were ardent Communists, the Communist Party state apparatus no longer provided compulsory education for Russian/Soviet citizens. With the state no longer in charge of culture, there was an apparent need to reestablish a traditional maintenance of “Russian cultural values” to overcome the feeling of insecurity stemming from a lack of ideology.
This insecurity is reflected in the fact that the term “culture” is mentioned 23 times in the most recent version of the national security strategy of the Russian Federation. More specifically, the security policy calls for the “creation of a system of spiritual-moral and patriotic education of citizens”, while noting that “threats…in the field of culture are the erosion of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”. The root of this insecurity is the deep suspicion that most of Russia’s struggles in the 1990s were the result of Western interference in Russia’s internal affairs. As a result, the Russian security apparatus is focused on building a robust and definable culture and crushing any “foreign” threat out of fundamental fear of a return to aimless wandering.
In a 2005 speech, President Vladimir Putin Noted that he believes that “the collapse of the Soviet Union is one of the greatest geopolitical catastrophes of the 20th century”. Putin, in later public remarks, doubled down on those comments. The dissolution of the Soviet Union left millions of ethnic Russians abroad in newly sovereign countries and far from Moscow’s influence. The old republics suddenly had complete control over their sovereignty and foreign policy, and no control over the Russian speakers who no longer lived under Moscow’s rule. This insecurity is particularly evident in the Russian National Security Strategy, published in 2015. The strategy repeatedly the references the need to defend the rights of his compatriots abroad.
In light of recent events in Ukraine, it is also important to analyze Russian security strategy in the context of the near abroad, particularly in Ukraine. The strategy states that US and European Union (EU) support for the 2014 revolution in Ukraine materialized an “armed conflict” in Ukraine. Also, the security policy Remarks that “deep socio-economic crises make Ukraine a chronic hotbed of instability in Europe and in close proximity to Russia’s borders”. For Moscow, states can only be truly sovereign if they are great powers – small states are mere vessels for great powers to exert their influence. Moscow’s behavior – cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, hybrid warfare and outright military invasions of its neighbors – is rooted deep into a culture that sees true security as a measure of outright military power. This aggressive worldview is rooted in Russia’s geographic size coupled with its vulnerability to invasion, thus creating the previously mentioned insecurity complex.
Vladimir Putin’s February 21 speech on Ukraine, screen with historical revisionism and brazen gaslighting, emphasized the Kremlin’s view that Ukraine is not an independent country. Indeed, Putin clarified that Ukraine and all other former Soviet republics were in fact historically part of Russia, playing into the Kremlin’s paranoia and geographic insecurity of having no buffer states between itself and the rest. of the world. Refer to the mention of Ukraine in the 2015 security strategy. It sees “instability” – Ukraine’s move towards democracy – as a direct threat to its influence and its own survival. In their minds, what it doesn’t control will be controlled by the West – an example of Russia projecting its worldview to the other side.
What happens next?
The Kremlin is losing on two fronts: it is losing the ground war against a very determined and united Ukraine, and it is losing the information war among its own people. The Kremlin is determined to control both the narrative and Ukraine. With crippling sanctions, skyrocketing prices, and information proliferating domestically, Russia will not be able to control its people or the protests that stem from this war. At this point, it’s all or nothing, and anything short of a victory in Ukraine is an unacceptable failure for the Kremlin. The Russian military could start launching more powerful weapons and missile strikes in the name of trying to turn the tide of the war against Ukraine. In a more serious and uncomfortable development, Vladimir Putin to put its nuclear forces on high alert. Although the use of nuclear weapons in a theater of war is highly unlikely, it is a possibility that NATO governments must consider.
A fundamental mistake that many Western policymakers make is that they ignore the Russian worldview, which is a lens of immense insecurity. Recent Russian politics can be viewed not through an ideological lens, but rather through the lens of power security. During recent times of turmoil, the Russian Federation has turned to autocracy as a counterweight to anarchy and disorder, which is why the Russian government pays special attention to maintaining culture. Their insecurity is the depraved source of their actions. Paradoxically, by waging war through aggressive actions, Russian leaders believe they can achieve a lasting peace. It is impossible to know precisely what the coming days and weeks hold for this conflict. However, it is quite clear that the Kremlin will continue to escalate its inhumane and cruel war against Ukraine at all costs until Vladimir Putin is no longer in power.