If Putin’s policies regarding Ukraine were of any doubt to Western observers, a recent essay written by the Russian Federation’s longstanding President puts misgivings on the subject to rest, providing yet another confirmation of past iterations. An essay released by the Kremlin last month served to verify Vladimir Putin’s consideration of Ukraine as a part of Russia, describing in no uncertain terms Ukrainians and Russians as “one people – a single whole.”
By way of introduction, Putin appeals to historical context as justification for the assertions that follow. He refers to Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians as “all descendants of ancient Rus,” historically bound together by language, economic ties, and the Orthodox faith. The essay’s author concludes his historical retelling with the statement that “modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era.”
While Putin spends the bulk of his essay detailing a shared history and outlining Ukraine’s economic dependence, he does not waste the opportunity to discuss what he believes to be the West’s role in pitting Ukraine against Russia. He states unequivocally that “The Western authors of the anti-Russia project set up the Ukrainian political system in such a way that presidents, members of parliament and ministers would change but the attitude of separation from and enmity with Russia would remain.”
The question is whether or not Putin’s lengthy essay serves as an all-out declaration of war and forthcoming invasion. In his piece for National Review, writer Kevin Williamson interprets Putin’s article as a clear representation of intent. Whether or not the essay serves as a foreshadowing of Putin’s ultimate goal to reclaim Ukraine for the former Soviet empire remains to be seen, however, and is a matter of contention among experts. Alexander Motyl of Rutgers University-Newark suggests that the essay reveals nothing new in Putin’s policy on Ukraine, yet does not indicate that a full-scale invasion is soon to be underway. Other experts agree, yet some remain divided on whether or not Putin is likely to act on his convictions.
One thing remains clear. The Russian leader absolutely does not respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. Just what he intends to do with that persuasion is yet to be seen. Either way, the West should pay close attention to the oft-repeated assertions of Russia’s foremost strongman.