Back on the 24 August 1991 Ukraine gained it’s nation state independence, yet for a long time she stayed as a satellite state of Russia. This has started to change with the Orange Revolution in 2004. That revolution overthrew the elected leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, but he got back control of power in 2010 with Russian help. With his ouster in 2014, Ukraine has adopted a pro-western policy.
Russia did not welcome the policy.This disbelief might look superficial at first glance, but for the Russian government, it can be the starting point of the destruction of “Almighty Russia”.
Even though the occupation of Ukraine is outlawed, Russia has historical facts to legitimize the occupation. From the course of history, Russia had two points where she was on the verge of being exterminated.
Firstly, after the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the Russian Empire was on Napoleons kill list. Then in 1812 Napoleon waged war against Russia with an unprecedented violent army. So terrifying was the threat that Russians did not even take to risk to fight them. Instead they were only able to apply a scorched-earth strategy to defend themselves.
Approximately 100 years later the Lebensraum plan of Hitler aimed to gain a vast land in USSR where the German race would flourish and enjoy absolute superiority over Slavic races. The armies of the Nazi Third Reich, with sophisticated strategies and unimaginable barbarity, launched a barbaric invasion campaign on what was then the USSR. Millions of Russians died as a consequence
These horrendous wars engraved horrific memories on the Russian nation to this day. Deep-rooted skepticism in the Russian elites and state tradition makes them extremely suspicious to not face the same troubles for the third time.
NATO is most likely reckoned to be akin another Hitler or Napoleon by Russian strategists, thus, invasion of Ukraine is deemed a way of stopping an enemy’s advance.
However, when we look at current Russian foreign policy from a wider perspective we can also see that Russia acts upon benefits and interests rather than solely historical events or alleged security requirements.
For instance, the cooperation between Russia and Germany, which was a historical arch-rival and enemy, on Nord Stream 2 is one of the example which shows that Russia’s motivation is not history or security, but native economic interests.
This combination of historical past and naked interests illustrates why Russia has acted in ways over the past few years. Beginning with, the occupation of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russian military involvement in Syria 2015, and the military actions of Wagner Group, in proxy wars, are all display expressions of Russian foreign policy
As a result of these political actions, it is crystal clear that Russia is eager to establish and enlarge her national hegemony and in doing so most of the time she uses the instruments of hard power.
From a theoretical perspective, Russian foreign policy is based on offensive neo-realism, though political figures use the language of liberalism to legitimize their political actions by asserting that they are concerned for the freedom of the common people.
So, the motivation of Russia in Ukraine is more about hegemony rather than security just like her attempts in dispersed regions of the World. Hence, it is obvious that neo-realism is the key foundation of current Russian foreign policy.
More importantly, when it comes to security; Russia is one of the difficult places to invade mainly because of its nuclear arsenal. With the invention of nuclear weapons waging war against a country, which possesses nuclear weapons, has become impossible to act.
Moreover, since Ukraine does not have nuclear weapons or even a decent army, she is not a threat to Russia. Besides, even if Ukraine was a member of NATO, she still would not make a harm Russia unless Russia cause a reason to invoke article 5 of NATO.
Despite Russia’s absolutely safe and superior position, they put forward security as a pretext for the invasion and they did not choose diplomacy and other values of liberalism.
To sum up, if it was back in the days of Napoleon or the early days of Hitler, Russia’s war on Ukraine would be explained as a precaution to stop enemy enlargement. However, with the introduction of nuclear weapons, the old-world status quo changed. The Invasion of Ukraine under the shadow of nuclear weapons is real but, from the Russian perspective , the invasion of Ukraine is most likely about consolidating Russian hegemony rather than her security.
Kamil Tasdemir is Turkish writer who also writes on Libertatio Substack here
His research includes the following: A B C D E F G H I