Here is an opinion article I wrote.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was not a sudden or spontaneous decision. It was a carefully planned and executed operation that had been in the works for months, if not years. The U.S. intelligence community had uncovered Putin’s secret plans for Ukraine war as early as October 2021, with extraordinary detail regarding the Kremlin’s intentions, strategy, and weaponry1. Yet, despite the clear and imminent threat, the international community failed to prevent or deter Putin from launching his aggressive campaign.
Why did Putin decide to wage war on Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic country that poses no threat to Russia? What are his goals and motivations? And what are the consequences and implications of his actions for the region and the world?
Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was driven by a combination of geopolitical, ideological, and personal factors. Geopolitically, Putin sees Ukraine as a vital buffer zone between Russia and NATO, and as a historical and cultural part of the Russian sphere of influence. He views the 2014 revolution that ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent integration of Ukraine into the European Union and NATO as a betrayal and a humiliation. He also fears that a successful and prosperous Ukraine would inspire similar movements in other former Soviet states, such as Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova, and even within Russia itself.
Ideologically, Putin adheres to a nationalist and revisionist worldview that seeks to restore Russia’s status as a great power and to challenge the liberal international order led by the West. He believes that Russia has a special mission and destiny to protect and unite the Russian-speaking people across the world, regardless of their citizenship or sovereignty. He also exploits the historical narratives and symbols of Russia’s past glory, such as the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, to rally domestic support and to justify his aggressive actions.
Personally, Putin is driven by a sense of insecurity and paranoia that stems from his experience as a former KGB officer and his perception of being surrounded by enemies and traitors. He sees himself as a strong leader who can defend Russia’s interests and honor against any external or internal threats. He also seeks to secure his own power and legacy by eliminating any opposition or dissent, whether political, civil, or media.
Putin’s goals in Ukraine are not limited to annexing Crimea or securing control over the Donbas region. He aims to destabilize and weaken Ukraine as a state and as a society, by sowing division, chaos, and violence among its people. He also hopes to undermine and discredit the legitimacy and credibility of the Ukrainian government, both domestically and internationally. He wants to force Ukraine to accept his terms and conditions for a political settlement, which would include granting autonomy and veto power to the pro-Russian separatists in the east, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, withdrawing from NATO and the EU, and accepting Russia’s dominance in the region.
Putin’s war on Ukraine is not only a threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty, security, and democracy. It is also a threat to the stability, peace, and order of Europe and beyond. It violates the fundamental principles and norms of international law and human rights that have been established since the end of World War II. It challenges the credibility and effectiveness of NATO and the EU as security providers and defenders of democracy. It risks escalating into a wider conflict that could involve other regional or global actors, such as Turkey, Poland, or the U.S.
The international community must not stand idly by while Putin wages his secret war on Ukraine. It must act decisively and collectively to support Ukraine’s resistance and resilience against Russian aggression. It must impose strong and coordinated sanctions on Russia’s economy, energy sector, military industry, and political elites. It must provide diplomatic, financial, humanitarian, and military assistance to Ukraine, including lethal weapons, intelligence sharing, training, and advisory missions. It must also engage in dialogue with Russia to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic choice.
Putin’s secret war on Ukraine is a dangerous game of deception and aggression that threatens not only Ukraine but also the entire international community. It is time for the world to stand up to Putin’s bullying and brutality, before it is too late.