Russian Military Build-up around Ukraine – Part 2

February 22, 2022

ETH zürich

The recent months have been dominated by a military and diplomatic crisis centered on fears about a Russian military attack on Ukraine and the Russian government’s demands for diplomatic negotiations to address its long-standing grievances with regard to prevailing European security arrangements. Against this backdrop, the Russian Analytical Digest (RAD) invited a range of scholars and commentators to write short comments...

Many now believe Russia will launch a major new invasion of Ukraine, dramatically expanding the war that has been raging (largely behind Western headlines) since 2014. Western leaders want to ensure Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, pays a price if it does. Recent studies suggest that Russia’s own people could also make him pay, though exactly when or how is less clear. 

There is good reason to worry that Putin may be putting the squeeze on Ukraine, possibly to the point of attempting to conquer most if not all of the country, in partial response to his own flagging domestic support. Even if domestic politics is not his central concern, he may still hope his people would reward him for a new invasion. Populations frequently “rally around the flag” for a while when their countries go to war. Putin himself was one of history’s biggest beneficiaries of such rallying in 2014, when his approval ratings shot through the roof after Russia swiftly seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The lure of rallying may be motivating Putin to try it again. He may also be attempting to distract an increasingly unhappy public from problems they blame him for, like corruption and a stagnating economy.

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