Several months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the global discussion about the war has divided into two opposing camps. In Ukraine and

The criminals in the Kremlin Historian Yaroslav Shimov explains why the Putin regime defies rationality and how the West helped make the war in Ukraine possible

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2022-06-22 10:00:05

Several months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the global discussion about the war has divided into two opposing camps. In Ukraine and across the West, as well as in Russia’s own antiwar movement, the dominant view is that Vladimir Putin’s regime started the conflict in order to expand Moscow’s power and reclaim lost imperial territories. According to this theory, Russia seeks to subjugate or even destroy Ukraine but won’t stop there. The other camp blames the “Collective West” for provoking the war by ignoring Russia’s objective interests. Historian and journalist Yaroslav Shimov says the war is the result of the Putin regime’s peculiarities as a “mafia state” and the failure in Europe and the United States to understand their counterparts in Moscow.

Leftist and realist Western scholars, like sociologist Wolfgang Streeck and political scientist John Mearsheimer, have a habit of “denying subjectivity” to nations on Russia’s periphery, embracing the idea that the conflict in Ukraine is actually a proxy war “over Ukraine.” Based on this logic (which also fuels the mainstream narrative in Russia), controlling the space of Ukraine is essential to preserving the “strategic depth” that saved Russia from Napoleon and Hitler. In other words, Moscow is acting rationally.

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