2022-Vladimir Putin: Restoration of empire is the endgame for Russia’s president

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Such was the case on Thursday, when Putin met with a bunch of younger Russian entrepreneurs. Anybody on the lookout for clues as to what Putin’s endgame for Ukraine could be ought to learn the transcript, helpfully launched here in English.

Putin’s phrases communicate for themselves: What he’s aiming for in Ukraine is the restoration of Russia as an imperial energy.

Many observers rapidly picked up on one in all Putin’s extra provocative traces, wherein he in contrast himself to Peter the Nice, Russia’s modernizing tsar and the founding father of St. Petersburg — Putin’s personal birthplace — who got here to energy within the late seventeenth century.

“Peter the Nice waged the Nice Northern Struggle for 21 years,” a relaxed and apparently self-satisfied Putin stated. “On the face of it, he was at battle with Sweden taking one thing away from it… He was not taking away something, he was returning. That is the way it was.”

It did not matter that European nations did not acknowledge Peter the Nice’s seizure of territory by pressure, Putin added.

After 100 days of war, Putin is counting on the world's indifference

“When he based the brand new capital, not one of the European nations acknowledged this territory as a part of Russia; everybody acknowledged it as a part of Sweden,” Putin stated. “Nonetheless, from time immemorial, the Slavs lived there together with the Finno-Ugric peoples, and this territory was below Russia’s management. The identical is true of the western route, Narva and his first campaigns. Why would he go there? He was returning and reinforcing, that’s what he was doing.”

Alluding on to his personal invasion of Ukraine, Putin added: “Clearly, it fell to our lot to return and reinforce as effectively.”

These remarks have been swiftly condemned by Ukrainians, who noticed them as a unadorned admission of Putin’s imperial ambitions.

“Putin’s confession of land seizures and evaluating himself with Peter the Nice show: there was no ‘battle,’ solely the nation’s bloody seizure below contrived pretexts of individuals’s genocide,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated on Twitter. “We should always not speak about ‘saving [Russia’s] face,’ however about its rapid de-imperialization.”

A portrait from circa 1700 shows Peter I, who ruled Russia as Peter the Great from 1682 until his death in 1725.
There’s rather a lot to unpack right here, by way of each historical past and present affairs. Podolyak was alluding to speak in worldwide capitals about providing Putin a face-saving solution to de-escalate or halt the combating in Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron has led that cost, saying final weekend that the world “should not humiliate Russia” within the seek for a diplomatic decision.

These arguments might have appeared extra cheap earlier than February 24. Within the run-up to the invasion, Putin laid out a collection of grievances to make the case for battle, from NATO’s eastward growth to Western supply of army help to Ukraine.

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However learn the transcript of Putin’s remarks on Thursday extra intently, and the facade of rational geopolitical bargaining falls away.

“With a purpose to declare some type of management — I’m not even speaking about international management, I imply management in any space — any nation, any folks, any ethnic group ought to guarantee their sovereignty,” Putin stated. “As a result of there isn’t a in-between, no intermediate state: both a rustic is sovereign, or it’s a colony, it doesn’t matter what the colonies are referred to as.”

In different phrases, there are two classes of state: The sovereign and the conquered. In Putin’s imperial view, Ukraine ought to fall into the latter class.

Putin has lengthy argued that Ukrainians shouldn’t have a authentic nationwide identification and that their state is, primarily, a puppet of the West. In different phrases, he thinks Ukrainians haven’t any company and are a topic folks.

By summoning the reminiscence of Peter the Nice, it additionally turns into clear that Putin’s goals are pushed by some sense of historic future. And Putin’s mission of imperial restoration might — in principle — lengthen to different territories that after belonged to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, one thing that ought to increase alarms in all of the nations that emerged from the collapse of the USSR.

Earlier this week, a deputy from the pro-Kremlin United Russia social gathering submitted a draft law to the State Duma, Russia’s decrease home of parliament, abolishing a Soviet decision recognizing the independence of Lithuania. Lithuania might now be a NATO member and a part of the European Union, however in Putin’s Russia, that type of neo-colonial posturing is the surest show of loyalty to the president.

And that doesn’t bode effectively for Russia’s future. If there isn’t a reckoning with Russia’s imperial previous — whether or not in Soviet or tsarist guise — there may be much less likelihood {that a} Russia with out Putin would abandon a sample of subjugating its neighbors, or turn into a extra democratic state.

Former US nationwide safety adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously asserted that Russia might solely half methods with its imperial habits if it have been prepared to give up its claims to Ukraine.
“It can’t be careworn strongly sufficient that with out Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, however with Ukraine suborned after which subordinated, Russia robotically turns into an empire,” he wrote in 1994.

Putin, nonetheless, is relying on one thing of the alternative: For Russia to outlive, he argues, it should stay an empire, whatever the human value.

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