Ukraine has a Russia problem not a Putin problem

Ukraine has a Russia problem not a Putin problem

By Taras Kuzio | Atlantic Council | October 17, 2022

Whatever form Ukrainian victory takes, it will not mark the end of the historic confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Today’s war is part of a grim saga stretching back centuries that is rooted in Russia’s refusal to recognize Ukraine’s right to exist.

Putin himself has frequently claimed that modern Ukrainians are really Russians (“one people”) and has accused Ukraine of being an artificial “anti-Russia” that poses an existential threat to Russian statehood and cannot therefore be tolerated. This genocidal logic is widely embraced in today’s Russia and will not disappear overnight. In reality, it may take decades before a majority of Russians are finally able to accept that Ukraine is a separate and fully independent nation.

Any leader of a post-Putin Russia would almost certainly continue to regard Ukraine as a threat. While they may not necessarily share Putin’s highly emotional obsession with the country, they would likely view Ukraine’s consolidation as a European democracy as a potential catalyst for democratic change inside Russia. In order to prevent this nightmare scenario, they would seek to undermine Ukraine’s economic recovery and derail the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

In public at least, Russia’s new leaders could be expected to declare their commitment to peaceful coexistence with Ukraine. However, such politically convenient rhetoric would not stop them from continuing to wage a hybrid war against the country. This could include everything from cyber warfare and terrorist attacks to political assassinations, disinformation operations, infrastructure sabotage, and the funding of pro-Russian networks throughout Ukraine. It would only be a matter of time before Ukraine faced a renewed Russian military threat. Continue reading →

Taras Kuzio is a professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and author of the forthcoming book “Fascism and Genocide. Russia’s War Against Ukrainians.”

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