Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has continued to harbor significant resentment against Independent Ukraine, the country it still thinks of as a critical part of ‘Mother Russia’. It therefore considers the conquest of Ukraine as being vital for the restoration of its so-called “Historical Russia”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spared no effort to promote the false historical narrative that Ukrainians and Russians constitute “one nation”. Putin fervently wishes to reassemble the countries of the former Soviet Union and reverse what he calls the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” His ultimate goal is to ‘right the wrongs’, as he sees them, of the fall of the USSR in the Cold War, thirty years ago. As a result, he wishes to reconstitute the entire European security architecture which will come at huge cost to the West. His recent articles and speeches on the subject have reportedly become compulsory reading for the Russian military.
Having declared Independence in 1991, Ukraine has irrevocably chosen a completely different path – an independent path of democratic development, reform and European integration. In contrast, the Kremlin has decided to go the way of conservation and groundless aspiration to restore its empire.
Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the pace of change has varied from one Post-soviet country to another. Some, such as Belarus, have slowed down and tried to hold on to their Soviet heritage; others leapt as far forward and as quickly as possible. The Baltic states and the former Warsaw Pact countries shrugged off their Soviet past and took steps to integrate with NATO and the EU in the early 1990s, completing the process by 2004 – just before Russian imperialism began to reemerge. Unfortunately, Ukraine and Georgia had not yet completed that path by then. Both were left outside the Euroatlantic community, and both later became targets of military aggression by Russia, at the cost of lives and territory.
It seems that the core values and DNA of Ukrainian society – a love of freedom, democracy, free thinking and European values – are values that are anathema to Putin; he can neither comprehend, nor tolerate, these values – and so instead he is seeking to destroy them.
As a result, the military aggression and outright violation of all international norms and laws is the only thing that Russia is able to propose to encourage independent states to move within the orbit of the ‘Russian world’ – its neo-imperial project.
Putin’s numerious attempts to falsely present Russia as the “victim defending itself from an ‘aggressive’ West”, NATO’s expansion or “radical Nazis killing Russian speaking citizens” are nonsensical and serve as a tool of reflective control in order to cover up Putin’s own aggressive ambitions.
Ultimately, the answer to the question is simple: a country that shuts down any expression of freedom can never understand, nor live with or next to, a country that represents the very essence of freedom.