The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine is a perfect example of the sea of poor reporting, disinformation, and misinformation that exists in war zones. Through some of my contacts involved in the fighting on the Ukrainian side, I’ve derived a few observations. The war in general is severely under-reported in the Western media for reasons unknown. I guess ISIS is sexier than a war in Europe.
In a recent conversation, I asked a contact what the war was really about. Since this individual had done reporting from both the Ukrainian and Russian sides of the war, I knew he would have an interesting answer. He told me that Russia wants the war, but they don’t really want to take over Ukraine. Rather, Ukraine serves as a stratagem in Putin’s domestic political plays. Russia is seeking to secure their near abroad. Fearing NATO encirclement, Russia is simply acting in what they perceive to be their national interests.
However, taking over Ukraine and certain key cities along the front lines would come at a price. First, this would entail the loss of more Russian soldiers. Let’s be clear; there are Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. There have even been groups of Russian mothers forming groups inside Russia and asking the government questions about where their sons have gone. One cover story provided is that their sons deserted their units and are in a lot of trouble. The real answer is that their sons are fighting on the front lines or are already in a shallow grave somewhere.
Second, invading Ukraine would involve collateral damage, meaning civilian casualties. Russia is largely immune to criticisms about human-rights matters, unlike the West, but not completely immune. Images of dead Ukrainian children on major news networks would further undermine the Russian war effort and expose what is really going on.
Third, a total takeover of Ukraine would end the war, and this is not the strategic objective of the Putin regime. They want to prolong the conflict and keep it running as long as possible. For Russia, it is beneficial for them to have Ukraine as an open bleeding wound. The truth is, the Russian economy isn’t looking so hot right now, and Western sanctions have negatively impacted the ruble.
Keeping the war in a semi-open state of occasional ceasefires and offensives means that Putin can ratchet the conflict up whenever he likes. By doing this, he can increase Russian nationalist sentiments, imperative for his political survival in a time of economic crisis.
The war in Ukraine is going nowhere fast and is likely to be dragged out for years to come. Similar tactics have been used by the Russians in Georgia and Chechnya. I’ll have more detailed information in the future on this particular, and bizarre, conflict. Meanwhile, this hopefully provides a useful, if brief, overview of what drives the conflict from a Russian perspective.
(Featured image courtesy of nbcnews.com)