Putin’s Approach Makes Sense If His Primary Goal Is Not Victory Over Ukraine But Rather Inflicting Suffering On Everyone – OpEd


Putin’s approach in Ukraine and more generally doesn’t appear to make much sense, Dmitry Akhtyrsky says, unless one assumes that his goal is “the maximization of suffering not of the Ukrainians, the Europeans or the Americans but more generally of all people and all living things.”

If one makes that assumption, the editor of the Philosophy Club of the Liberal Mission Foundation says, “many things which appear irrational acquire a rational meaning. Moreover, many other assumptions cease to be reasonable at least in terms of what Putin himself actually wants (graniru.org/War/m.286169.html).

For example, Akhtyrsky continues, most assume that Putin and his terrorist state must want victory in Ukraine. To be sure, that would be desirable for them, “but it isn’t obligatory.” And the possibility of defeat may have already been recognized by the Kremlin leader and become part of his broader plan.

In this regard then, he argues, “one can consider mobilization not so much as a means to achieve victory but rather as a means to multiply the amount of suffering – pain, fear, anger, despair and other negative experiences which affect the minds of people.” Indeed, from this perspective, mobilization is a kind of mass repression people expected albeit in a different form.

The way mobilization is being carried out is unlikely to improve the quality of the Russian military, but it will almost certainly boost the number of dead and wounded among the Russian forces. This then is a form of “the bombing of Voronezh” that many commentators have talked about but expected would come a profoundly different way.

If what Putin is doing leads to defeat in the minds of many, it may not in his if it is “epic and grandiose not in the sense of honor and pride but its very size” in the course of which will be dehumanized “the maximum number of people,” Akhtyrsky suggests.

Seen from this perspective, destroying Russia itself if victory becomes impossible is a kind of solution, and perhaps even one Putin may want. That possibility and that motivation must be recognized if one is to make sense of the mass of otherwise inexplicable actions of a leader who proclaims victory as his goal but acts in ways that make it impossible, the philosopher says.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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