By Paul Goble
When Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, he said that its goals were to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Later when Russian-controlled areas sought to hold referenda on joining the Russian Federation, his spokesman indicated that that was their choice rather than Moscow policy.
But now, for the first time, the Kremlin leader has made clear by comparing today’s events with those in the era of Peter I what many have long suspected: Russia’s goal in Ukraine now is “’the return’ of territories,” that is, imperial expansion of the borders of the Russian Federation (ehorussia.com/new/node/26084).
Kremlin propaganda is unlikely to change course and admit to this fact. But Putin’s words provide insight into his thinking in which he compares himself to tsars of several hundred years ago and sees the expansion of land under the control of the central government as the measure of Russian victory.
Not insignificantly, Putin’s comments now reflect the views expressed in April by Sergey Naryshkin, someone widely identified as the leader of the war party in the Russian government, when the SVR head used language almost identical to that which the Kremlin leader is now using (ria.ru/20220411/ukraina-1782865908.html).