Basak Gizem Yasadur
Putin's Approach on Ukraine 101 and a Mini-Interview
Updated: Jul 6, 2022
The Russian invasion of Ukraine recently became one of the most discussed topics on the world agenda. As I sadly follow all the updates about the war, it is inevitable to think about what Russia did in 2014. The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation is such a crucial case to consider when we evaluate the recent Russian approach to the invasion of Ukraine. As far as I can understand from the sources I read, during the annexation of Crimea, Russia has taken three critical steps. Firstly, Russia founded a minority group to target the region she wanted to invade. Secondly, she started supporting the riots made by that chosen minority group towards the government. And lastly, she invaded the targeted region for the sake of 'protecting the minority'' living there.
The annexation of Crimea proceeded with these three tactics, and it is obvious to me that Russia wants to advance with this tactic in the invasion of Ukraine. We can say that history repeated itself even though it is a cliché.
Russia invaded the Donbas region in 2014. In the same year, Ukraine recaptured approximately 2/3 of the occupied territory. But unfortunately, the military intervention in the Donbas region has continued to the present day. What happened in the Crimea and Donbas region could not cause the people to overreact, as the Russian people also took their share of the populism and nationalism that slowly affected the whole world like Russia in those years.
Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash
Another point we should consider while evaluating the years of these events is how the Putin government was seen by the public. In those years, I think Putin was loved and supported more by the public than today. Therefore, the trust in his charisma and leadership was also higher. But obviously, the disappointments of the Russian people due to their government up until now and what is happening in Ukraine today have reduced trust in Putin. Another factor we should pay attention to when evaluating Putin's leadership is the change in time and perceptions. Putin grew older, and the requirements of our period changed. Although Putin frequently mentions Russia during the USSR in his articles and influences the people who have experienced this regime, Russian youth feel much differently about this issue.
From my point of view, Putin is no longer able to satisfy the needs of Gen-Z in Russia anymore. I think that Putin wants his government to be remembered gloriously, perhaps even like Peter the Great, in Russia and the world public opinion. But how successful it has been until now, is questionable.
Moreover, the last factor I want to stress about the annexation of Crimea is its consequences for Russia. After the annexation, many countries implied economic sanctions on Russia and the damage created by those sanctions caused an economic crisis in the country. Same sanctions, even heavier ones implied by Western countries during the Ukraine invasion. I think that Russia has learned her lesson from the annexation of Crimea. So she was economically prepared for the invasion of Ukraine. Russia has enough power to balance its economic status in the short and medium terms. The Russian central bank has an important position in this balancing plan with its interventions. Additionally, Russia has crucial economic partnerships with China and India. But even trying to predict what can happen in the long-term period still creates a vague situation for the future of Russia and the Russian economy.
Photo by Dea Piratedea on Unsplash
After the collapse of the USSR, the place of NATO, which lost its greatest purpose of existence, began to be questioned by anti-Atlanticist countries such as France. With the Ukrainian invasion, NATO has regained its 'antithesis'. Putin presented this chance to NATO on a gold platter. But I can also see that Putin is not afraid of NATO. Despite this, Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, which have been known for their neutrality for many years, are considering joining NATO. It is a matter of curiosity what kind of disadvantages Putin's triggering his Scandinavian neighbors in this way will bring him in the future.
Yet, for the sake of being fair, we should take the suffering of the Russian people into account. The anti-war protests in Russia are becoming suppressed by the government. Due to the historical and cultural bond between Russia and Ukraine, there are a significant number of people who don’t want war.
Economic sanctions are affecting the Russian people very harshly. Russians, who are regular customers of Western brands in their daily lives, are affected by these sanctions both on their quality of life and their mental health. Even though the main target of sanctions is only the government, the rise in anti-Russian sentiment is making Russians feel more and more lonely. I would like to finish my opinion paper with a mini-interview I made with a Russian citizen, whose personal information I will keep confidential for security reasons, in order to clearly understand how anti-war supporter Russians are getting affected by the invasion.
How has your life been affected by the occupation of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by Western countries?
Sanctions against Russia did not affect the government, but actually us, the people. The government and the oligarch did not suffer at all. When it comes to ordinary people like me, we have lost so much more. I can not buy materials for the work because they were supplied from Western countries. I can not go to McDonald’s, I can not buy a game on Steam, I can not pay for Youtube Premium, and I can not even buy myself clothes due to sanctions. Is there any chance for me to be okay with this situation? Of course not.
At any moment, the army can call me and take me into war. I served in the army in the past and I still am in reserve. At any moment I can go to my death, and the death that my Ukrainian friends will bring me sounds quite interesting, isn’t it?
How does the Russian media talk about the occupation of Ukraine to the public?
The Russian media says that we are heroes who are saving the people of Ukraine. The media says that bio-laboratories for the production of dangerous viruses have been deployed in Ukraine. I think the Russian media is able to say anything to justify killing thousands of people.
The more Russia keeps the invasion, the more it becomes lonely in the international arena. Do you think in the end, since Russians are going to feel lonely, this loneliness will be motivation to the public and even non-supporters of war will start to support the invasion?
I used to have a lot of Ukrainian friends, but since the beginning of the occupation, they left me just because I'm Russian. And I thought a lot about this question. People from all over the world are trying to humiliate us. These people call us murderers and all we did as a people were to live. We didn't touch anyone. All Russians are called murderers just because of the decision made by our president. All I see and experience online is hatred towards us. And I'm afraid that this hatred that will be created by world may be strong enough to turn the good in everyone into evil after a while. The more people anger and humiliate us, the more hatred ignites in our souls towards everyone.
It is very painful for me to see all of these. We do not need this war. We are traumatized and afraid.