As the invasion of Ukraine by Russia continues, I think it’s worth trying to understand Putin’s goals. In my previous post I stated that Putin seeks to control the countries that directly border Russia, and as such, Ukraine is a highly attractive target for security reasons (and symbolically valuable as they were the first nation to declare independence from the USSR). I still believe that’s true.
However as I’ve observed the actions of Russia during this invasion, specifically with Russia doing things like shelling and setting fire to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as attacking and seizing Chornobyl, one more sinister goal seems to be apparent. A strict military interpretation of these actions might be that he’s attempting to inflict enough harm to the nation’s infrastructure to force it into submission. Unfortunately, it’s worse than that.
Putin is playing a revised scorched Earth script vs Ukraine. His goal seems to be that even when the fighting eventually stops, if Ukraine still maintains a government friendly to the west (instead of being obsequious to Russia, as Putin wants), the country will be so broken and destroyed that the population will have no choice but to gravitate politically, economically, and militarily towards their Russian neighbors. Even if Zelensky “wins” the war and repels the Russian invasion, what will be left of the nation?
Large parts of it could be without basic necessities such as electricity, running water, food, and shelter. What’s worse, if the nuclear reactors in the country continue to be attacked and suffer further damage (intentional or otherwise), it’s conceivable that significant portions of the extremely rich Ukrainian land could become uninhabitable.
But in the event that the doomsday scenario of leaking reactors doesn’t come to pass, it will nevertheless require a significant financial investment (to the tune of tens or hundreds of billions of dollars) just to return Ukraine to a status of self-sufficient nation with fully functional civilian services.
In recent history, the US in particular has generally been very quick to provide military aid to countries within their sphere of concern, but much slower to provide humanitarian and economic aid. Even in the latest aid package, there’s $13.6 Billion in additional aid going to Ukraine, but of that only $186 Million is humanitarian.
Essentially, Putin is attempting to cripple Ukraine’s ability to function as contributing member of the world economy as a punishment for gravitating towards the west. He’s counting on the short attention-span of both the American lawmakers as well as the public to stop writing checks when it doesn’t directly help the US military industrial complex.
In that vacuum of civilization, who will be there offering humanitarian, military, and reconstructive aid? Imagine for a moment that you are a normal Ukrainian citizen trying to provide for your family. If you and your children are cold and hungry, do you still reject the aid of the invader who then offers help? Nobody worries about politics when their children are cold and hungry.