By Matthew Clark
One of the more egregious claims by Western Political Leaders is that Vladimir Putin, presently President of Russia, is an imperialist who wishes to recreate the Soviet Union, not as a communist empire, yet rather as a Russian multinational domain. This, the argument goes, explains the Special Military Action inauguratd by Russian armed forces against Ukraine commencing on February 24, 2022.
In fact the Russian President has followed a rational policy from his assumption of Political Leadership in 1999 ( as the nations Prime Minister) until February 24, 2022. No one who aspired to create the Soviet empire would have proposed that Russia be admitted into NATO, such as Mr. Putin made to United States President Clinton in 2000, a proposal verified by the former United Kingdom Labour Defence Secretary George Robertson.
From 1999 until 2004 Vladimir Putin continually sought a partnership (his words) with the west. With the expansion of the Western military alliance into Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, in 2004, combined with the ill advised Western rejection of Russia as a military ally, the Russian (now) President changed tactics. Past history ( 1941, 1914, 1854, 1812, 1707) with Russia's neighbours in Europe was filled with examples of western powers forming alliances to invade Russia, usually via Poland, and Ukraine. Millions of Russian citizens died in the process, before their foes were either militarily defeated, or left after a peace treaty was negotiated. With the NATO nations following a hostile strategy towards Russia, Vladimir Putin reacted accordingly.
On February 10, 2007, at the Munich Security Conference the Russian President proclaimed that the age of American unipolarity primacy was over. He also warned, "I think it obvious that NATO expansion represents a serious provocation." When the NATO nations ignored the Russians' warning and, at the NATO 2008 General meeting in Bucharest offered membership to Georgia and Ukraine, President Putin immediately let the western alliance leaders know this was a red line Russia would not let them cross. Warnings arrived in Washington from such people as political officer at the U.S. embassy in Moscow William J. Burns (presently CIA director) that, "hostility to early NATO expansion is almost universally felt across the broad political spectrum." In other words the Russian President was echoing the concerns of his people, not some dark design at Soviet resurgence. Burns further wrote to Secretary of State Condoleazza Rice," Ukraine entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In the more than two and a half years of conversation with key Russian players, from knuckle draggers in the dark recess of the Kremlin to Putin's sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests."
Putins policy toward Ukraine has always been about realpolitik! Whatever he feels about Ukrainians, the Russian President has avoided calling for complete conquest of that country. In March of 2024, one month after the military clash between the two country's began, leader of Ukraine's ruling party, David Arahamiya, claimed a peace deal was worked out between Russia and Ukraine where Ukraine would agree to accept neutrality, agreeing never to join NATO or the E.U., in exchange for Russian military personnel leaving Ukraine. Crimea would stay in Russia. For a number of reasons, not least the arrival of hostile U.K. politician Boris Johnson in Kiev, to protest the deal, the negotiations fell through. Arahamiya's story is collaborated by former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who, along with Turkish President Erdogan, was conducting the talks.
This is more evidence that Vladimir Putin is not an imperialist bent on conquest. Instead he is a typical leader pursuing the interests of his nation, as well as his own hold on power. Driven by power, very likely, an imperialist, probably not. Nevertheless there is the danger that, by encouraging Ukraine to continue the conflict, western nations are spawning a self fulfilling prophecy! In response to such a dire fight the Russians might well evolve into adopting a goal of complete annexation of Ukraine. As of now the battle(s) are increasingly going in Russia's favour. A peace treaty worked out now might well salvage some independent territory for Ukraine. If this occurs it will be further evidence that Pussian President Vladimir Putin is not an imperialist bent on conquest. Rather he is a typical power driven political leader, following the interests of his nation.