Strategic Interests and Regime Politics : Unpacking Russia’s Decision to Invade Ukraine

This paper analyses Russia’s motivations for deciding to invade Ukraine, whereby it challenges Moscow’s stated justifications for that decision. Ukraine is crucial in regards to various Russian interests. Strategically, Ukraine’s geography enables defence against Western invasion. Crimea’s seaport and symbolic value are pivotal for Russian security interests. Economically, Ukraine jeopardises Russia’s gas dominance and its monopoly in food exports. Although Putin invokes shared history, restoring Soviet borders is not the ultimate goal; rather, preventing democratic movements in other post-soviet states, in this case Ukraine, was pivotal. The reasons for the invasion according to Russia have proved to be illusory. Contrary to claims of denazification, ultra-nationalists pose negligible threat to Russia. Whilst NATO expansion contributed to perceived encirclement and a feeling of being left behind, contradictory to Russian allegations, Ukraine’s membership in the alliance was unlikely. The war was hoped to secure the regime’s power by promoting nationalism and consolidating authoritarian control. Putin’s psychology and personal experiences shaped the decision to go to war dramatically. Ultimately, the invasion stemmed from a mixture of security interests, motivation to foster nationalism, and ensuring regime survival, rather than singular drivers. Whilst the multifaceted motivations provide context, they cannot justify Russia’s actions. This analysis offers insights into the calculus behind the Kremlin’s decision for the high-risk endeavour.


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