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If Putin's goal is to stop NATO expansion into Ukraine, then the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions doesn't help much - they are too small to provide a meaningful buffer. Also, there is a risk that the West will use the deployment of Russian troops to those regions as a justification to deploy its troops to protect the rest. Then make double-sure Ukraine becomes a member.

I don't understand what Putin gains from this move. Maybe he didn't have any better options (there's no chance of keeping the West out of the whole of Ukraine), but this move seems to basically force NATO to respond in kind, which is not beneficial to Russia.

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3 Answers 3

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Mostly a better starting position in the Russo-Ukrainian war of 2022. The decision to recognize the separatist regions was followed only 3 days later by a declaration of war (military operations in Ukraine). Since this was only a small step in the whole course of action and since the international diplomatic standing of Russia only decreased, I think there was no gain diplomatically and therefore the step was predominantly for military purposes.

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    This was for domestic propaganda. Feb 24, 2022 at 9:07
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    @VladimirF Domestic propaganda? Russian people should have lots of experience seeing through propaganda. Feb 24, 2022 at 9:27
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    Unfortunately, that is absolutely not the case. Feb 24, 2022 at 9:34
  • @VladimirF Sorry, I assumed that with little to no independent voices, the great amount of propaganda present in Russian history would have hardened Russians against it and made them especially capable of seeing through it. But that may not be the case. Feb 24, 2022 at 11:28
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    @Trilarion I don't imagine that's how it typically goes. If you don't have independent voices, there's no-one to point out the problems with/other side of baseless claims and propaganda, so the masses just believe it. Even independent voices don't stop the masses from believing it, as can be seen in US politics (regardless of which side you're on, you probably believe the other side consists of sheep blindly following what the "leaders" of that side says). Time doesn't solve the problem: if you blindly believe one thing, you'll blindly believe the next thing too, and the thing after that, etc.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 24, 2022 at 16:04
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+50

The goal of Putin is to reduce or remove the sovereignty of Ukraine, as stated in his speech to the Russian people.

In his recent one hour long speech, the President of the Russian Federation (RF) Vladimir Putin addressed precisely this issue for the first half of the speech. He broadly outlined why Ukraine historically was "never" actually a full-fledged sovereign country. He proceeded with describing it as a "creation" of the leader of Russian Bolsheviks Vladimir Lenin, with additional bits of territory added to Ukraine by Joseph Stalin and by Nikita Khrushchev. President Putin also mentioned that the final push for Ukraine to become a separate country was provided by Mikhail Gorbachev. All of these actions were described by President Putin in negative terms. President Putin also accused Ukraine of the recently committed "genocide" toward the Russian speaking population, most notably in LPR/DPR, although not limited to it (Odessa, a port on the Black Sea, was mentioned specifically).

This speech, delivered mostly for the domestic audience, created the following possibilities for Putin:

  • Recognize DPR/LPR and move Russian troops there (thus making the "unofficial" invasion of 2014 now "official"), per invitation of the leaders of DPR/LPR, to "protect" the Russian speaking population there (completed).
  • Create multiple casus belli through Gleiwitz-style false flag attacks in DPR/LPR and Russia (completed/ongoing).
  • Expand the invading forces beyond the currently held positions into the rest of the territory claimed by DPR/LPR, now held by Ukraine, engaging with the Ukrainian military in the process.
  • Continue the invasion beyond the territory claimed by DPR/LPR, as far as 190,000 troops that RF has positioned at the border with Ukraine will allow.

Note that, other than the items marked with "completed", these represent only the available possibilities, not facts.

REFERENCES:

Путин выступает с видеообращением к россиянам. Feb 22, 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQN0w4hS7_Q

If the video above is unavailable, just search for Putin's speech on Ukraine.

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  • Here you can find an English translation of Putin's speech by a channel funded by Latin America. youtube.com/…
    – klm123
    Feb 24, 2022 at 6:38
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    what is this genocide which Putin talks about ? Is there any basis for that ? Feb 24, 2022 at 13:09
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    @SchwarzKugelblitz The so-called “genocide” exists in the words of Putin’s regime, and only it alone. Even their allies such as China or Hungary or certain German politicians and former politicians have not repeated that gibberish. This is Gleiwitz 2022, similar to how another dictator started another world war. Feb 24, 2022 at 13:33
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    @SchwarzKugelblitz : they use incidents like the Odessa Trade Unions massacre where the culprits weren't even tried in court, and the fact that, from the Russian perspective, the lawful government of Ukraine was toppled in a coup, the SE regions of the country stayed loyal to the old and lawfully elected government, and then the new (and according to them illegitimate) government launched an attack to reconquer the region, leading to about 14000 casualties (before 2022). Whether you can call that genocide or not, is subjective, but this is the basis what the Russians use for their claims.
    – vsz
    Jun 27, 2022 at 13:57
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This is obviously conjecture since I am not a senior official in the Russian government and cannot speak on its behalf. Russia likely plans to disintegrate Ukraine (non-militarily). It's not out of the realm of possibility to have a plan as follows:

  1. Position troops on border
  2. Border states cooperate and ask for annexation in exchange for peaceful resolution
  3. Move troops into new regions
  4. Repeat from step 2 as Ukraine government becomes smaller each step and eventually caves

From an international point of view, there isn't really anything you can do if a state decides that it wants to become a part of another state (of course you can decline such an offer if it's your state they want to join). So the strategy is to coerce them into "voluntarily" joining the Russian state. A bloodless conquest.

Why this strategy works? You can pin the idea of interference into a sovereign state's internal affairs if you try to get between two nation's private agreements. Since Russia has not fired a shot, any retaliation would make them look like the defending party, justifying use of force. And of course, the third party isn't actually important enough for other parties to use military intervention. The third point is actually the idea here, Salami Tactics. No one is going to escalate to a nuclear war, so an offending party can make repeated small offenses just up until the threshold of retaliation.

Now the US probably recognized that this is going to happen, so they have preemptively started sanctions even without Russia firing any shots into Ukraine. But there seems to be some misinterpretation with the current situation in regards to NATO. For one, even Ukraine recognizes that the self-determination clause is a joke. Ukraine cannot join NATO simply because it wants to. Ukraine can only join NATO if it wants to any all of the other members of NATO want it to. Which obviously, is not the case (otherwise it would likely already be in). Second, notoriously trigger happy countries (e.g. USA) have clearly stated that they do not intend to send troops to Ukraine which means that in the case of an actual invasion, they will wait until the conflict reaches NATO borders, which Russia is well aware of and is why they are adamant on Ukraine staying out of the military alliance. The "retaliation" is ineffective at best. The reality of the situation is that countries like the USSR, Iran, and DPRK have almost always been under economic sanctions and learned to live with them as an economic reality. So announcing the worse that you're going to do is not a deterrent if Russia is prepared to live with those sanctions. Russia is also, of course, not new to western sanctions. Just like the other aforementioned countries, any gaps in economics can be filled by a not US aligned country like China or India. As can be obviously seen in the last couple of years, the US is even afraid to economically retaliate against China so sanctions against China for trading with Russia is not going to happen.

All in all, this is a pretty safe play, with the optics of being "peaceful" as the strategy doesn't require actually using your force, just projecting it by moving it around territories you control.

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    How is the ongoing full-scale invasion of core Ukrainian territory (which began several hours before you posted this answer) a “non-military” disintegration? Feb 24, 2022 at 9:13
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    "Since Russia has not fired a shot": that no longer appears to be true. Feb 24, 2022 at 9:18
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    @EmilJeřábek Nothing I can do about that. I don't exactly read the news at 11pm. Obviously, answer is obsolete though OP asked question before news of invasion and I answered with that context.
    – uberhaxed
    Feb 24, 2022 at 11:09

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