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Apologies for the controversial question, but this is something I'm curious about.

Historically, and particularly in recent history, invasions of one country into another are generally justified as "it will be better for the residents of country B if they are ruled by country A instead of their current rulers". This was the case with both Iraq and Afghanistan, and, as it's played out by history, has actually somehow more or less turned out to be true in those 2 examples. Now, the situation in Ukraine is confusing, because news media are alternately claiming Ukraine to be a Western-style democracy but also a corrupt oligarchy (not that those two things are entirely incompatible with one another, but I digress), so it's difficult to determine to an outside observer.

It seems to be the case that it is commonly agreed upon that this is not true of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, that there is no possible way that Ukraine will be "better off" under Russian control than under its own control. However, I am unfamiliar with the specifics of that argument, only that it is so stated and agreed. So my question is, as someone who knows very little about the internal workings of Russia or of Ukraine: If Putin were to make a similar claim to the above, that the lives of Ukranians would be better under Russian rule as opposed to their own rule, what evidence to we have to falsify that statement? Obviously general considerations of one country being taken over by another include the right to self-governance, which is certainly one issue, but I'm wondering more specifically regarding the particular parties of engagement in this conflict rather than general considerations. What, specifically, is it believed that Russia would do negatively to Ukraine, if it was to take over?

I'm specifically looking for examples of things that Putin and/or other Russian or Soviet regimes have said or done with regards to Ukraine in the past as indications of what they might do again. Of course anything is hypothetically possible, but I'm interested in likely outcomes, not simply possible or hypothetical ones.

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    Comments deleted. Please remember what comments are for. They are for discussing how the question could be improved. They are not for discussing its subject matter.
    – Philipp
    Mar 2 at 19:47
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    Afghanistan nowadays is pretty much where it was before the US invasion (controlled by Taliban, minus Al Queda)... munis 200 thousand dead. Iraq might be better in the sense that it is not controlled by a brutal dictator... but its democratic system is weak while the local warlords are powerful (even though the biggest ones were destroyed)... and again it doesn't matter for the several hundred of those who died in the conflict. Mar 11 at 10:24
  • "what evidence to we have to falsify that statement" - do we need evidence to falsify it? Shouldn't it be up to Russia to provide evidence to truify it?
    – komodosp
    Oct 7 at 10:09
  • @komodosp That's a weird situation to handle, because they kind of have and kind of have not. The important question to answer first, though, is, is someone providing a false reason, which they believe to be true, sufficient to rationally engage in a situation based on those untrue statements/assumptions in "good faith"? For example, if you believed that Joe Biden was a reptile man who was trying to kill all the "real humans", to what extent would that be "justification" or "validation" for planning a coup or assassination attempt?
    – Ertai87
    Oct 11 at 15:06
  • The reason why I ask the question is because that's pretty much what Russia is doing. They (purport to) honestly believe that Ukraine is being run by Nazis, oppresses ethnic Russian minorities, and so on. Whether that's true or not, if it were to be true, it may justify such action, and Russia believes it; therefore can it be said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "in good faith", from the perspective of Putin, despite that any outside observer can clearly see Putin is batshit insane and a monster? If so, then they have provided the validation you are looking for.
    – Ertai87
    Oct 11 at 15:09

3 Answers 3

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I think Belarus makes a fair example of why a country would not want to be dictated by Russia. Its people endured massive dangers to get rid of Lukashenko in protests and were beaten up accordingly.

Or Russia itself for that matter. This is a resource-rich country, with talented people and look what they've achieved in 20 years. A GDP less than Canada's.

This a whole generation in both countries that have had a better future stolen from them, with no end in sight. That's plenty to think about when you decide whether to go along with his threats or resist, at risk to your life.

Out of people that challenged Putin in elections one was poisoned and is in prison now. The other one was assassinated. Ukraine has competitive elections, and a fair bit of corruption which might have evolved for the better had they been on track to join the EU. Russia hasn't had competitive elections since Putin got in and its corruption is entrenched.

For that matter, Ukrainians have direct experience with being ruled by Putin's allies. And being victimized by Putin-sponsored separatists in Crimea and Donbas. Last, his speech stating they were not historically a nation inspires no confidence whatsoever in a better life under him, not least because his gold standard, the Soviet Union, treated Ukraine horribly at times.

Would living under Russia have been better than being put under horrors they are being subjected to right now? Possibly, but people have had to make choices between submission and resistance ever since history started. Once Russia started killing people, the choice wasn't really there anymore however - Russia wasn't going to be accepted as a desirable alternative though it might yet impose its rule by oppression.

I'm the first person to be surprised, and awed, by Ukrainian resistance. But it's not like they had any good reasons to trust Putin's word.

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  • Also, from a current situation point of view, as Russia's economy craters it's also increasingly hard to make the argument Ukrainians will be better off as part it as opposed to being in a free country receiving global aid. Mar 2 at 19:10
  • Thanks! This is the type of answer I'm looking for. I'll see if someone else posts a better one before accepting.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 2 at 19:11
  • Since the question has been closed and won't be accepting any more answers, I probably won't get a better answer than this one so I'll accept it as canonical.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 2 at 19:45
  • Keep in mind that while Belarus has a small fraction of population and much fewer natural resources than that of Ukraine, their GDP was comparable and GDP per capita much better on the Belorussian side.
    – alamar
    Mar 11 at 10:57
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As a general rule — and setting aside specific contexts like ethnic cleansings — the lives of ordinary citizens do not change significantly from one regime to the next. They may find their lives and livelihoods disrupted by warfare, dislocation, or changed state policies, but people pick up the pieces and get back to normal day-to-day activities as quickly as they can, because they have to do that as a matter of ordinary survival. Economic and political al leaders will be more affected — new regimes tend to dislike old power-players — but all things considered, even oppressive governments do not waste a lot of effort on Everyday Joes.

But that point is more or less irrelevant.

People like stability and familiarity, and they dislike change unless the status quo is sufficiently miserable to make change seem necessary. People also prefer a sense of empowerment over their lives, which is something immediately and inevitably lost in any major violent transition between regimes. People also identify with their given national or cultural heritage, and find attacks on that heritage malign and demeaning. These factors mean that any kind of forced regime change will breed anxiety, anger, resentment, even hatred, all of which can translate to fierce opposition. It is obligatory on the new regime to create trust, restore order, and demonstrate superior qualities to the old regime; they have to win over the populace and bring them to accept the new regime. Machiavelli wrote a book on accomplishing that; it's a tricky, difficult, often underhanded business.

We might think of this in personal terms. If someone walked into our house with a gun and claimed that the house was now his, but that he'd allow us to continue living there so long as we followed his rules, I doubt many of us would take it well. Such a person would have to prove that we would be a lot happier having him owning our house then we were when we owned our own house, and even then the whole idea is going to grate horribly. It isn't strictly a casual or practical matter because people's sense of self is deeply tied to it.

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    This is specifically not the type of answer I'm looking for (and I downvoted). Of course all those things are taken for granted, nobody likes to be invaded, and nobody likes having a war outside their front door, and given the choice "adapt or die" most people will, eventually, adapt. I am wondering specifically what is at stake in this particular conflict given the parties engaged, which is not addressed at all in this answer.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 2 at 19:43
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    Simpler: Would you want to live in modern Russia? Neither do Ukrainians.
    – dandavis
    Mar 2 at 21:14
  • "If someone walked into our house with a gun and claimed that the house was now his, but that he'd allow us to continue living there so long as we followed his rules, I doubt many of us would take it well." - in fact, without necessarily brandishing a gun, that's pretty much what happens to tenants when a house changes hands between landlords, or workers when their employer is taken over. The extent to which people care about a forcible change in political leadership, depends on the extent to which they think it belongs to them in the first place.
    – Steve
    Oct 9 at 12:20
  • @Steve: It isn't so much the extent that people feel ownership — even tenants feel like they 'own' their rented spaces, for practical purposes — but the extent to which quality of life remains unchanged (or improves). If QoL remains the same, most people will shrug off changes in landlord (or government). They might grumble about small differences, but mostly they just want to make their way in the world. However, they tend to get upset when they are forced into worse situations, and military invasions (like home invasions, come with a staggering cost is existential security. Oct 9 at 14:19
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To answer this question it's necessary to define what is meant by "under Russian control". Does the territory in question become part of Russia (Crimea), nominally independent (Donetsk/Luhansk/South Ossetia/Abkhazia), or temporarily occupied? I'll only look at the first case because of a lack of time.

If Russia annexes the region, then:

  • It's probable life becomes less "free" and more similar to the rest of Russia. For example, the media will be more tightly controlled, some topics will be censored, etc.
  • This could also result in "enforced disappearances" for some dissenters.
  • However, Russia is likely to treat the region like part of itself. In other words, they'll bring investment, modernization, etc.
  • However, the investments will only be coming from Russia because of international isolation. This does have an economical impact, e.g. fewer tourists, fewer business opportunities.
  • Finally, there is likely to be some level of "Russification", and ethnic Ukrainians might feel discriminated against. For example there could be restrictions on the use of Ukrainian national symbols, less/no Ukrainian-language education, etc.

My personal reading is that for most people there'll be good things and bad things, but life goes on, not that dissimilar from a new government being elected - although there are very few events with enough impact to "make life not go on".

Edit: it looks like in currently-occupied Ukrainian territory, life still goes on. The most significant change is a scarcity of food, while the most visible one is that there are Russian soldiers around. Beyond that, it doesn't look like much has changed; in fact some buildings are still flying the Ukraine flag. Presumably, this means Ukrainian administrators are still working.

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  • Great answer, but a couple clarifying questions: 1) When you say that investments will be coming "only from Russia", is that accurate? It's my understanding that many foreign entities invest in Russia (or, at least did prior to the current situation), and this was e.g. one of the issues surrounding Donald Trump and the Russia collusion story, that Trump was involved in such investments. Why would other nations not invest in Russia-controlled Ukraine?
    – Ertai87
    Mar 3 at 16:12
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    2) It's not always the case that "life goes on" after an invasion/takeover of a country. Of course, from a high level perspective, people continue to live there, but, for example, it could hardly be said that North Korea today resembles the former unified Korea before the Korean War, or that China today resembles China before the Cultural Revolution. Why would a similar situation, where "life goes on" but in an extremely dramatically altered fashion, not occur in Ukraine? Or is that a possibility and I'm reading too much into your words?
    – Ertai87
    Mar 3 at 16:15
  • Also, your assumption as to what "controlled" means in context is apt in my opinion. I'm satisfied to consider only that possibility, as it seems the most likely of Putin's goals.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 3 at 16:17
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    @Allure didn't Ukraine change for the better some time after Crimea was captured? You know, the consequences of that whole Euromaidan thing?
    – user253751
    Mar 31 at 16:57
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    @user253751 did it? I imagine that's up to your interpretation of "better".
    – Allure
    Mar 31 at 23:33

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