Ukraine, fear of Vladimir Putin’s reign

On both sides, the “red lines” have been drawn, demands have been made and, despite the persistent noise of boots, a diplomatic streak must open between Moscow and the West after the end of the year celebrations. For the Russian side, the program is ambitious: it is nothing less than reshaping the European order built during the 1980s and 1990s and removing NATO from a Russian sphere of influence. whose contours would henceforth be engraved in stone.

At the heart of this plan, presented with a bang on December 17, a country focuses all attention. Ukraine is the only state whose name is explicitly mentioned in the draft agreements prepared by Moscow. Its fate is presented as central to the security of Russia; it is also symbolic. With the Ukrainian dossier, it is a question of a Russian obsession, and in particular of the obsession of a man, Vladimir Putin, who has linked his long reign to this country and, at the time of reckoning, seems to understand that the record is not good.

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In the study of Russian politics, over-personalization, the extreme importance given to the wishes, real or supposed, of Vladimir Putin, is often a bias. In this specific case, no. No file will have tormented the Russian president to this point. Even Georgia, against which Moscow waged a war in 2008, has not achieved this strategic and intimate importance, despite the personal hatred by Mr Putin of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

For political scientist Alexander Baunov, it is even this personal factor that explains the recent rise in tensions: “Vladimir Putin has not decided if he will leave in 2024, but he is aware that he is mortal and wants to leave a legacy of his own, consistent with what he considers to be his historic mission. However, the Ukrainian file is the one which leaves him the most important frustration. And this file is at the crossroads of security issues and more emotional questions relating to identity. This is why, even if he is in general very cautious, Putin is now ready to rely again on war, a solution by default. “

Very Russian look at Ukraine

On Thursday 23 December, when questioned on the occasion of his annual press conference on the prospects for war, the Russian president immediately got into the Ukrainian subject, going back in time to the “Creation” of this country by Lenin on the “Historic lands” of the Russians. He traced the current crisis back to ” Rebellion “ of Maidan, in 2014, before evoking, only later, the ” broken promises “ 1990s, including that of not expanding NATO to the East.

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Ukraine, fear of Vladimir Putin’s reign

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