Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

Putin is deluded if he thinks Ukraine will quickly fold

An anti-Putin protest on the streets of Kiev (Getty images)

So it’s war. For all Vladimir Putin may want to call it a ‘special military operation,’ as missiles rain down on targets all across Ukraine and tanks pour across its borders, this is nothing less than a full-scale act of unprovoked aggression, recognised as such everywhere except in one place: Putin’s head.

Can Putin honestly believe that any quisling could rule in Kiev from anything other than a throne of Russian bayonets?

His pre-recorded announcement of the invasion was a case study in emotive button-pressing, claiming that Ukraine was a hotbed of Nazism, and that Russia was simply intervening ‘to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.’ In this, it was a logical progression from Monday’s address on the recognition of the pseudo-states of the Donbas, a rambling rant that was little more than a rehearsal of overblown grievances infused with a venomous dislike of the West and Kiev alike.

For all this may have originally been predicated on ‘protecting’ the ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers of the Donbas region – even though many joined the Ukrainian military to fight the insurrection – he clearly has much greater ambitions. His demand is for the ‘demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous, bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.’

Setting aside the repeated slander that Ukraine is in any way ‘Nazi’ – yes, there is a sizeable ultra-nationalist and even neo-fascist movement, but they are by no means dominant in what is an essentially tolerant and pluralistic state – these kinds of goals require either the occupation of the country or, as Western intelligence assessments have predicted, the imposition of a puppet regime.

Can he honestly believe that any quisling could rule in Kiev from anything other than a throne of Russian bayonets? The truth of the matter seems likely to be that he does.

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