What Does Putin Want in Ukraine?


Stephen J. Flanagan, Senior Political Scientist

What Putin is trying to achieve in Ukraine is to create it as the centerpiece of a special sphere of influence, not recreating the former Soviet Union, but having a group of states along its periphery that are subordinate in their foreign policies and in their economic relationships to the Russian Federation.

Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist

Ukraine shares a long border with Russia. It's by far the largest of the six former Soviet republics that are arrayed between Russia and NATO. Ukraine really is disproportionately important to Russia. There are longstanding cultural and historical ties here that, of course, I think also are part of the picture.

Stephen J. Flanagan, Senior Political Scientist

Ukraine has a long history. Parts of it have been more Western-oriented, parts more oriented towards Russia.

Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist

So it is certainly true that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government seek to have predominance in their immediate periphery, particularly in the states of the former Soviet Union. But there are only certain things, I think, that would trigger the kind of military response that we've seen in the last few weeks.

Stephen J. Flanagan, Senior Political Scientist

He has moved even more extremely in recent years and in recent days, even where he's even suggested that Ukraine isn't even really a country and that Ukraine is essentially a creation of Lenin and Khrushchev and some other Soviet leaders who gave this territory away, and now he's trying to reclaim it.

Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist

But ultimately, Ukraine is the most strategically important of these countries for a number of reasons. And I think that is what drives the more extreme measures that Russia has taken to try to establish its influence and control over Ukraine.

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