On March 5, 2022, Russia President Vladimir Putin gave a cryptic speech where he gave updates on Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. In it, he declared that “everything is going to plan.” In this same speech, Putin made it clear that any nation who establishes a no-fly zone would effectively be engaging in an act of war against Russia.
What was most unsettling was his proclamation about Ukraine potentially losing its “statehood” if its political leaders “continue doing what they are doing”, according to a report by The New York Times.
ASB News / Military relayed Putin’s statements on Twitter:
“Today’s leadership in Kiev must understand – if they continue in the same spirit, they call into question the future of Ukrainian statehood, and if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”
This marks the first time Putin has expressed an endgame of sorts for what he has in mind for Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has used language in the past suggesting that any move by Ukraine to escalate tensions in the Donbas region would lead to its destruction.
Although Putin has initially said that his goal is to neutralize and demilitarize Ukraine in order to keep it out of the West’s grasp, recent comments by the Russian leader suggest he may have different plans in mind.
Writers like Russian nationalist Anatoly Karlin argued in a Substack post titled “Regathering of the Russian Lands” that Putin’s aims are maximalist in nature. Put simply, Russia is using this military operation to break the Ukrainian state and annex lands with significant Russian populations that it has long desired, which includes Eastern Ukraine, Kiev, historical provinces of Novorossiya, while peacefully incorporating Belarus into its fold. Russia could perhaps annex North Kazakhstan which also has a significant Russian population.
“The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood,” Putin said in a menacing statement towards hard-line Ukrainian leaders. “If that happens, they will have to be blamed for that.”
Back in February, a few days prior to the full-blown invasion of Ukraine, Putin signed a decree that formally recognized the independence of the Eastern Ukraine breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. After Russia launched its invasion at the end of last month, several pundits have speculated that the war will result in a Ukraine split along the lines of a Russia-friendly eastern half and pro-Western, or at least neutral, half, centered in Lviv.
Putin described the West’s punitive sanctions launch against Russia as a “declaration of war.”
With Russia encircling Ukrainian troops across Eastern Ukraine, it appears that Russia may win this conflict in a military sense. However, winning the peace is a whole different story as maps are likely to be re-drawn and Russia has to cope with being economically and diplomatically disconnected from the West.