Why the Ukrainian conflict is not all about Putin

Putin, World Economic Forum 2009On 15 February 2015 a ceasefire was to come into effect between the Ukrainian government and the rebels fighting for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Dr Matthew Davies believed the ceasefire would not last because it did not advantage Vladimir Putin.1 As President of Russia, Putin holds influence with the DPR, and indeed is perceived by many as being behind their rebellion. According to Davies, the Ukrainian conflict has ‘never been about Ukraine, or even about territory that Putin thinks should be integrated into Russia [but] about the hurt honour of a country and a leader who want to be considered important. The conflict has been about perception.’ The narrative that the Ukrainian conflict is all about Putin is a common one in Western media, and is repeatedly used to explain the conflict.

I disagree with the narrative that the Ukrainian conflict is all about Putin. Rather, I think his actions are in the interests of Russia and are a defensive strategy in the face of threatening actions from the United States and Europe. To put it simply, I believe Putin is acting in defence of Russia. Below I will explain why.

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  1. Davies M 2015, ‘The Ukraine ceasefire plan is a Russian victory’, ABC, 13 Feb 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-13/davies-the-ukraine-ceasefire-plan-is-a-russian-victory/6092270