How Russia Globalized the War in Ukraine

September 1, 2023
Hanna Notte

The following is an excerpt from Foreign Affairs.

From the outset of his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vast ambitions for the war were obvious. He intended to topple the government in Kyiv and either partition or take control of Ukraine. But Putin’s aspirations extended beyond carving a sphere of influence in central and eastern Europe. By subjugating the Ukrainian polity, Putin hoped to initiate a new era of global politics, one detached from American leadership. He promised an international system that would be genuinely postcolonial, solicitous of conservative values, and robustly multipolar, with Russia serving as one of its central arbiters.

Even after setback after setback on the battlefield in Ukraine, Putin remains committed to a brutal, immiserating war effort. He will do what he can to isolate and impoverish Ukraine in pursuit of an international order that sidelines the West and restores Russia’s proper place in the world, as he construes it. Announced by Putin at the 2007 Munich Security Conference, Moscow’s turn from the West accelerated after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, reaching a breaking point with the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The longer the war lasts, the more Putin will look for opportunities to undermine and supplant the West.

Russia’s strategy to globalize the war has multiple dimensions. In its economic relations, Moscow has capitalized on the opportunism of countries indifferent to the conflict: the Kremlin aims to integrate Russia into non-Western networks of trade, defense, and commerce. Ideologically, Russia blames the war on Western deceit and Ukrainian betrayal, leveling accusations of hypocrisy against the United States and its allies. Diplomatically, Russia and the West are carrying the conflict into international institutions. Whether in the UN Security Council or at the International Atomic Energy Agency, whatever modus vivendi there had once been between Russia and the West has come apart. By nurturing apathy and frustration with the war in non-Western capitals, Moscow hopes that other countries will join its ranks or at the very least distance themselves from the West.

Continue reading at Foreign Affairs.

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