May 9, 2022
I have spent some time talking about Russia’s changing aims in its war on Ukraine, but perhaps we should take some stock of the evolving justifications for the war.
As you will recall, in his declaration of war — sorry, “special operation” — Putin talked about Ukraine being a fictitious country, and that there are no Ukrainians, just Russians who are misguided by devious Western propaganda. The Blitzkrieg was supposed to topple the Kyiv regime of drug-addicted Nazis and usher an era of love and understanding with Russia.
When the Blitz failed, the military forced a redefinition of the aims — now Russia was fighting to prevent the genocide in Donbas and help the poor citizens there escape Ukrainian oppression. That said “genocide” never happened and that even by Russian accounts whatever passed for one only happened in areas they controlled remained unstated.
Recently, Rogozin (an unrepentant fascist who used to be an MP and is now head of the Space Agency) revealed that the actual aim was to liberate Ukraine from NATO occupation. This occupation was so secret that nobody knew about it, only the Russians.
And now, on May 9, Putin himself decided to indulge in yet another rewrite of history, claiming that Russia was forced into a preemptive strike because Kyiv was being trained and armed to the teeth by the West, because it was developing nuclear weapons, and because it was about to attack Donbas and Russian lands, including Crimea. (In all honesty, the Russians tried something like this at the start of the invasion when they produced a document purporting to be an order from Zelenskyy to attack Donbas. Why Kyiv would do such a thing when the conflict there was going so great from its perspective — there were months in 2021 when no Ukrainian soldiers died there — and when there was a 250,000-strong Russian army encamped right at the border, would have to remain a mystery.)
So there you have it: from the maximalist justification that implied taking all Ukraine (echoes of Hitler) to the nonsense preemptive strike (echoes of Bush Jr), Putin has now run the entire gamut of potential explanations for the conflict, all of them false.
Not only can he not stop lying, he can’t even be original about it.