October 7 Update on the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

The war between Russia and Ukraine has now been ongoing for several months. With that in mind, daily news reports can offer conflicting, sometimes incorrect information. Here, I want to take a moment to address some of the more complex facets of the conflict and offer you my perspectives on them.

For a little bit of surety on your end: I have a Ph.D. in political science, and one of my specializations is security studies. That is to say, I read, write, teach, and publish on these issues as an active scholar. Thus, I’ll try to be as clear as I can here, and my only goal is to help you get quality information so that you can draw your own conclusions.

Russian Annexation of Eastern Ukraine

Just a few days ago, Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, announced the annexation of what is essentially the Eastern third of Ukraine. This announcement was held after Putin had signed an “agreement” with the regions following several “referenda” in which all of them decided to become part of the Russian Federation.

I use the above quotes to indicate that, frankly, those agreements are fiction, because the supposed referenda were conducted under armed threat by Russian forces. They were a sham, to say the very least.

Why would Russia bother to do this, especially when it is exceedingly clear to outside observers that such an election would likely be considered fraudulent?

I can think of two reasons. The first is that Russia is attempting to make itself out to be the victim of foreign aggression when, as they already have, Ukrainian forces begin retaking parts of the annexed regions. Second, I suspect it is an internal propaganda move: Putin can claim a victory at home to drive recruitment and conscription efforts. After all, there is about 1,000km of new Russian border to protect if you believe the Kremlin on the matter.

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