The World Putin Wants

August 25, 2022
Fiona Hill and Angela Stent

This is a summary of an article originally published by Foreign Affairs, with the subheading: "How Distortions About the Past Feed Delusions About the Future."

The authors write:

  • "Vladimir Putin is determined to shape the future to look like his version of the past. Russia’s president invaded Ukraine not because he felt threatened by NATO expansion or by Western 'provocations.' He ordered his 'special military operation' because he believes that it is Russia’s divine right to rule Ukraine, to wipe out the country’s national identity and to integrate its people into a Greater Russia."
  • "Putin wants a world where Russia presides over a new Slavic union composed of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and perhaps the northern part of Kazakhstan (which is heavily Slavic)—and where all the other post-Soviet states recognize Russia’s suzerainty. ... Putin’s manipulations of history suggest that his claims go beyond Ukraine, into Europe and Eurasia. ... He also wants the West and the global South to accept Russia’s predominant regional role in Eurasia."
  • "Sanctions cannot alter Putin’s view of history or his determination to subjugate Ukraine, so they have not changed his calculus or his war aims."
  • "Putin seems uninterested in a compromise that would leave Ukraine as a sovereign, independent state—whatever its borders. ... The goal is not negotiation, but Ukrainian capitulation."
  • "The United States and its allies may want to isolate Russia, but a large number of states in the global South, led by China, regard the Russia-Ukraine war as a localized European conflict that does not affect them. Not only does much of the world refuse to criticize or sanction Russia; major countries simply do not accept the West’s view of what caused the war or just how grave the conflict is. They instead criticize the United States and argue that what Russia is doing in Ukraine is no different from what the United States did in Iraq or Vietnam. They, like Moscow, justify Russia’s invasion as a response to the threat from NATO. This is thanks in part to the Kremlin’s propaganda, which has amplified Putin’s narratives about NATO and proxy wars and the nefarious actions of the West."
  • "It is imperative that the West (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Europe) redouble its efforts to remain united in supporting Ukraine and countering Russia."

Fiona Hill

Fiona Hill is senior fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. From 2017 to 2019, she was the Senior Director for Europe and Russia on the U.S. National Security Council. She is the author of "There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century."


Angela Stent

Angela Stent is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor Emerita at Georgetown University. She is the author of "Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest."

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by Kremlin.ru shared under a Creative Commons license.