Putin's geopolitical obsession with Ukraine | Episode 1


Roni Weisman

Episode Description

(This is the English translation of a transcription of an original Hebrew podcast episode.)

In mid-February 2022, tensions between Russia and Ukraine reach their peak. Large Russian military forces have surrounded Ukraine for almost three months. The world wonders if Putin will actually invade Ukraine or if it is just a geopolitical exercise. This first episode of the new Global Play Field podcast examines Putin's obsession with Ukraine,  analyzing the geopolitical and other reasons for Putin's likely invasion of Ukraine.


Welcome to the first episode of World Play Field, a podcast that will analyze geopolitical issues, international relations, and other issues that are attracting attention around the world. In this podcast I will analyze and assess challenges around the world, whether local or global, mainly in the context of events of current interest. My name is Roni Weisman and I am the creator and moderator of World Play Field. A few words about me and the inspiration for creating this podcast will follow later. The topic I want to start with is the geopolitics of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's interest in Ukraine. In this episode, I want to share with you the background and the deeper reasons behind Putin's decision to invade Ukraine, which you won't always find in the mainstream press, which tends to cover global issues superficially.

About Me
So before I dive into the topic itself, as promised, I'll start with a few words about myself. Coming from the high-tech world, this was my main job for many years, but history, philosophy, political science and international relations have always been other areas of interest for me. As I come across a lot of information on these subjects, I recently decided to share it with you who are listening to me, along with some of my insights from it.

Historical Background
And now to the subject on which we have gathered. Why do I think Putin will be invading Ukraine soon and why will all the diplomatic pressure being put on him not help to change his entrenched position at all. Since World Play Field isn't a historical podcast, I'll just briefly list a few facts, starting in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed. It was then that Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union, became an independent country. The Russian Republic, incidentally the largest country left after the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, was among the first countries to recognize Ukraine's independence. An interesting fact related to our topic is that Ukraine, when it declared its independence, was the country with the most nuclear warheads, apart from the USA and Russia, but under pressure from the USA, it agreed to get rid of this weapon while transferring part of it to Russia, again with US consent, and destroying the other part. In return, a so-called Budapest Memorandum was signed in 1994, in which the USA, Russia and Great Britain committed themselves to safeguarding Ukraine's security. By the way, along with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan also gave up nuclear weapons and signed this agreement. There are elements in Ukraine that still regret this decision to abandon nuclear weapons as a deterrent. It would probably be a completely different picture for Ukraine today if it still had nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the agreement of the US and the western world that Russia will not dismantle its nuclear weapons allows it to be a key player in the world order and to be considered one of the three largest powers in the world, even if from an economic point of view, at least in terms of gross domestic product, it only ranks 11th in the world, behind Italy, France and Great Britain. Russia's GDP is 10 times smaller than that of China and 14 times that of the USA. In fact, Russia's GDP is less than that of the state of Texas. Incidentally, in terms of GDP per capita, Russia ranks 66th in the world. Russia's military power, on the other hand, is considered second or third in the world, after the United States and China, following the buildup and modernization measures that the Russian army has undergone, of course at the expense of the well-being of the Russian people, and considering the nuclear weapons it possesses. Russia was never content with its geopolitical situation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it was engaged in economic reconstruction while plundering the national resources through a significant number of associated people who became Russia's oligarchs. As its economic situation stabilized, especially after Putin came to power, Russia began to look left and right. Until 2013, Ukraine had governments close to Moscow. However, when at the end of 2013 the government refused to sign free trade agreements with the European Union, almost certainly under the influence of Putin's Russia, huge protests broke out all over Ukraine, during which hundreds of protesters were killed. The protests continued into 2014, and they finally led to the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and the announcement of new elections. Putin called this move an "illegal coup", while the West recognized it as a legitimate revolution. In the elections held in 2014, first to elect a president and then to the parliament, pro-Western politicians were indeed strengthened, unfortunately for Putin. As early as March of that year, a popular uprising against the Ukrainian central government and in favor of an annexation with Russia broke out on the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea, which is not clear to what extent it was authentic or organized by Russia. Today it is known that before and during this uprising, many Russian soldiers disguised as civilians were seen in the peninsula. In any case, after these protests against the Ukrainian government, Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula, despite protests from the countries of the free world and the United Nations, but without external military resistance. To this day, it is considered an illegal annexation by the international community. In the same year, an apparent uprising by separatist elements in a region called Donbass in eastern Ukraine bordering Russia, but in fact with open military support from Russia, created two political entities announcing their separation from Ukraine, the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic. These so-called states have never been recognized as such by the international community. Ukraine refers to these territories as "temporarily occupied territories" and their inhabitants as terrorists, and fighting has been going on between Ukraine and these territories since 2014 until today. Russia considers them countries related to it, and these are territories it de facto occupies. An attempt was made to bring about a ceasefire in Donbass by signing an agreement between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, Donetsk and Lugansk in September 2014, known as the Minsk Protocol (named after the place where it was signed), but failed to date, the agreement has not been implemented due to differing interpretations by Russia and Ukraine, and fighting in the region continues to this day.

Reasons for the Invasion
So now, after reviewing the historical facts, why do I think that Putin will soon invade Ukraine and why all the diplomatic pressure being exerted on him will not help him to change his consolidated position from the start? I will list all of the reasons that have led me to come to this conclusion in quick succession and then I will say more about each one:

The First Reason
So let's start with the first reason why Putin's Russia will invade Ukraine: Russia has always needed a wide and convenient passage with many seaports to the Black Sea. If you look at the world map and focus on Russia, you will immediately see that Russia has a geographical problem: it is a country with a very large area, but with little access to the sea. While it has a very long coastline to the north, it stretches along seas that are frozen for much of the year and therefore not of great value. In addition, they are far from the world's trade routes, and even if the water in them has thawed, transporting goods through them is expensive. If we look at western Russia, it appears to have a short coastline along the Baltic Sea, with a major port at St. Petersburg, a resource gained through years of wars and settlements with neighboring Finland. In the south, Russia has a short coastline to the Black Sea and a short coastline to the Sea of Azov, which is connected to the Black Sea. The Black Sea is of vital strategic and economic importance to Russia, allowing passage of warships and merchant ships to the Mediterranean Sea, and from there to the Atlantic Ocean, to the Indian Sea and to the South China Sea through the Suez Canal. This was precisely the reason for the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Between the Crimean peninsula and Russia runs a strait, the Kerch Strait, through which ships sail from the Sea of ​​Azov off the coast of Russia to the Black Sea. Those who control Crimea can theoretically limit passage to the Black Sea in times of conflict. Also, the Crimean Peninsula has a large and important port, the port of Sevastopol, which allows easy access to the Black Sea. Both good reasons for Putin not to leave Crimea to Ukraine. But this advantage is meaningless without a convenient and safe land passage connecting Central Russia and Crimea. Today, Russia has to be content with the crossing to the Crimean Peninsula via the Crimean Bridge, which it built immediately after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. This is actually a pair of bridges, one is used for vehicles including trucks, the other for trains. It is 19 km long and is the longest bridge ever built by Russia and the longest bridge in Europe. But imagine what advantage Russia would gain from a wide and convenient land route to the Crimean Peninsula, which would also be shorter. This is where the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine comes in, which is already de facto under Russian control. These days we also hear that Putin's friends in the Duma, the Russian parliament, want to pass a bill to officially annex Donetsk and Luhansk, which are located in the Donbass region. If Russia goes ahead and conquers lands in eastern Ukraine that connect the Donbass with the Crimean Peninsula, even as far as the Dnieper, it will gain that wide and easy passage to the Black Sea ports. In my opinion, this is Putin's first goal in the war he is going to start with Ukraine. It is true that his long-term goal is likely to be the conquest of all of Ukraine, and it is possible that he may soon invade northern Ukraine and possibly all of Ukraine also, but Putin is a geopolitical chess player with great patience. He works according to the salami method. If he conquers all of Ukraine, it is almost certain that he will respond to international pressure to restore most of Ukraine's areas and withdraw after a period of time, but from the areas to the east it is almost certain that he will never withdraw.

The Second Reason
The second reason Putin will invade Ukraine is that Russia is surrounded to the west by countries that were formerly members of the Soviet Union, and are now not only independent but also members of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is a military defense organization that formed after the Second World War to assuage the existential fears of the exhausted European countries, especially of the rising Soviet power, by agreeing to mutual defense against an attack from the outside, while actually the most significant protection arising from it, is the one guaranteed by the USA. The famous Article Five of the NATO Treaty is the core of this agreement. I quote from it: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." End quote. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the following countries that border or are close to Russia and were formerly allies of Soviet Russia have joined NATO: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Only Belarus and Ukraine are the countries west of Russia that have not yet joined NATO. Belarus has signed several cooperation agreements with Russia since its inception. Belarus is ruled by Alexander Lukashenko, who, according to Western opinion, is leading his country into a dictatorship. From Putin's point of view, there is no danger that Lukashenko will distance himself from Russia, on the contrary, there are signs that the countries are moving towards full unification. We also know that joint military exercises are being held by the armies of Russia and Belarus these days, which almost certainly represent another opportunity to bring Russian forces closer to Ukraine's border. But Ukraine, which has been trying to join the West and even NATO since 2014, poses a threat to Russia in Putin's view. If Ukraine joins NATO before Putin has completed his intention to conquer at least parts of it, it might be too late for him, and Putin wants Ukraine to be under Russian control or under his full influence, similar to Belarus, so that there is a buffer between it and the European countries united in the NATO organization. You must be wondering why Putin is so afraid of European countries, after all they are all democracies based on peaceful and liberal values ​​whose only purpose in the union within the NATO organization is to protect against possible aggressors, not to initiate an attack on other countries. Well, the answer lies in Russia's age-old concerns about all surrounding countries since the days of Tsarist rule, and also in the fact that Russia in general and Putin in particular have never experienced real democracy, nor ever seen liberalism, freedom, democracy and the pursuit of peace as virtues. Putin in particular, whose life-defining profession was his career in the Soviet Union's KGB, that dreadful secret organization, and who experienced the trauma of the Soviet Union's disintegration, did not convert to the values ​​of the Western world when the Soviet Union collapsed. For him, NATO remains an alliance of Russia's enemies. For him, he would like to expand Russia's territories as far west as possible, just as the tsars aspired from the 16th century to the 20th’s beginning, and as Soviet Russia did after from 1917 to 1991.

The Third Reason
Reason number three for my assessment that Putin will invade Ukraine and not just threaten to do so is that Putin believes that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian nation and that the people of Ukraine have always belonged to the Russian kingdom have It is the Tsarist or the Soviet. Although it is difficult to know in advance the intentions of a ruler, especially when he is a dictator, modern history has taught us that we can learn much about such intentions from the words of that dictator himself, whether they are expressed through writing a book or in the form of speeches he delivered in his own language to his people or circle. In July 2021, an article was published on the official website of the President of Russia, authored by the President of Russia himself, Vladimir Putin. Its title was: “On the historical unity between the Russian people and the Ukrainian people". It doesn't matter whether Putin actually wrote every word there himself or whether he had the support of professional writers. It can be assumed that what is written in the article accurately reflects Putin's views, at least the ones he wants the public to know about. In summary, in the article, Putin claims that the Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are a single people whose origin is the ancient Rus people who lived in the territories of the Kiev Principality, which includes the territories of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, that the border erected between Russia and Ukraine is a tragedy and a common mistake by both nations, and that the word "Ukraine" in ancient Russian means "periphery", and is therefore intended to describe today's territory of Ukraine as the outskirts of large and united Russia. In this article, Putin also describes how Greater Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and areas along the Black Sea coast after conquering them from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. He reiterates and emphasizes that the peoples who lived in Greater Russia were united by the fact that they spoke the same language, the Russian language, and that the development of other languages, such as Ukrainian, was the result of the artificial splitting of Russia into several countries. To support his thesis that Ukrainian is not a natural language, he cites examples from a number of well-known Ukrainian writers and poets, including Nikolai Gogol, who wrote their best works in Russian. Putin goes on to claim in this article that the idea that there is a Ukrainian people separate from the Russian people was cultivated by Poland in the 19th century and later by Austria-Hungary purely for political reasons. He further elaborates on the history of Ukraine, claiming that during the Soviet Union Ukraine was granted the status of a separate country as a result of a policy of creating a federation of communist states under the hegemony of Soviet Russia. Territories returned from Poland to the Soviet Union, such as the Crimean peninsula, were wrongly ceded to Soviet Ukraine. Therefore, Putin claims, modern Ukraine is an artificial product of the Soviet era. He adds and writes, I quote: "We know and remember very well that the territory of Ukraine was – essentially – defined on the lands of historical Russia." End quote. Then Putin moves on to more practical and economic arguments and in a different spirit. The origin of these sections could be from another of the several authors who wrote the article for Putin, but it remains interesting: Putin claims that Russia gave Ukraine $84 billion in financial aid between 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and up until 2013. That Ukraine continues to receive $1.5 billion from Russia each year for passing natural gas to Europe, and that If it hadn't been misled and continued economic ties with Russia instead of turning to the West, it would have benefited from tens of billions more dollars coming out of Russia. Of course, the fact that Russia is about to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is cynically and deliberately ignored here. This pipeline, which is the sibling of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which alone will allow Russian gas to be transported through the Baltic Sea to Europe, eliminating the need to route the oil through Ukraine and pay for it. Putin claims that economic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the European Union is unprecedented, that the continuation of this relationship could have led to the development of both countries. He then blames the Ukrainian authorities, who, according to him, have decided since 2014, against the will of the Ukrainian people, to distance themselves from benevolent Russia. The ruling circles in Ukraine, says Putin, have chosen not only to ignore the common history of nations, but also to rewrite it to suit their needs. And Putin also accuses the US and EU countries of pressuring Ukraine to leave the economic partnership with Russia in order to harm Russia, while ignoring the request of Russia, the poor country, to discuss these issues. Ukraine, says Putin, has been drawn step by step into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at making it a wedge between Russia and Europe, a move aimed at Russia. Then Putin attacks the Indigenous Peoples Law passed by the Ukrainian parliament last year, which allows the definition of an original Ukrainian people only to ethnic groups that do not have their own state outside of Ukraine. This law therefore excludes the Russian residents of Ukraine from being one of the original peoples in Ukraine. Putin defines this law as tantamount to using mass weapons against Russia. not less! Then he goes on describing in detail the project of "opposition to Russia" that Ukraine is cultivating, according to him, with the active encouragement of Western countries. Putin ends his article with statements like, I quote: "I am convinced that real sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia", and – "Together we have always been and always will be stronger and more successful, dozens of times, because we are one people." End quote. Now, after hearing these opinions from Putin, is it even possible to doubt his aggressive intentions towards Ukraine, which aspires to be a western democracy?

The Fourth Reason
Reason number four for Putin to enter Ukraine is his desire to shape the world order, akin to a historical figure he admires: Joseph Stalin, who was the all-powerful ruler of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his unexpected death in 1953. Stalin is remembered in the world primarily for the domestic mass murders of opponents of the regime and his foreign policy during World War II. Putin doesn't mind too much that Stalin is credited with murdering millions of Soviet citizens. He admires Stalin's distilled Russian self-interested foreign policy without values. During the 1930s, as the Nazi Party grew stronger in Germany and posed a threat to world peace, Stalin alternated between an alliance with France and England to contain Germany and an alliance with Hitler. In the end he decided to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany in August 1939, an agreement known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact after the foreign ministers of Germany and the Soviet Union. In this agreement, Russia and Germany undertook not to attack each other and, in a secret chapter, agreed to divide Poland between themselves. Only when Hitler found the right moment to invade Russia in June 1941 did Stalin have to switch sides and agree to join the Allied camp. It was only after almost two years of heavy losses to the Red Army and citizens of the Soviet Union, while Nazi forces pushed deep into Russia, that the tide turned in favor of the Red Army. And here comes the chapter in history that made Putin admire Stalin. Even with the Nazi army on Russian soil, Stalin began planning the reshaping of the map of Europe to accommodate Soviet interests. As the war progressed, the Red Army improved its positions. Stalin's goal was not only to liberate the territories of the Soviet Union from the Nazis, but also to bring large parts of Europe under his control. Accordingly, the Red Army invaded and took over the Balkan countries one by one. At the same time, the other Allied forces, led by the United States and Great Britain, also advanced to the point of crushing Nazi Germany. After their joint victory over Nazi Germany, the United States and Britain hoped to reach common understandings with the Soviet Union and establish democratic governments in all countries liberated from Nazi occupation. But Stalin ignored them and set up puppet communist governments in all the Eastern European countries the Soviet Union occupied until their full annexation to the framework that later became known as the Soviet bloc. This is how Russia and its satellites became a power. This was Stalin's greatest geopolitical success. There is ample evidence that Stalin is Putin's model, and also that his figure serves as an example to the Russian public of the importance of a strong leader. For example, Putin's rhetoric accompanying the 2014 annexation of Crimea spoke of the return of Russian patriotism and was reminiscent of Stalin's famous speech after the Nazi invasion of Russia. The infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, which I have already mentioned, is now being portrayed by Russian officials, apparently on Putin's instructions, as a geopolitical achievement by Stalin that made it possible to delay the war with the Nazis. It is no longer uncommon to see Stalin posters at official celebrations of the Russian regime, particularly on the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, which is a national holiday in Russia. In an interview film director Oliver Stone conducted with Putin in 2017, Putin compared Stalin to Oliver Cromwell, a 17th-century English general and statesman, and to Napoleon Bonaparte, claiming that Stalin was a product of his time, Statement aimed at positively portraying Stalin as a hero. Putin lamented that the over-demonization of Stalin was aimed at attacking the former Soviet Union and Russia. In order to appear politically correct and to please his interviewer's audience, Putin added that of course the horrors of Stalinism should not be forgotten. Putin wants to go down in history as a leader on the order of Stalin, who transformed Russia into an influential world power while making as many geopolitical gains as possible. Accordingly, Putin is a sort of moderate Stalin who falls short of the other in terms of oppressing his own people, but certainly does not hold back when he sees someone or an organization as interfering with his national or other goals.

The Fifth Reason
The fifth reason for the upcoming invasion of Ukraine is that Putin needs to calm domestic tensions by creating an external national cause and portraying the West as the enemy. In this way he removes from the agenda economic problems and the suppression of political and personal liberties in Russia. And it's not that Putin doesn't currently enjoy fairly broad support in Russia. In opinion polls conducted earlier this year, 65% of respondents responded that Putin's actions are positive. A similar poll conducted in July 2020 by the independent organization Lavada Center found that 60% of Russian residents support Putin. Factors supporting Putin at home include the actions he is taking to transform Russia into a world power and to stir up Russian patriotic feelings. Opinion polls after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and the intervention in the rebel-held areas of Donbass in eastern Ukraine showed that support for Putin rose by 20 percent. It is true that in a country with a government backed by fear of it, there is what is called “dictator bias” in favor of the ruler, but these data are supposed to reflect the tendency of the masses in Russia fairly well. Another interesting statistic is that in July 2020 Russia held an official referendum on a proposed constitutional amendment that would reset Putin's term and allow him to run again for the presidency of Russia. Yes, yes, I know it sounds crazy, but that's the reality in Russia. 78% of those taking part in the referendum supported this. I will not enter into the debate on the extent to which public consciousness was manipulated and the referendum was illegally directed because I did not investigate this – we leave this question open. In any case, the constitutional amendment has been ratified by the Russian parliament, allowing Putin to continue to rule Russia for another 12 years even after his last term expires in 2024. But like any dictator who paves the way to eternal rule, whether through violence or intrigue or both, Putin knows that he is never resilient and that his position as all-powerful ruler can be unexpectedly undermined by civil rebellion. Despite all the vigorous measures he takes, such as rewriting the Constitution of Russia, banning the activities of human rights organizations, controlling television channels, arresting journalists, attempting to poison government opponent Alexei Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment, arrests of other government opponents, sowing disinformation on Russian social networks and more, his destiny, like the destiny of every tyrant, is always to be in fear of an unexpected disruption in his power. And there's a reason for that. There have been repeated large-scale demonstrations and protests against Putin and his regime. The most recent and well-known began on January 23, 2021, after the arrest of anti-regime and anti-corruption organization leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny was arrested immediately after returning to Russia after life-saving medical treatment in Germany, after an attempt on his life with poison attributed to Russian agents. The demonstrations lasted about three months and surrounded one hundred and ninety-eight (198) cities across Russia. The demonstrations were severely repressed by the Russian authorities. There were also large demonstrations and protests around ten years earlier. They started in December 2011 and lasted about a year and a half, mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in many other cities across Russia. What began as a protest against suspected voter fraud continued and morphed into broader demonstrations for political freedom, real elections and the release of political prisoners. That's why Putin doesn't stop increasing his support at home. Offensive actions in Ukraine can certainly increase the percentage of support for him and weaken the centers of discontent.

The Sixth Reason
The sixth reason why Putin will invade Ukraine is that he knows that no country in the world, including the USA, will actively come to the defense of Ukraine. Additional sanctions will be imposed on Russia and perhaps even on Putin and some of his supporters personally, but Putin has already taken this into account in his deliberations. The foreign exchange reserves that Russia has accumulated in recent years, amounting to $630 billion, will help it cope with further economic sanctions. Thanks to the fact that Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, the United States and the other NATO countries can breathe a sigh of relief – nobody expects them to go to war to protect Ukraine. Of course, they see an invasion of Ukraine as a threat to peace and a challenge to the existing world order, but not to the point of active war. While it is possible that a leader other than Joe Biden would have viewed Putin's actions as a violation of the American Constitution's values ​​of democracy and personal liberty, and as a threat to the world, and would have decided to go to war against Russia. But then he would risk dragging the world into an all-out war, and of course there is a threat of nuclear weapons as well. So it is a scenario without a chance. And I don't necessarily say that as a criticism. The enlightened world, which upholds virtues such as human freedom, does not find it easy to go to war. Their leaders are acutely aware of the painful cost of any war. Only dictatorial statesmen, and perhaps autocrats, who lack the values ​​of liberal-democratic countries, will go to war for geopolitical gain. This is reminiscent of what happened before the outbreak of World War II. In 1938, the western world silently swallowed Nazi Germany's invasion of Austria and its annexation, Britain and France signed with Germany the Munich Agreement, in which they agreed on Germany's annexation of the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia while putting pressure on the Czechoslovak government in that region to prevent war, and later, when Hitler broke the agreement and occupied all of Czechoslovakia, there was again a weak reaction. Only when Germany also invaded Poland did the free world, initially led by Great Britain, awaken to active struggle against German aggression.

Finally, we analyzed the geopolitical background and the main reasons why Putin wants to invade Ukraine. These were: Russia's need for a wide and convenient passage to the Black Sea, Putin's desire to expand Russia or its sphere of influence westward, Putin's position that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian nation and therefore there is no need in a sovereign state for it, Putin's desire to be included in history as a leader in the Stalinist order, Putin's need to calm tensions at home, and finally the certainty that the world will not come to Ukraine's aid by fighting at her side while, in Putin's view, Russia can withstand additional sanctions for the sacred geopolitical goal of power expansion. If Putin does not invade Ukraine in February 2022, he will do so some other time in the future. Putin will not let go of Ukraine for all the reasons I listed in this episode.

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