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Russia's Evolving Justifications and Shifting Goals in Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop tanks near a front line in Mykolaiv region, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine August 10, 2022.

As the war stretches on, Russia's justifications continue to evolve.

Russia's Evolving Justifications and Shifting Goals in Ukraine
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The costs of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine continue, with thousands of civilians killed or wounded; millions more displaced; historic cities reduced to rubble; skyrocketing food shortages and prices world-wide.

“All this,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “because President Putin was determined to conquer another country.”

Putin has failed in his goal, however. Ukraine will remain sovereign and independent, said Secretary Blinken, because of the courage and strength of Ukraine’s military and its people, and the determination of the United States and its allies to stand with them and help provide what is necessary for Ukrainians to defend their freedom.

What is on display as the war stretches on, Secretary Blinken said, is a series of evolving Russian justifications and ever-shifting goals.

The latest is the Kremlin’s announcement that it seeks to claim more Ukrainian territory, even beyond the so-called “people’s republics” of the Donbas.

When the war first began, Russia made the claim it had to “de-nazify” Ukraine; after that, it was because of a supposed threat from NATO.

“Then they said the war was to protect ethnic Russians living in Donbas from genocide, before relentlessly targeting the largest Russian-speaking city in Ukraine, Kharkiv.

What this is about and has always been about is President Putin’s conviction that Ukraine is not an independent state and belongs to Russia.”

Secretary Blinken pointed out that Russia is now following its 2014 playbook: installing illegitimate proxy officials in areas it controls; forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship; sabotaging outside access.

“Here’s what we expect to see next,” he said: “Russia-installed leaders will hold sham referendums to manufacture the fiction that the people in those places want to join Russia. … We must and we will act quickly to make clear to Russia that these tactics will not work.”

“Annexation by force of the territory of a sovereign and independent country is a gross violation of the United Nations Charter,” Secretary Blinken stated. “Members of the international community that have committed to uphold the charter and international law have a responsibility to denounce these plans by the Russian Government and to make clear they will never recognize these illegal acts. Otherwise, no one can claim to be surprised when Russia follows through on its plans – or if other countries follow suit in the future.”