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The Not So Secret Preludes to Russia's 2022 Invasion of Ukraine

Austin Bay on

A strong case can be made that Russia's war to seize Ukraine began in 2004 with a covert attempt by Vladimir Putin's Kremlin to subvert Ukraine's election and install a pro-Moscow vassal.

In Ukraine's 2004 national elections, Russia-backed Viktor Yanukovych ostensibly defeated democratizer Viktor Yushchenko. To the Kremlin's dismay, mass demonstrations erupted -- the Orange Revolution (November 2004 to January 2005). Ukrainians took to the streets and rejected the flawed election.

Ukraine's supreme court examined the evidence, determined fraud and intimidation were rampant, annulled the spurious results and ordered another vote.

In late December 2004, despite Russian money and propaganda pushing Yanukovych, Yushchenko won the re-vote.

As a former KGB officer, Putin is well schooled in the dark arts of intimidation, propaganda and subversion. In 2004, Putin was president of Russia and insisting ethnic Russians belonged within the borders of Mother Russia. Ukrainians and Russians? In Putin's mind, they were the same people. He also knew a state combining Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan (RUBK) could be a superpower.

Putin was president in February 2014 when Russian forces invaded Ukraine and subsequently annexed Crimea. Putin ran the Kremlin during Russia's "slow war" in eastern Ukraine (April 2014 to February 2022) -- a grinding war designed to demoralize Ukraine and drain its economy.

 

In February 2022, Putin convinced himself that a swift Russian "special operation" would defeat Ukraine in three weeks or so -- a big step in creating his new Russian empire. The Biden administration's Afghanistan withdrawal debacle may have convinced him he had a stellar opportunity.

Putin, however, wasn't merely wrong. He was -- and still is -- delusional.

Ukraine defeated Russia's initial assault and recovered significant territory. Despite the inventive use of drones and precision munitions, Ukraine's summer 2023 counteroffensive stalled.

As the second anniversary of Putin's failed special operation nears, the Russia-Ukraine War is a stalemate -- a war of attrition. The front-line trenches and shell craters are a World War I hellscape.

...continued

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