Putin’s Genocidal Invasion and the Second Cold War by Jordan Rosenberg Cobos

“The simple fact is we have a tremendous stake in the success of the democrats here. Their success will change the world in a way that reflects both our values and our hopes. What may be at stake is the equivalent of the postwar recovery of Germany and Japan as democratic allies, only this time after a long Cold War rather than a short, hot one. The democrats’ failure would produce a world that is far more threatening and dangerous, and I have little doubt that if they are unable to deliver the goods, they will be supplanted by an authoritarian leader of the xenophobic right wing.”

– U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to President George H. W. Bush, September 11, 1991 

In February 2022, eight years after the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution overthrew the pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych regime in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin launched what has become a genocidal invasion which reignited a Second Cold War with the United States and the European Union. Unfortunately James Baker’s premonition came to pass — Putin’s Russia is a global center of contemporary fascism. Those of us in the Syrian diaspora were warning of this for quite some time — now no one can ignore it. But for the first time the West is standing up to Putin’s assault against the post-Hitler international order, where territorial conquest is and should remain taboo. The U.S. revived the Cold War policy of containment, weaponized the US-dollar and global financial system, and plans to isolate Russia in the long-term.

Putin went to war armed with lies of “de-Nazification” of the only country outside Israel which had both a Jewish President and Prime Minister at the same time following the Euromaidan Revolution. After 74 years of Israeli apartheid, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emerged as a rare Jewish presidential hero standing up for democracy and against oppression. “We want to liberate our country, take back what’s ours. We can fight the Russian Federation for 10 years to take what’s ours. We can go down such a path,” Zelenskyy asserted. After failing to take the capital Kyiv and install a puppet government, Putin is now going with the “Syria playbook and regrouping for a long war to seize the whole of Ukraine.” The Russo-Ukrainian War has been going on for eight years already and may not even be halfway over. Ukraine will be able to fight for a long time with a now-unified West’s help: “In a single stroke, Mr. Putin has galvanized NATO, ended Swiss neutrality and German postwar pacifism, united an often fragmented European Union, hobbled the Russian economy for years to come, provoked a massive exodus of educated Russians and reinforced the very thing he denied had ever existed, in a way that will prove indelible: Ukrainian nationhood.” Putin’s war so far led to the biggest loss for the Russian Navy since WWII in the sinking of the Mosvka, NATO expansion to Sweden and Finland, turned Zelenskyy into a global democratic symbol, complicated an unofficial alliance with China, pushed Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle their differences so as to avoid a Russian invasion while weakened and divided, renewed a push for climate change as a global security matter, and soon may result in the US seizing Russian state assets after a historic default on Russian sovereign debt. 

Putin is most commonly compared to Hitler but his fascist invasion of Ukraine is actually more similar to that of Japan’s invasion of China. Russia is the largest country in the world and contains 140 million people, but Putin still desires the riches of Ukraine and its 40 million people. After years of war in the borderlands in Northeast China and Southeast Ukraine, the fascist empires would launch an invasion of the entire country. Ukraine is the breadbasket of Eurasia and also contains significant centers of Soviet industry — without it Russia cannot claim to be a proper empire. The two were the most important Republics of the Soviet Union, and while certainly oppressed, Ukrainians were second to Russians in running the Soviet Union. But now Putin complains how the Soviet Union actually oppressed Russians while engaging in genocide and ethnic cleansing of over 500,000 to a million people so far in Ukraine. By forcibly deporting Ukrainians to Siberia, Putin can lie that they are refugees fleeing Ukrainian aggression to justify his internal narrative that the war is really a defensive “special operation” against a Ukrainian Nazi offensive. But unlike civil wars in the past decade in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Libya, Syria, Yemen, the Russo-Ukrainian War involves white people over an incredibly strategic area of the Eurasian continent. Russia and Ukraine both export huge amounts of grain, and the Second Cold War could soon see widespread famine if several countries cannot get enough wheat. Predictions of a swift Russian victory were nearly unanimous before the invasion and they were completely wrong. “Ukraine has overwhelmed Russia — not only militarily but also in information warfare, garnering Ukraine massive support from Western nations. China must have been shocked, he added.” This will significantly affect how China views its own desire to take control of Taiwan.

Let’s be clear: this war is Putin’s fault alone and he is carrying it because he is simply a fascist who wants to control East Slavic territory. Traditionally the East Slavs are the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, who speak closely related languages and are culturally similar. Russian imperial propaganda described this as the “triune Russian nation,” and one could view their centuries of subordination to Russia similar to how England dominated Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland within the British Empire. In 1922, the three East Slav states were firmly under Vladimir Lenin’s totalitarian rule and would found the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which sought worldwide communist revolution. Though the USSR would become the last major European Empire until its dissolution in 1991, during the 1920s the Communist Party promoted the cultures of marginalized peoples in the empire. This policy of Korenizatsiya was initially overseen by Nationalities Commissar Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, and in Ukraine promoted the Ukrainian culture and language for everyone, even Russian settler families. Stalin would himself promoted genocidal Russification policies when he achieved absolute power within the USSR. 

Ukraine suffered two genocides in the 1930s and 1940s, first by Stalin, then Hitler. Stalin’s Holodomor divided the Ukrainian people from a shared East Slavic identity with Russia, but Hitler’s Holocaust united Russians and Ukrainians in a race war of survival. After World War II, the Soviet Union expanded westwards, taking what is now west Ukraine and Moldova from Poland and Romania. Ukrainian Galicia, including the city of Lviv, fell under Russian control for the first time ever. This incorporation of western Ukraine ironically led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Once Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika policies introduced freedom of speech and economic reforms, the Ukrainian independence movement grew from Galicia to encompass the entire republic. In December 1991, over 92% of Ukrainians voted for independence — it even got a majority in Crimea, the only part of Ukraine that was ethnically Russian, or Russkie. This is in contrast to the term Rossiyane, a multi-ethnic one referring to Russian-speakers — Putin clearly would like to unite the entire Russian-speaking world. But Russia balked at a Soviet Union without Ukraine because Russia would be outnumbered by Turkic peoples, and so the Union quickly collapsed. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance prevailed. The Cold War was over, but not for good. NATO would expand eastwards to encompass former members of the Soviet Union in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. But this should not be viewed as simple US imperial expansion: former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt recently noted how NATO expansion ”wasn’t NATO seeking to go East – it was former Soviet satellites and republics wishing to go West.” Eastern Europe is still traumatized by Russian imperialism and so naturally sought out NATO and the European Union for safety and prosperity. But Putin would not allow Ukraine to do the same.

Historians are still arguing over the precise beginning of the First Cold War, and they will be arguing about the beginning of the Second Cold War for the decades to come. But if it wasn’t clear we were in a Second Cold War with Putin in 2014 when he became the first person to annex European territory by force since the end of World War II, it’s clear now. The roots of this conflict go back to 2004, where Putin’s first attempt to install Yanukovych via massive vote fraud in Ukraine failed when democratic protesters succeeded in holding a fair election in what became known as the Orange Revolution. When Yanukovych won in 2010 later, he turned to Russia despite Putin losing popularity both at home and abroad after rigging the 2011 parliamentary elections. For a moment at the end of 2011 and start of 2012, it appeared as if Putin’s regime would go the way of the Arab Spring the year before. Facing impending slaughter, the Libyan democratic opposition successfully appealed to the United Nations for a no-fly zone. This led to NATO military intervention, which would ultimately lead to the death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Putin was especially “haunted by the brutal takeout of Qaddafi,” said former U.S. National Security Council member Mark Medish. “I was told that he replayed the videos again and again.” In 2012 Putin was elected to a third term as president and began a policy of promoting fascism throughout the globe to forestall democratic gains after the Arab Spring and weaken a West wearied by the George W. Bush Administration’s disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and still recovering from the 2008 Great Recession.

As the above quote by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker illustrates, we are partially in this situation now due to the failed policies of the Bush Presidencies, which lacked the creativity of advocating for a Second Marshall Plan and in 2008 foolishly forced NATO to promise Georgia and Ukraine membership without an actual roadmap. This made the failure of Russian democracy tragic and antagonized Putin, who was indeed “an authoritarian leader of the xenophobic right wing.” Putin would invade Georgia in a five-day war that year to create a territorial frozen conflict; NATO does not accept members with territorial disputes. Russian analyst Fiona Hill described the George W. Bush decision as “the worst of all possible worlds” given Putin could never accept Ukraine not dominated by Russia: in 2008 he told Bush Ukraine was “not a country.” Putin’s views reflect the official cultural line: the Russian TV landscape is a totalitarian one where different flavors of Russian Fox News rant and rave “to keep the great, 140-million-strong population reeling with oohs and aaahs about gays and God, Satan, fascists, the CIA and far-fetched geopolitical nightmares.” For Russian people, the word fascist connotes images of Hitler and the Nazis who attempted to emulate the US conquest of Native American lands through a genocidal conquest of Eastern Europe. “Our Mississippi must be the Volga,” Hitler noted, and he frequently referred to Eastern Europeans by the slur formerly used by the newly-renamed Washington Commanders football team. Because of this fascist-Hitler link, diplomats have avoided stating what is clear: Putin is a fascist, and Moscow is the main center of a new fascist international. His revanchist assertions that Ukraine is not a country but is Russia’s rightful territory is typical fascist rhetoric. A core underpinnings of the post-1945 world order is that territorial conquest and annexation is taboo and a violation of a people’s right to self-determination.

The Russian state is not organized in a classically fascist fashion, though. It is a more typical contemporary dictatorship, with rigged elections, but one that so happens to have a fascist leader.  Compare the United States and Brazil, where Trump and Bolsonaro were fascist leaders standing atop and subverting the increasingly creaky democratic system which brought them to power. But all three leaders use typical totalitarian propaganda by “flooding the zone with shit” so people become so confused and disillusioned with a never-ending-flow of propaganda that they exit the reality-based community and assume facts and truth are merely a fiction. Hannah Arendt says it best in The Origins of Totalitarianism: “Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” The main target is liberalism itself, that is to say the promotion of freedom of speech and respect and tolerance in a multiethnic world. Freedom of speech anywhere in a Russian-speaking country is threatening to a dictator like Putin, who does not want the Russian people to get any ideas. Putin desires Ukraine as a Russian fascist would, but he is also terrified of a democratic Ukraine integrated into the European Union — this would be an extremely attractive model to the average Russian given the large economic growth within the EU. For this reason Putin promoted an Eurasian Economic Union, and in 2013 he forced Yanukovych to reject an accord for future EU membership in favor of joining the Eurasian Union. Unlike the peaceful Orange Revolution ten years before, this time democratic protesters were shot and killed in the Euromaidan Revolution. 

Putin quickly invaded and annexed Crimea, and showed his full fascist plans: he attempted to break the more pro-Russian eastern and southern Ukraine into a puppet state called Novorossiya. But his blatant imperialism alienated Ukrainians and he was only able to seize half of the Donbas region in the Southeast. Taking Crimea was strategically stupid and the border war in Donbas lasted eight years before Putin decided on a full-scale invasion this February. After the Obama Administration and European Union imposed sanctions in response to his war, Putin would only go on more fascist offensives. After President Obama refused to intervene in the Syrian Civil War after the Assad regime used chemical weapons, former French President François Hollande said, “Putin considered Mr. Obama weak.” As is typical of fascists, Putin became a geopolitical gambler who kept doubling down: “in Crimea, in Syria, in Belarus, in Africa, in Kazakhstan. “Putin tells himself, ‘I am advancing everywhere. Where am I in retreat? Nowhere!’”

The pattern of major Russian intervention in the past decade can be seen from an international point of view as Putin attempting to regain control of Russia’s “near abroad,” or countries formerly part of the Soviet Union. But from a domestic point of view, they prove a useful distraction for the Russian people. The 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea was blatantly illegal under international law, but since the conquest of Crimea was seen as a core part of the Russian historical identity it was portrayed domestically as a nationalist triumph. Putin’s approval ratings rocketed to unseen heights. But this and the invasion of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region was a short-sighted play which removed the most pro-Putin part of the Ukrainian electorate and the Ukrainian people now overwhelmingly oppose greater integration with Russia.

In 2015 Putin intervened in Syria and the United States presidential election, where he was able to install a minor Russian oligarch as US President. Just as the nationalist glow of the Crimean annexation was fading, Putin intervened in Syria. This ensured the fascist, genocidal Bashar Al-Assad regime remains in power amidst a destroyed Syria. Like the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, fascists were able to triumph in Syria due to greater external support while the United States, United Kingdom, and France largely refused to support armed anti-fascists in a significant capacity. But this does not mean Putin’s victory came easily. Putin’s propaganda initially presented both Ukraine and Syria as a quick easy victory. Once it became clear this was the opposite of the truth, the Russian propaganda apparatus shifted its focus again to the Russian cyber-invasion of the 2016 United States election in support of Donald Trump. In one month, Trump was even mentioned more times than Putin on state media. (This probably irked Putin and as far as I am aware it was never repeated.) Primed by decades of white supremacist rhetoric, the Republican base embraced Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party when he promised to enact mass ethnic cleansing against undocumented immigrants. With the looming assumed victory of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, who openly supported anti-Putin protests in 2011 and would’ve supported the anti-fascist forces in Syria more strongly than the Obama Administration, Putin needed Trump and his Vichy Republicans to prevail in 2016 to ensure Syria did not fall to anti-fascist forces. While Trump was in power from 2017 to 2021, Putin was able to gain Russian control over both Syria and Belarus. After decades of playing off Russia and the West, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka was forced to become Putin’s puppet after major 2020 protests over a rigged presidential election. Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton said he believed Putin was waiting for Trump to have the United States leave NATO in his second term. I’m sure that when Trump lost the election, Putin was furious. It is likely he’s been talking himself into the necessity to conquer Ukraine ever since, with COVID isolation worsening the brain damage one gets from being a dictator.

“Putin proved no match for U.S. President Joe Biden, the most experienced politician to become U.S. President in the history of the country. As Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vice President, and now President, Biden has known key players in U.S. allies for decades and was able to quickly rally US allies to impose the most devastating sanctions ever on a country, including freezing Russia’s dollar currency reserves (significant because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency) and cutting off Russian Banks from the SWIFT system. Putin publicized an Unfriendly Countries List which is a who’s who of US allies against Russia, save Turkey as they did not join in sanctions. But the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 has been crucial to Ukraine’s ability to hold off the Russians, as has Turkey’s closing of the Turkish straits to Russian ships. This is especially important given the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, was sunk by Ukraine in the worst Russian naval loss since World War II. President Biden will soon sign the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, reviving the WWII program which allowed the US to quickly resupply allies even if they could not immediately pay for it. Stalin himself said that without Lend-Lease, the Soviet Union “would have lost” to Nazi Germany and so it is approriate Lend-Lease is today revived to defend Ukraine once again from a genocidal invasion. After defeating a Putin puppet candidate in 2020, Biden was clearly prepared for a wider confrontation with Russia, and the rest of NATO was clearly relishing a chance to strike back at Putin after four years of him weakening NATO from the inside.”

Putin spent years dividing the United States and the European Union via online propaganda and his post-2016 control over the Republican Party. Noted KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov estimated 85% of the KGB’s focus was on “a slow process which we call either ideological subversion of active measures or psychological warfare” to lower morale of an enemy state. As a KGB man, Putin is certainly adept at wielding these psychological warfare techniques, but he is no grand strategist. In two months he has undone his decades-long project of what noted Russian fascist strategist Aleksandr Dugin advocated in the infamous 1997 book The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia. Aside from the dismemberment of China, Putin’s foreign policy follows Dugin’s advice, which is predicated on introducing “geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.” No longer. Now a bipartisan supermajority of 70% of Americans view Russia as “an enemy.” The botched invasion exposed Putin to the world as a foolish fascist who fell into the dictators trap of running an empire built on lies. 

Putin’s invasion so far is a disaster — he could not take Kyiv and is now aiming to take south and east Ukraine to form his “Novorossiya” land bridge to Moldova. In short, Putin aims to reconstruct the Soviet Empire in Europe: he already controls Russia and Belarus and wants to complete the set with Ukraine and Moldova. Like with Donbas and Crimea within Ukraine and Abkhazia and South Ossetia within Georgia, Russia controls Transnistria and Gaugazia, slivers of Moldova to prevent it from reuniting with Romania as Germany did. At the end of April, Russia attacked its own forces in Transnistria, hinting at a wider hot war with Moldova, which is a neutral state according to its constitution. So “barring an increasingly-difficult-to-imagine climbdown by Putin, Russia and the West face a new Cold War.” 

Senior advisors to Chinese President Xi Jinping were shocked at the West’s unified response under President Biden. The Chinese government “never believed Washington would go so far as to weaponize the entire world’s financial system.” It is likely Russia will default on its debt for the first time since the aftermath of the Bolshevik Coup of 1917. Putin’s invasion ended over 200 years of Swiss and Swedish neutrality and will lead to NATO expansion — Sweden and Finland are expected to join NATO together in May, after a majority of voters supported this for the first time in reaction to the February invasion of Ukraine. Finns faced an attempt at reconquest by Stalin in the Winter War and afterwards were reduced pro-Moscow neutrality while remaining a somewhat democratic country internally. This gave rise to the term “Finlandization,” and was one of the options President Macron of France promoted for Ukraine before the invasion. But neither Finns nor Ukrainians have any desire to repeat their subordination to Russia, instead they want their country to live freely. Dugin says Russia’s main goal should be “the ‘Finlandization’ of all of Europe,” but this war has done the opposite — it galvanized Europe to unite to defend Ukrainian democracy. Aside from the dictator Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Europe remains united against Russian aggression. After the French re-elected Emmanuel Macron over the fascist Marine Le Pen, Putin’s best bet to win the war now is for Donald Trump to win the U.S. election in 2024, a prospect which becomes less likely the longer his Second Cold War with the West goes on.

Ukraine is the center of Russian fascist expansionism. Russian fascist scholar Dugin asserted “Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning, no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness … without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics.” Let us remember how Trump’s first impeachment dealt with him sabotaging aid to Ukraine and made it impossible for Zelensky to establish any kind of relationship with the president of the United States — who, faced with a Russian Army on his eastern border, any Ukrainian president would have as his highest priority. So basically that means Ukraine loses a year and a half of contact with the president.” Colonel Alexander Vindman noted the self-coup attempt by Trump in January 2021 “sent the signal Putin was waiting for” and he began a military build-up along the Ukrainian border while publishing a revanchist essay, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment in the aftermath of the self-coup, but Putin managed to convince himself he could pull of a blitzkrieg of Ukraine in a week or two. He was obviously very wrong — the entire culture of a dictatorship of crooks and thieves like in Russia is built on lies and embezzlement, meaning Putin was going to war with a vastly weaker army where problems are covered up instead of addressed. So Putin turned to his Syria strategy: mass killings of the civilian population to destroy morale and spread death and disillusionment.

After mass killings of civilians emerged in the Ukrainian suburb of Bucha, President Biden asserted Putin was committing genocide in Ukraine, adding he “called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting.” While said he would “let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies,” given that genocide is a legal term in international law, he added, “it sure seems that way to me.” That was the second extraordinary declaration by President Biden, after he declared in Poland that Putin “cannot remain in power.” The White House would walk back that comment, but not the one about genocide. Genocide is a topic weve explored before in the 1930s, specifically the Mexican American Genocide. There is indeed genocide taking place in Ukraine. 

Professor Eugene Finkel of John’s Hopkins University was skeptical of Russian in Ukraine genocide at first. A Ukrainian-born Jewish scholar of the Holocaust, initially told me he didn’t “think we crossed the genocide threshold already but we also don’t have all the details. If such massacres in other places, and we know that these people were murdered because of their identity, not actions,  then in that case, likely yes. But this doesn’t make Bucha any less horrible, of course.” As more massacres became clear, Finkel came to the conclusion “Bucha is a feature, not a bug. It’s not some localized incident… In each of those places, it could be written off as undisciplined Russian soldiers … but together, it clearly indicates that they were looking specifically for Ukrainians” to kill. Additionally, Russian propaganda took a genocidal turn this month, with fascist projections the likes I have never seen in all my study of history. The Ukrainian identity was equated with Nazism, the ideology which sought to emulate the United States’ genocidal conquest of Indigenous peoples towards Eastern Europe’s Slavs. Hitler proclaimed, “Our Mississippi must be the Volga” River; the Russian river is the longest in Europe.

An April 4 article in the Russian state-run news outlet RIA Novosti, “What Russia should do with Ukraine,” called for a generation-long process of ‘re-education’ in Ukraine.” Historian Timothy Snyder called it “one of the most openly genocidal documents I have ever seen.  It calls for the liquidation of the Ukrainian state, and for abolition of any organization that has any association with Ukraine.  It postulates that the “majority of the population” of Ukraine are “Nazis,” … [who] are to be killed or sent to work in “labor camps” to expurgate their guilt for not loving Russia.  Survivors are to be subject to “re-education.”  Children will be raised to be Russian.  The name “Ukraine” will disappear.“ The RIA Novosti article notes “Denazification will inevitably include de-Ukrainization.” The “intent to destroy” the Ukrainian people is clear here. That’s genocide. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took a similar line on April 5th: “It should not be surprising that Ukraine, which has been transformed mentally into the Third Reich … will suffer the same fate.’”

Snyder notes “Russia’s genocide handbook was published on April 3, two days after the first revelation that Russian servicemen in Ukraine had murdered hundreds of people in Bucha, and just as the story was reaching major newspapers.  The Bucha massacre was one of several cases of mass killing that emerged as Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region.  This means that the genocide program was knowingly published even as the physical evidence of genocide was emerging.  The writer and the editors chose this particular moment to make public a program for the elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such. As a historian of mass killing, I am hard pressed to think of many examples where states explicitly advertise the genocidal character of their own actions right at the moment those actions become public knowledge.” Eugene Finkel concurred, noting, “I never thought I would see a government almost advertising genocide, but that’s what Russians are doing.” Putin would go on to promote the butchers of Bucha.

The decisive defeat of Marine Le Pen in the April 24 French election shows how Putin’s failed to crack the West — aside from Hungary. With Macron safely re-elected U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Austin declared the U.S. goal in the Second Cold War: to see “Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.” The next day, Russian state media documented explosions at a security building in Transnistria, Moldova. The Moldovan government, which is pro-EU but neutral, warned it was an attempt “to create pretexts” and expand the war to Moldova. The hinting at Moldova makes it clear: Putin wants to control Soviet Europe: the East Slavic states of Belarus and Ukraine but also Moldova. Putin probably desires  Kazakhstan as well, but can’t afford to alienate China there. The sudden diplomacy between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the reforms announced by the Kazakh President shows they fear being invaded just as Ukraine is. Former President Obama was correct in referring to Russia as “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness,” but Eurasia is a big continent to be a regional power in. By calling all Ukrainians Nazis, Putin seeks to normalize the term and weakens its political power when leveraged against actual fascists such as himself. He’s also cynically boosting support for a war of aggression by equating it with the defense against genocidaire in World War II, known in the Soviet Union as The Great Patriotic War. But Ukraine now is fighting off its second fascist invasion — “this is their Great Patriotic War.” Bulgarian analyst Ivan Krastev noted, “Putin wanted to be the father of a new Russian nation, but he is the father of a new Ukrainian nation instead.”

Jordan Rosenberg Cobos works for Sunrun. He is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins SAIS-Tsinghua University Dual Degree Masters Program, where he focused on the geopolitics of energy. He lives in the Los Angeles area.

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