The Contradictions in Vladimir Putin’s “Just War” against Ukraine: The Myths of NATO’s Containment, Minority Protection and Denazification
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin has mobilized different arguments to justify his bellicose stance, mainly the pursuit of NATOcontainment, the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking minorities, and the “denazification” of Ukraine. In this article I analyze the contradictions and inconsistencies in these three arguments. Firstly, I show that, although Russian elites had legitimate considerations to contest NATO enlargement during the post-Cold War era, there is no evidence that Putin’s military aggression was motivated by this issue: as previously expected, the invasion has further strengthened the alliance, provided it with a legitimate raison d’être, and contributed to an even more intense military presence near Russian borders; the European balance of power is now much more favorable to NATO than before the conflict. Secondly regarding the humanitarian intentions of protecting the Russian-speaking communities in Eastern Ukraine, the Russian invasion has so far led to the opposite result: ten months of war caused more civilian deaths than eight years of war in Donbas, and the Russian-speaking population has been exactly the most affected victim. Finally, with regard to the “fight against Nazism”, although in Ukraine there are ultranationalist groups, there is no evidence that such groups currently count on significant political influence and broad support in society; furthermore, the Russian authorities themselves have ties to similar groups. The “denazification” narrative represents a strategy of demonizingthe opponent, mobilized to legitimize the dismemberment and extinguishing of Ukraine as a state and nation. The current war has laid bare the Kremlin’s double standardpolitics: civilian deaths resulting from attempts by Ukraine to regain control of its territory are evidence of “genocide”; while the civilian deaths resulting from the Russian invasion are just the “side effects” of a legitimate fight against “Nazis” and NATO
Keywords:War in Ukraine (Russo-Ukrainian War); NATO Enlargement; War in Donbas, Denazification; Vladimir Putin.