Putin Claims Ukraine Conflict Is About “Principles,” Not Territory

Putin’s Surprising Assertion

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military forces have been engaged in a nearly 20-month conflict with Ukraine, has made a surprising claim that the war is not driven by territorial ambitions but by “principles.”

The Devastating Toll

The ongoing conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties, the destruction of entire communities, and the obliteration of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, and Moscow’s forces have also attempted to annex four Ukrainian regions, in addition to the Crimea, which has been under Russian occupation since 2014, a move condemned by international law.

Putin’s Assertion at Valdai Forum

Despite the actions on the ground, Putin made a bold assertion on Thursday, October 5, during his speech at the Valdai Forum in Sochi.

He stated, “The Ukraine crisis is not a territorial conflict,” and emphasized Russia’s disinterest in acquiring additional territory.

This statement comes from the leader of the world’s largest country by land area.

Not a Geopolitical Balance Attempt

Putin clarified that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were not an attempt to establish regional geopolitical balance, contrary to some interpretations.

Instead, he claimed that the core issue was “about the principles underlying the new international order.”

Denial of Principles Leads to Conflicts

According to Putin, conflicts arise when these principles are denied. He alluded to the West without explicitly naming it, suggesting that Western elites create enemies to justify military actions and expansion.

Putin argued that one of the principles is “a balance in the world where no one can unilaterally force or compel others to live or behave as a hegemon pleases.”

Shifting Rationale for the War

It’s important to note that this assertion represents a shift in Putin’s rationale for the war in Ukraine. Previously, he had justified the conflict by claiming that Ukraine’s desire to join NATO posed a grave threat to Russia.

He also framed the invasion as a mission to “de-Nazify” Ukraine and emphasized cultural, linguistic, and political ties between Ukraine and Russia.

Additionally, he likened himself to the 18th-century Russian czar, Peter the Great, in historical context.

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