24 February 2022, The Tablet

Religious roots of Ukraine crisis

Putin’s strategy


Has Vladimir Putin gone mad? It is a question hinted at when the British Prime Minister accused him of behaving “irrationally” towards Ukraine. But the understanding of Putin’s motives seems to stop there, an implicit attempt to shame him into acting rationally. But in another reality, populated by ideas familiar enough in Russia, his determination to resist its enemies even to the death is not mad or irrational but necessary, and dictated by Providence. In a broadcast to the Russian people in which he explained why their armed forces were crossing the frontier into Ukraine’s Donbas region, Putin asserted that Ukraine itself was not a legitimate sovereign nation with its own government but an invalid “regime” imposed by the West out of a desire to hurt Russia.

Is this pure paranoia? What is this Russia he talks about? This is where Putin abandons the conventional geopolitical realities. In their place he puts a kind of Russian Exceptionalism – a word more often used about the United States’ view of itself. The usual rules do not apply. Exceptionalism trumps both international and domestic law, hence Russia’s willingness to assassinate its enemies wherever in the world they may be hiding. Its rationale is not just historical but also theological, and it is at this point that the Western sceptical secular mind might start to disengage. Conventional western wisdom is that Putin is simply an expansionist power-grabber wanting to strengthen global Russian influence. It lacks the imagination to see what is happening in anything other than purely material terms.

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £30 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login