Financial Review, March 2022
Watching Russia’s military machine grind a gruesome path through Ukraine, it’s impossible not to feel you’ve seen this tragedy before. The artillery volleys slamming into apartment blocks, the firing on evacuation corridors, and even the disorganisation and hubris of the attack are all familiar scenes from Chechnya, Georgia, or Syria. Whatever the location, the ending has been the same: cities reduced to rubble. President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is barely two weeks old, but this time it’s starting to look like an act of retribution that has no obviously achievable endgame.
As Russia’s generals shift to ever more brutal tactics, it isn’t clear how Putin can marry Ukraine’s devastation with the goals he’s set out: namely, to create a neighbour that’s no longer “anti-Russian” and, in the process, to change Europe’s post-Cold War security order in Moscow’s favour.