Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Putin’s War in Ukraine about Ideology Not Territory, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

                Staunton, Aug. 12 – Vladimir Pastukhov, the London-based Russian analyst, is “one of the few liberal analysts who has openly written that the contemporary world is experiencing a most serious global divide, the line of which does not coincide with state borders and which bears an ideological and values character, Aleksandr Skobov says.

                And now Pastukhov has applied that insight to an analysis of the war in Ukraine and its meaning not only for the combatants but the broader world, the Moscow commentator says. (For Pastukhov’s article, see; for Skobov’s,

                According to Skobov, Pastukhov argues that the imperialist nature of Russia’s action and the national-liberation quality of the Ukrainian defense are only the external forms of that conflict. In fact, underlying them is “a civic conflict, which is shared by the entire post-Soviet space.”

“The war,” Pastukhov believes in Skobov’s words, “is between two extreme radical minorities: those who promote a European project of ‘a great leap’ into the modern world and those who advance a Eurasian one involving ‘a great leap’ into the past.” As such, this war “is not so much about resources (including territory) as about values.”

“In Ukraine,” this argument continues, “the majority of the population is attached to the progressive pro-European minority; in Russia, it follows the reactionary pro-imperial one.” But both societies are split: Ukraine has people who favor the archaic approach and Russia, people who favor the modern one.

All this makes things complicated for the West which is also divided. “Behind the façade of a broad anti-Putin consensus … there is also concealed a deep internal split.” Those opposing aid to Ukraine are currently relatively quiet, “but they haven’t gone away.” And in addition to those who want trade with Russia, there are others who are “ideologically motivated.”

“These include not only the ordinary extreme right friends of Putin but also the left-radical opponents of capitalism who view Putin’s Russia as a temporary ally in the struggle with the Western establishment.” Western leaders thus have to take these divides at home as they calculate how much aid to provide Ukraine.

As a result, the war is likely to be prolonged and its outcome is likely to depend on which of these three domestic situations, in Russia, in Ukraine and in the West, destabilizes first. Which one it will be, Pastukhov argues in Skobov’s words, is today “far from obvious.”

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