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Putin’s philoso­phers: Who in­spired him to in­vade Ukraine?

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Who would have imagined that news of the pandemic – which is not over – would be replaced with news of a new war in Europe? If we are to go by the shock expressed by so many in the media over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an all-out invasion of Ukraine, the answer is not many.

Actually, there was little reason to be surprised. Just as many scientists and institutions had been warning that a new influenza pandemic was imminent years before COVID-19, many political scientists and journalists, from John Mearsheimer to Pepe Escobar, have long been warning that if NATO continues expanding towards Russia’s borders, a deadly confrontation in Ukraine could be on the cards.

If the world took these warnings seriously, the horrific consequences of both events could have perhaps been limited. But over a month into the conflict, it feels counterproductive to talk about what could have been or discuss the origins of or motivations behind the war. Nevertheless, it is vital to understand why we ended up here because understanding this could be key to resolving it. So who could help us understand?

Before we start naming names, we must understand that Putin’s longer-term motivations for invading Ukraine are much more important for our purposes than the acts and events that eventually led him to give the order for this “special military operation”. While NATO’s continued efforts to encircle Russia, despite many warnings from the Kremlin, appear to be the immediate trigger that led Putin to invade, there were also deeper philosophical and ideological motivations behind this invasion – motivations only certain Russian thinkers can help us understand. Of course, after seeing the devastation the invasion has brought upon the Ukrainian people, none of these motivations can justify Putin’s actions – but they can help us understand the many dimensions of the global geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, and help us come up with recipes for its resolution.

Vladislav Surkov, or “Putin’s Rasputin” as Soviet-born British journalist Peter Pomerantsev once called him in an article for the London Review of Books, is the thinker most widely cited as the ideological mastermind behind Putin’s politics and thus the Ukraine invasion. A long-term councillor to the Kremlin, Surkov was the main ideologist........

© Al Jazeera

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