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Strategic Logic and Political Ideology: Rethinking Russia's Invasion of Ukraine

MIN READMar 2, 2022 | 17:31 GMT

A Russian soldier stands next to a poster showing a map of Russia during military drills in Siberia.

A Russian soldier stands next to a poster showing a map of Russia during military drills in Siberia.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia’s three-front invasion of Ukraine, and Kyiv’s unpreparedness despite weeks of Western warnings, highlight a key risk in strategic analysis -- that is, failing to appreciate how political ideology can at times bypass strategic logic. There was no pressing need for Russia to take a maximalist position on Ukraine at this time. Ukraine's membership in NATO was at least a decade out. Arms sales and shipments to Ukraine were not sufficient to embolden Kyiv to try and retake the breakaway republics in the east. Russia’s perceived threat from Ukraine was a longstanding one, but one that had no compelling reason to need to be solved now, particularly through such a costly and risky method as Moscow chose. But strategic logic can be subsumed by political ideology, clouding the overall strategic assessment and skewing the risk vs. reward ratio. In Russia’s case, the repeated idea that an independent Ukraine is both...

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