“The West has to make an impossible choice”

“The West has to make an impossible choice”

"Nobody expected Putin to invade Ukraine"

23-03-2022 · Background

Years ago, political scientist Giselle Bosse could see some strategic logic in Putin’s military violence, but now she can’t make head or tail of it. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Putin were to start using nuclear weapons on a small scale.”

Each time Giselle Bosse (40) was in Kiev – where she carried out research into the relations between Ukraine and the EU – she visited a monument in the city: a light blue and an orange tank, both painted with flowers. “It is an anti-war monument, which for me was a symbol of the phase in which Ukraine found itself. The country had been independent for about ten years and cities such as Kyiv and Lviv were coming to life more and more. With fashion, art, culture. At the same time, Ukraine was a big player in the world in the field of IT software. Truly a country that was developing, with a new generation that was working on a better future.”

By now, almost all hope has gone. “Look at Mariupol, which has been destroyed for 90 per cent, says Bosse. “Just like Grozny. The capital city of Chechnya was completely flattened by bombs in 1999 and 2000, and schools, hospitals, and maternity facilities were not spared; the population was starved and safe corridors were not respected. Does the same fate await Odessa and Kyiv?”


As objectionable as it is, until recently there was a certain strategic logic to be found in Putin’s ‘imperialistic’ politics, says Bosse. “In 2014, he invaded the Crimea, where a considerable number of ethnic Russians live. That annexation was unacceptable, but from a strategic point of view understandable. Just like the war in the east of Ukraine, Lugansk and Donetsk, also with a lot of Russians.”

That local conflict, moreover, offers Russia a maximum result with minimal effort. “It creates permanent instability and increases the influence of Russia in Ukraine. Putin followed the same tactic in Georgia, where he supports the separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as in Moldavia, where he assists Transnistria. It also gives him room to issue threats, to keep tensions high, to escalate. So, in every way an understandable strategy.”

Enemy no. 1

But then he suddenly invaded Ukraine, says Bosse. “Something nobody expected. Neither the Ukrainians, nor the experts. Because what is the added value? The only thing you could think of is that Putin intended it as a Blitzkrieg, expecting to quickly install a puppet regime.”

A plan that had no chance of succeeding anyway, according to Bosse. “Ukraine has been ruled by foreign powers – such as the Turkish, Austria-Hungary, the Russians – so often that the population has regarded its independence since the nineteen-nineties as a great good. Even the ethnic Russians in the east did so.”

But no matter what, a ‘strong leader’ such as Putin will always have to win, says Bosse. “He sees himself as a descendant of St Vladimir, who declared Christianity as the official religion in Kievan Rus’ at the beginning of the 11th century. After his death, he was revered as the man who converted Russia. Putin also feels connected to Catherine the Great, which is worrisome, because she was responsible for the great Russian expansion to the west, including parts of Poland.”

His ideas have become more radical the past few years. “Anger against the West has also increased. I heard from people who know Putin that the idea for the invasion in Ukraine took root after Biden declared that China was from then on the US’s enemy no. 1. True or not, that will have hurt someone like Putin in his soul.”

Air force

Those who are optimistic, says Bosse, hope that Russia will only occupy the southern strip of Ukraine and will relinquish the idea of further conquests. “That Putin will be satisfied with the ports of Mariupol and Odessa, from where Ukraine ships 70 per cent of all exports. In doing so, he is holding the country in a painful grip and he connects Russia to the Crimea.”

But as far as Bosse is concerned, that scenario is unlikely. “Ukraine will not accept that, but neither will the West. For Zelensky, neutrality may still be negotiable, but nothing else.”

Should the West offer Putin a way out to prevent him losing face? “How can you do that if you don’t know what his strategy or objectives are? The comparison that is sometimes made, is that of a bear in a cage. You can offer the animal a way out by setting the door ajar slightly, and allow the bear to return to the woods. But who is going to do that, after everything that has happened?”

The violence is only escalating, says Bosse. “Putin is not making headway on the ground, also because he has too few troops to capture all those cities, so I expect that he will start to use the air force intensively. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is going to use small-scale chemical and nuclear weapons.”

Bosse is less afraid that the Baltic States are next. “Hopefully, he won’t be quick to attack NATO countries, but I am worried about countries such as Georgia, which has always been pro-Western. Such an invasion would actually also harm the West, because the gas that the EU imports from Azerbaijan runs via Georgia. And that pipeline, the so-called Southern Gas Corridor, is crucial to the EU, especially now, because people want to be less dependent on Russian gas.

So the question that remains, is: What should the West do? “It is an impossible choice, with potentially apocalyptic consequences. Not becoming involved will lead to the most horrifying humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Becoming involved could lead to a Third World War. Putin may take a step back, if the NATO becomes involved. If not, the risk of a nuclear war is great.”

Foto: Manny Moss, Flickr

Categories: news_top, Science
Tags: ukraine,bosse,russia,putin,war,invasion,EU,NATO,zelensky,instagram

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