Ten months into an invasion that was supposed to only last a few days, Kremlin officials are trying their very hardest to spin their war as something that could end tomorrow if Ukraine just acted a bit more… reasonably.
The latest is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who on Monday night made a very unconvincing case as to why it’s all the victim’s fault and Russia simply has no other choice but to carry on fighting.
Oh no, what’s he said this time?
It’s worth looking at a segment of what he said in full:
“Our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of the territories controlled by the regime, the elimination of threats to Russia's security emanating from there, including our new lands, are well known to the enemy.
“The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”
Break it down for me
OK. Let’s start with “demilitarization”. Ukraine right now is one of the most militarized countries on the planet. What Lavrov doesn’t mention is that this is in direct response to Russia’s invasion.
One other thing you’d be hard pushed to get a Russian official to admit is that quite a significant amount of military equipment in Ukraine is the rusted out shells of Russian tanks, artillery and helicopters that are testament to just how terribly this is all going for them.
Next up, “denazification”. The term “Nazi” is thrown around a lot and is a go-to theme for Kremlin officials looking to tar anyone who dares resist them.
And what made the original Nazis very, very bad people? Well, it was undoubtedly their habit of launching genocidal wars of imperialist conquest, just like erm… modern Russia.
What are these “new lands” he’s talking about?
In a nutshell, they’re the bits of Ukraine the Kremlin insists are Russia, even though they’re definitely not.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine back in September, saying at the time during a grand showcase to show off his supposed might and prowess: “I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever.”
Ah yes, I remember. And how did Ukraine react?
By liberating Kherson just six weeks later.
What about the last part of what Lavrov said? It sounds like an ominous threat…
On the face of it yes, it does sound a bit ominous. But then you have to remember that, aside from the initial invasion itself, the Russian army has decided very little in Ukraine.
Actually, we tell a lie. They decided to withdraw from Kyiv. They decided at least nine dead generals was perfectly acceptable in an operation that was supposed to be over in a matter of days. They decided the retreat from the strategically vital Snake Island was a “gesture of goodwill.” You get the idea.
Why does Lavrov make such delusional statements?
He doesn’t have a choice given his boss is the absolute master of them. Despite mounting human and material losses and growing international isolation, Putin has shown no readiness to change tactics.
On Sunday, Putin said his assault on Ukraine aimed to “unite the Russian people,” accusing his country's “geopolitical opponents (of) aiming to tear apart Russia, the historical Russia.”
The Kremlin chief has reiterated the concept of “historical Russia” to argue that Ukrainians and Russians were one people.
“Divide and conquer, that's what they have always sought to accomplish and are still seeking to do,” Putin said in a television interview, referring to the West.
“But our goal is different: it's to unite the Russian people.” He said that Moscow was ready to negotiate and appeared unfazed when asked about a new air defence system the U.S. has agreed to deliver to Ukraine.
“Of course we will destroy it, 100 percent!” Putin said.
It’s highly doubtful.