The international community’s response to the Putinization of the situation in Ukraine

Some ten months ago, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin decided to cure the country’s post-communist inferiority complex with a new sense of delusions of grandeur in which Russia is willing to abandon the rest of its soft power arsenal and replace it with a desire to attain the Kremlin’s political objectives by any means necessary in the most Machiavellian manner by unleashing a full-scale war on a peaceful neighboring country. By doing so he replaced the last shreds of the westward-oriented political project of his predecessor with the so-called “Russkij mir” which probably comprises the worst elements of its national identity: a mixture of all Russian ideologies of neo-imperialistic expansionist inclinations combined with Ivan the Terrible’s autocratic ruthlessness, nostalgia for the USSR, Putinism that feeds on the example of Joseph Stalin’s cult of personality underpinned by a policy of a casually inflicted system of repression, and indoctrination projected by the media that remains in the hands of the one man – Vladimir Putin. This ideology is strongly supported by Aleksandr Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics (1997) and his neo-Eurasianist doctrine that suggests that Russia is destined to correct all the historical acts of injustice inflicted upon it by ungrateful erstwhile brotherly nations that are now misguided in their pro-Western attitudes.

This ideology of contemporary Russism (also known as Ruscism, Rashism) is manifested in an openly anti-Western stand, supported by the ideas of the special civilizational mission of the Russian Federation that advocates embracing a special historical mission to reconquer the former imperial lands of the Soviet Union (just like the Brezhnev Doctrine) combined with similar expansionist policies of Imperial Russia itself (Catherine the Great and Peter the Great’s quest to expand Russia’s frontiers beyond the horizon, which was always supported by the theological and political idea suggesting that Moscow is the third Rome, which is why it should unite all Slavs under its rule, even if they are not so excited about such prospects.

The way the Russian army has conducted its operations in Ukraine has reduced the chance of any profound post-war reconciliation between the countries to almost zero for the Russian army has increased its brutality during this conflict and utilized some of the most brutal counterinsurgency strategies developed in its previous operations in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. The crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine constitute a sobering reminder that the most brutal behavior can still be cynically weaponized for political purposes even in the 21st century – a century that was expected to be more peaceful than ever before. So far, this involves inflicting on the local populations of occupied territories indiscriminate crimes such as willful killings, summary executions, torture, gang rapes, and mass sexual assaults taking place at gunpoint, in a deliberate attempt to dehumanize, intimidate, and humiliate their victims and force them into submission. In most cases, it was the Ukrainian women who ended up exposed to the litany of war crimes and despicable cruelties at the hands of both the Russian troops and the Russian-affiliated mercenaries hired to fight in Ukraine. Some of the most horrific examples of sexual violence against Ukrainian civilians include gang rapes inflicted on school children, girls, and boys, or committed in front of children and their family members during which the loved ones were forced to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child, which will inevitably reinforce the post-traumatic stress disorder of those who experienced these cruelties.

300 days have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine, and still, despite that this campaign accounts for a massive military and geostrategic blunder and has caused reputational damage to the entire Russian Federation, Putin appears to be determined to escalate his war in Ukraine with concern for neither civilian casualties nor Western sanctions. Putin looks determined to escalate this war for the decades to come, for from his perspective it is not about territorial landgrab, it is all about geopolitics. He knows that this organization does not like to admit new members that have not resolved their domestic conflicts, and that is why he behaves like an unpredictable elephant in a China shop in Ukraine to destabilize this country, to keep slowing the process of Kyiv’s integration with NATO to turn the whole enterprise of admitting this country to this organization into an undesirable scenario.

This is why we should apply a new neologism such as Putinization to our descriptions of Putin’s actions in Ukraine. In socio-political terms, the Putinization of the situation in any given country would be explained as both official and unofficial attempts of the Russian Federation aimed at “restoring” Russian domination and hegemony in Eastern Europe and Asia at any cost: by instigating an unprecedented, unpredictable, and uncontrollable series of vicious events and war crimes, most likely producing a river of “micro Katyń Massacres” (as we have already witnessed in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Kherson, and other places in Ukraine) aimed at intimidating local populations to cause an ultimate disintegration of a broader political unit and its abrupt replacement with several political units, and the subsequent annexation of these territories into the Russian Federation under the false pretense of the alleged pre-existence of some previously unspecified and unverifiable political will to join the Russian Federation declared by the alleged majority of the Russian-speaking people inhabiting those territories.

The bottom line is that Russia is one of the UNSC’s P5 member states and should be doing its very best to protect global peace and security, peacefully resolve conflicts at the negotiation tables, and most certainly not embrace the opposites of these policies. This means that without the harsh punishment of the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Ukraine, any future Russian leader is likely to resort to the same strategy of Putinization and apply it against other peaceful nations in the future. They would simply assume that they can apply it with impunity, the same impunity that Putin enjoyed for the last 22 years (or more). The notion that “everything is permitted for Russia as far as international relations are concerned,” sounds too good to be true, yet it is the main geostrategic premise of the Putin Doctrine. For, empowered by the limitations of the current status quo, the future leaders of Russia would be likely to continue to inflict Russia’s neoimperialist policies on neighboring states in the future. Therefore, we need to be very careful and rational in our response to this problem.

If we wish to find a meaningful solution to the current situation it must be systemic, and it has to be implemented within the UN-based security system. That is why I encourage every decision-maker in this organization to consider adopting a Putin Lex that would clearly state that “UNSC permanent member states who actively engages in a military campaign against an independent country automatically loses their place at the UNSC table until an independent international tribunal clears them of the charge of the violation of the principle of state sovereignty (or for a minimum period of 25 years).” Under such circumstances, once Russia is relieved of its UNSC P5 seat, the Russian war machine could be stopped by all legal means necessary. This may sound like a political science fiction idea, but we can achieve this if we persuade Britain, the US, France, China, and the rest of the world to act together to reform the UNSC. Alternatively, we could always try to persuade future Russian leaders to stop acting like a disingenuous P5 member state.

The question remains as to whether the international community has the courage to reform the UN-based security system, so we can use the gathered evidence of obvious war crimes to bring responsible parties to justice, or if we embrace the same divisive politics as usual in endless deliberations that end when a UNSC permanent member state vetoes a perfectly drafted resolution that could bring us closer to some progress.

*This article is a short summary of the paper titled “The Putinization of the situation of women and children during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine” published in In Statu Nascendi Vol. 5, No. 2 (2022) Journal of Political Philosophy and International Relations in December 2022.

Piotr Pietrzak, Ph.D.
Piotr Pietrzak, Ph.D.
PIOTR PIETRZAK, Ph.D. teaches Global Problems. Global Solutions as part of a Master’s Program titled “Political pathologies of the global world (in English)” at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. He specializes in the Middle East & the Islamic World; he looks at his research area through the prism of some of the most exciting developments in International Relations theory, geopolitics, conflict resolution strategies, and international law. His primary interests relate to relatively recent socio-political developments in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Chechnya, the Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Mali, Georgia, and Ukraine. Pietrzak is a co-founder and an editor-in-chief of *In Statu Nascendi – Journal of Political Philosophy and International Relations, a non-profit charitable organization based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He holds a Ph.D. Degree in Philosophy from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridiski (2021), a master’s degree in International Politics & International Relations from the University of Manchester (2013), and a master’s degree in Politics from the University of Warmia and Mazury (2008). He was awarded an Erasmus Scholarship to the University of Cyprus in 2007.