These grand strategic calculations are above the understanding of the casual Western media consumer, mostly because they’ve been dumbed down by overdramatic and highly emotive fearmongering narratives about Russian motivations for years already.
The US-led West and their Mainstream Media allies are spinning the false narrative that Russia wants to “invade” Ukraine without explaining why Moscow would ever want to do this. Their target audience is simply supposed to accept these dramatic claims as fact without questioning them, supposedly proven by what they describe as Russia’s military buildup along its western borders. It appears as though the perception managers behind this information warfare campaign assume that their targets have already been successfully preconditioned into believing this after incessant fake news to this effect for years.
It’s crucial to debunk this fake news narrative. Russia has absolutely no interest in “invading” Ukraine. Crimea aside, which is a unique situation that doesn’t play any role whatsoever in the current crisis, none of the territory that Kiev claims as its own is worth the financial, military, and political costs of Russia “taking them over”. In reality, what’s really happening is that Russia has finally declared its red lines vis-à-vis NATO’s continual eastern expansion and suspected plans to deploy strike missiles near its border in order to secure its nuclear second-strike capabilities and thus retain the strategic balance.
None of this is about territory, especially not the two self-declared Donbass Republics. While there are emotive arguments inside Russia itself for supporting its citizens, co-ethnics, and sympathizers there, formally incorporating them into the Russian Federation hasn’t (at least not yet) been considered to be worth the expected costs. Those territories have no strategic value like Crimea does, nor the same compelling historical-political precedent for (re-)incorporation. They don’t even form so-called “buffers” since they only comprise a fraction of the Russian-Ukrainian border.
This observation is even more self-evident when talking about the rest of Ukraine. A significant portion of this ethnically mixed country pathologically hates Russia nowadays. Moscow would have no interest in forcibly “annexing” them like the West regularly fearmongers just for “prestige’s” sake only to risk a guerrilla war there. Furthermore, Ukraine is already mostly deindustrialized and therefore isn’t worth the economic costs of “taking over”. If anything, it would be a massive strain on the already beleaguered Russian budget, not to mention all of the sanctions that the US-led West would be expected to impose.
President Putin isn’t some “far-right ethno-nationalist” like he’s misportrayed by the US-led Western Mainstream Media as being. While he cares about the treatment of his co-ethnics abroad, especially in the former Soviet Union, he’s not motivated to restore that former geopolitical project. All that he wants is for Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities to be preserved, which he fears are being eroded by NATO’s continual eastward expansion and his intelligence agencies’ suspicions that the US will clandestinely deploy strike weapons to the region under the cover of “anti-missile systems”.
These grand strategic calculations are above the understanding of the casual Western media consumer, mostly because they’ve been dumbed down by overdramatic and highly emotive fearmongering narratives about Russian motivations for years already. Additionally, simply talking about these aforesaid calculations immediately shifts the narrative since it casts blame on the US-led West for the undeclared missile crisis in Europe, not Russia, which is an accurate assessment of the situation but one which contradicts the first-mention’s weaponized fake news narrative about events.
In the worst-case scenario of a conventional Russian-Ukrainian conflict – one sparked either by Russia defending its national security interests after Kiev provokes a third round of Civil War hostilities and/or possibly even attacks its forces across the border directly – Russia would seek to “get in, get it done, and get out”, not “invade”, “occupy”, and subsequently “annex” Ukraine whether in part or in whole for the reasons that were explained above. All that Moscow would aim to do is neutralize the military threat to its red lines, though this might be done in a “shock-and-awe” manner depending on the scenario.
What’s most dangerous about all of this is that the anti-Russian faction of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) might have convinced themselves that they can provoke a so-called “manageable crisis” with Russia. This would be done to distract from rising domestic pressure on Biden following his spree of legislative failures and spoil the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics exactly as the US did during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics after having Georgia provoke something eerily similar with Russia during that time too.
In preparation of this possible scenario, they’ve preconditioned the public to expect Russia to “invade”, “occupy”, and “annex” Ukraine, though in reality all that Russia might do at the very most is neutralize the military threat to its nuclear second-strike capabilities in that neighboring nation, perhaps through a limited ground campaign to that end, and maybe recognize the Donbass Republics. It will not under any circumstances “invade”, “occupy”, and “annex” the entirety of Ukraine since doing so would be extremely counterproductive and not worth the financial, military, and political costs.