aslund63_Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images_putin call-in Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images

Putin’s Dangerous Ukraine Narrative

Russian President Vladimir Putin has lately been going to great lengths to highlight the historical linkages between his country and Ukraine. In denying that Ukraine has any right to independence, Putin is setting the stage for war.

STOCKHOLM – Russian President Vladimir Putin is obsessed with Ukraine – or, rather, with pretending that Ukraine doesn’t exist. In his annual call-in show on June 30, he claimed that “Ukrainians and Russians are a single people.” He then published an article aimed at justifying that “conviction,” by tracing the two countries’ shared history. It is a masterclass in disinformation – and one step short of a declaration of war.

Putin begins his tale in Ancient Rus, where Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians were united by one language and – after the “baptism of Russia” into the Orthodox religion – one faith until the fifteenth century. Even amid fragmentation, Putin writes, the people perceived Russia as their shared motherland.

According to this narrative, the Polish-Russian War of 1605-18 was, for the people, “liberating.” Ukrainians were “reunited” with the rest of the Russian Orthodox people, forming “little Russia,” and the word “Ukraine” was used to mean something like “on the frontier.”