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Putin’s Case for War, Annotated


And Mr. Putin’s use of “denazify,” in context with his false claim that Ukraine’s democratic government is a neo-Nazi dictatorship, is seen as a threat to topple that government outright. Western intelligence agencies have warned for weeks that Moscow may be plotting to install a pliant dictatorship in Kyiv.

Still, it is possible that these references are bluster, meant to intimidate Ukraine into accepting some accommodation short of full Russian subjugation.

I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. I will explain what this means: The military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families. … I want to emphasize again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.

Mr. Putin’s offer of amnesty to Ukrainian soldiers who leave the battlefield is most likely intended to encourage desertion.

But it may also serve as a warning that Russian forces will accept heavy bloodshed in their invasion, which is already reaching into civilian areas, on the grounds that responsibility for loss of life ultimately rests on Ukrainian forces for not immediately surrendering.

I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside. No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.

This statement is widely seen as a threat of nuclear strikes against any Western country that might militarily intervene against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian threats of using nuclear weaponry to retaliate against an attack on Russia itself are nothing new. But Mr. Putin, in extending this nuclear umbrella to cover his invasion forces in Ukraine, has issued a major and potentially destabilizing threat. Russian forces have carried out nuclear exercises in recent days, likely intended as a signal of his sincerity.

Citizens of Russia … It is our strength and our readiness to fight that are the bedrock of independence and sovereignty and provide the necessary foundation for building a reliable future for your home, your family, and your Motherland.

Mr. Putin ends by appealing directly to Russian citizens to support his war in Ukraine as a necessary national struggle.

But there is every indication, including in opinion polls, that Russian citizens, as well as members of the country’s all-important elite, do not want a war with Ukraine and are deeply skeptical of Mr. Putin’s aggression. If Mr. Putin hopes to stave off public or political backlash as the war’s already-mounting political and economic toll on Russia rise, appeals to national struggle, such as this one, have so far proven severely insufficient.

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