The 8 ways Putin failed Russia in Ukraine

Russian soldiers behind a razor-wire barrier


Analysis & Opinion, Russia

At a time when criticizing Ukraine for mistakes it has made in pursuing its goals is a cottage industry not only in Ukraine and Russia but in the West, Maksim Artemyev, a commentator for, identifies eight major mistakes Moscow has made that Russia has made in its Ukrainian policy.

What makes his list both especially valuable and potentially influential is that it is based not on a moral assessment of Russia’s violation of international law but rather on a consideration of the ways in which Vladimir Putin has taken actions that undercut Russia’s interests.

Artemyev’s eight Russian mistakes in Ukraine are as follows:

  • First of all, the annexation of Ukraine and the manner in which it was done with a highly irregular referendum increasingly appears to be not a well-considered policy, but “a nervous improvisation with consequences” that few in Moscow reflected upon: a permanent spat with Ukraine and the West, incredible new government burdens, and no real gains.
  • Second, Moscow adopted a constantly shifting and ambivalent position on the Donbas, first encouraging people there to think they could become part of Russia and then rejecting that idea while deepening its own direct military involvement there, something that “only deepened and prolonged the crisis” without benefit to Moscow.
  • Third, Moscow’s bold talk about how sanctions would work to Russia’s benefit and even more its introduction of counter-sanctions have turned out to be nothing more than a bluff not only for the country as a whole but for the elite. “The parasitic essence of the ruling class has remained unchanged: its representatives as before keep their savings in the West,” regardless of what happens to Russia. As a result, Artemyev continues, “the economic growth of the last decade has degenerated into stagnation and depression,” to a situation like when Putin came to power with a weak ruble, a collapsing infrastructure, and all talk about improving the lives of people put off for a long time to come. And Moscow failed to see that “the collapse of Ukraine is the collapse of Russia, a hit on its own economy.” The two countries remain to this day so inter-connected that this could not be otherwise, but the Russian planners of the Ukrainian adventure utterly failed to take that into account.
  • Fourth, he says, “the anti-Maidan hysteria” of the Ukrainian campaign has become “the occasion for the adoption of a number of draconian laws and government decisions on the media and the Internet which not only reduce freedom of speech but have the effect of throwing Russia ever further behind the West.
  • Fifth, the Russian government’s propaganda has “lowered the level of intellectual life” in Russia by promoting “black-white thinking and the psychology of ‘a besieged fortress’” and the denial of the obvious – as when Moscow says Russian troops are not in Ukraine – is contributing to “duplicity and schizophrenia.” All this will cause Russia to fall further and further behind.
  • Sixth, Artemyev says, the war has led, not surprisingly, to a dramatic rise in the role of military and other security officials in the Russian government, something that has the effect of reducing attention to all the country’s problems which are not directly connected with the conflict.
  • Seventh, and perhaps especially seriously for the future, as a result of its use of volunteers and irregular forces in the Donbas, the Kremlin has created a situation in which “the monopoly of the state on arms and force has been violated,” something that could threaten Russia from within and that is already further alienating Russia’s neighbors.
  • And eighth, Moscow’s demand for the federalization of Ukraine is extraordinarily “shortsighted” because it means that the Donbas will be divided and will get fewer resources from Kyiv than would otherwise be the case, as the experience of centralized states in Europe with significant regions shows.

As a result of all these mistakes, Artemyev says, “a regime on the banner of which is written ‘stability and no accidents’ has in a paradoxical way made a choice in favor of the unpredictable.” And that unpredictability, he suggests, will rebound against and inside Russia as a result.

“The number of risks is growing exponentially,” he writes, noting that “already today the Kremlin is forced to coordinate its moves with yesterday’s marginals, the leaders of the “DNR” and “LNR.”” Had Moscow distanced itself from the events of the Maidan rather than gotten involved in the way that it has, it might have avoided many of these problems.

But that is not what has happened, and Moscow’s efforts to keep Ukraine from moving toward the West have proved to be “too costly” for Russia itself, not only because of what they have meant in terms of relations with the rest of the world, including Russia’s other neighbors, but perhaps equally important in terms of what they mean for Russia itself.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • MB

    let the trolls roll in. Tadaaaaa!

  • Olya

    Lets hope that this will be its downfall. Lying, cheating, threatening, mocking killing, bullying, etc.
    all these negativities have their own price!

  • Michel Cloarec

    It is only to wait some hours and the trolls will wake up !
    This 8 points list is so near the real truth it can be !
    Such a great politician is putin NOT ! But of course like any other men who did take power in their countries with false pretentions, he will not give up and retreat. He must destroy to see the results of his deeds and achievement.
    He thought that Minsk2 would be like Minsk1, and there he made another big mistake , because he managed to get more negative reactions from the world around !
    Cameroun and Kerry dare expressible to oppose vlad the magnific !
    To keep his followers at home calm and obedient he only has the price of vodka to manover with . Is that enough to keep the russians happy in their datcha and not revolt when pensions are due at the end of the month.

    • Milton Devonair

      Wow, the four rings of the olympics over moscow……..

      • Michel Cloarec

        But I prefer this article “Pušilin: “DNI” is back in the Ukraine

        26.02.2015 14:09 Policy

        Speaker of the “people’s Council” of the “DNI” Denis Pušilin said that does not deny the possibility of the return of “Republic” in the Ukraine. This “Novorosiâ” NEWS AGENCY. The set of measures for implementation of the Minsk agreement prescribes the return of DNI. If Kyiv agrees and will be performed by all of the terms of a contract, such a return is possible, “said Pušilin during a round table in Rostov-on-Don.It should be reminded that the “head” of the “LNR” Igor Carpenter’s stated that “Republic” will never come back into the Ukraine.
        BEAUTIFUL !

        • Milton Devonair

          Just like the Iran-Iraq war–let them kill each other until they get tired of fighting.

  • Brent

    One other huge implication is how the rest of the World now views Putin and Russia They were invited into the G8 and WTO,and the West’ wanted them as a partner in business and which the U.S. was seeking to help end some of the world’s conflicts. Instead, they created a new larger conflict, poured gas on other conflicts (Syria and Iran) and spewed endless propaganda about how they do not want to be part of our World and blame us for the problems of their nation which have been their own doing. Kind of like a drunken trouble making neighbor who is not getting an invite to our next party…..

    • evanlarkspur

      I agree. The long-term effects of utter loss of trust in Russia and exposure of what one can expect from Russia will be far more profound and damaging than what we’ve seen so far. Russia has set itself back by 20+ years. Using your customers’ dependence on you as a supplier to blackmail them works in the short term- you do indeed have power. But you only have the power they entrusted to you by relying on you. And not only will they find another supplier as fast as possible to break your power over them, it will take DECADES for them to ever trust you again, much less ever allow you to hold a monopoly in supy over them. Russia was given enough rope to hang itself via Europe’s trust that Russia would be a reliable supplier with integrity. Putin obviously saw this trust as Lenin described it “they will give us enough rope to hang them with.” And Putin used it to hang Europe and Ukraine. But only in the short term. In the long term, his use of the rope hangs Russia, as his customers know now what to expect from him. He brought a gun to an economics fight. What will he do- threaten to nuc us all to get us to return to buying from him? He has backed himself into a corner by his fundamental misunderstanding of upon what Russia’s success rests. Even a regime change in Russia will not bring those customers back. It will take many years of painstaking work to rebuild the trust in doing business with russia that Putin has destroyed in just two or three. 2015 is a good year to invest in LNG, as all of Europe will be turning in that direction.

    • LorCanada

      Pootie has been kicked out of the G8 group. It is now G7.

  • Yurij Trytjak

    One more very important fact can be filed under ‘mistake’: the ‘Russian’ troops sent to fight in Ukraine are in large part other than Russians. They are from many outlying ethnic groups that have no great love for Russia and cannot be expected to fight wholeheartedly. This must be a large part of the reason that the Ukrainian side has been able to hold their own for so long as happened at the Donetsk airport, and able to beat back the assault on Mariupol.

  • Mazepa

    Ukraine DESTROYED the soviet union and it will also destroy the monkey mockal federation.
    However, lavrov will not live long enough to see this happen.

  • Charles J. Kollman

    There is no news on Russian news programs all is about Ukraine. Hey i got it right this time. Yet all know that there are things going on in Russia. I see there are many many people and panels of people of Russia on the internet. All claim to be experts on the matter of today and of Eastern Europe in the past. How they became experts and how they get their information only God knows. Yesterday there was a guy that said the ground of Ukraine is Russian. But he took this to his fact that the Baltic States Poland and Germany are also Russian ground. Shit my Great Grandparents come from Germany and now i find out that i am really Russian.When The Russians gave away Alaska to The US. did they hold a referendum for The Natives to vote on this transaction. Maybe like the collapse of The Soviet Union that some claim was illegal also was the giving away of Alaska and Alaska is still ground of Russia.Russia also had some settlements on the west coast of what now is USA. Maybe this ground is also Russian ground. I believe Russian people are good people and have a soul and are smart people. When it comes to politics and Russian propaganda of history they rank at the bottom. When the ethnic Russians except the fact Ukraine is a Sovereign Nation
    and not a step child of Russia things will start to change for the better. Again i ask if ethnic Russians don’t love living in Ukraine why they don’t go back to Mother Russia then all would be happy.

  • Jack McColley

    All tyrants eventually destroy their countries and themselves. Putin has pretty much accomplished both. His country is falling apart, and no one has any trust in him or any respect for him. Hearing him rant on about how powerful Russia is or how he will nuke anyone who opposses him is like the incoherent immature assertions of a maladjusted teenager.

  • Jack McColley

    All tyrants eventually destroy their countries and themselves. Putin has pretty much accomplished both. His country is falling apart, and no one has any trust in him or any respect for him. Hearing him rant on about how powerful Russia is or how he will nuke anyone who opposses him is like the incoherent immature assertions of a maladjusted teenager.

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    The West is starting to feel collective shame and embarassment regarding its
    CRIMINAL, TOTAL, UNCONDITIONAL, SURRENDER to the little putin… and it feels

    This seems to be the new strategic course the West is now taking:

    To hide its shame, guilt and cowardice it has now decided to blame Ukraine.

    In this way tossing Ukraine to russia no longer implies any cowardice or blame.
    Ukraine problem gone, hands washed, face saved and business deals proceed…

    This process is accelerating in the Westen media, where
    Ukraine is now being portrayed daily more and more brazenly as the culprit.

    • LorCanada

      I don’t agree. I know the ruskie trolls never miss the chance to denigrate Ukraine but we can see through their game of spouting Putin’s propaganda.

    • Milton Devonair

      A lot of us in America have been very embarassed since our leadership change in 08. When asked about russians invasion of Georgia, he said the uN security council should immediately take it up. [email protected] russia and china are permanent members, thus have veto power. It was then a lot of people in the US knew the world had no idea what was about to be unleashed upon them. Just thank goodness he’s only indifferent. If he acted, he’d scr*w that up, even worse.