The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, Oleksandr Lytvynenko wrote in an article for Interfax-Ukraine how the Kremlin views the Russian-Ukrainian war and what Russia’s objectives are for Russia, the West, Ukraine, and beyond. We offer a slightly adapted translation.
Putin’s global war
Putin believes that having failed to defeat Ukraine in three days in a full-scale war, the Kremlin has passed the point of no return in relations with the West. There is no going back; Putin can only triumphantly win or devastatingly lose.
He is convinced that Ukraine and the rest of the “historical Russian lands” can only be returned and the empire restored within the framework of a global redistribution of the world. Such a redistribution may last 10-15 years, be accompanied by conflicts of varying scale and intensity, possibly involving the use of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the war against Ukraine is currently seen by the Kremlin as an important but not the only front for Russia, which is actually waging a world war with the US and the West in general.
From this approach, four tasks that the Kremlin is currently solving follow.
Four objectives of Putin
Objective 1 – Ensure domestic stability, mobilize the populace and economy, increase military production.
The Kremlin is still ensuring economic stability and controllability of socio-political processes. The political field has been cleared: the liberal and ultra-right opposition (the so-called “turbopatriots”) has been destroyed or marginalized.
By 2026, the volume of military production in the Russian Federation must support large-scale high-intensity combat operations, and by 2028, Russia must restore the military capabilities it had as of 2022.
For this purpose, the Russian budget for 2024–2026 has been formed. As early as 2024, almost 40% of budget expenditures go to war (29.4% or over $100 billion to defense and 9.2% or $34 billion to law enforcement and special services); In 2025 – 35% ($93 billion and $35.5 billion, respectively), in 2026 – 30.5% ($80 billion and $37 billion, respectively). In 2023, these figures were 31.8% ($69.5 billion for defense and $35 billion for law enforcement and special services).
Objective 2 – form a coalition of states that would be an alternative to the West, a “coalition of the majority.”
This “Global South +” format is supposed to promote alternative Western models (political, economic, financial, humanitarian, value-based, etc.).
Russia’s goal in building a majority coalition is to “normalize the West,” turning it into just another region (Euro-Atlantic) with the prospect of Western countries further embedding into its regions (North America, Europe, East Asia), and the United States into just another leading world power. In their opinion, the West is a powerful yet retreating force.
To accomplish this Russia believes it must, in part through increased nuclear saber-rattling, break the West’s will to confront, convincing Western elites that they will lose unconditionally and should peacefully concede. Bolstering the military prowess of Russia, China, and other nations in this potential coalition would play a key role.
Ultimately, the Kremlin wants to force Western countries to choose between becoming an isolated fortress or joining the majority of the world community on Russia’s terms.
The confrontation between Russia and the West is seen as fundamental, not just geopolitical/geo-economic, but a clash of values.
At the same time, the outcome of Russia’s war against Ukraine is of global importance and will become a powerful impulse for changing the global balance in one direction or another.
While seeking to build an international alliance, Putin will court Russia’s Muslim populations, despite many ethnic Russians’ unease. The Kremlin allows Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov to publicly, extrajudicially execute a man accused of insulting the Quran.
Reviving Stalinist anti-Semitic traditions is also seen by the Kremlin as a tool for curry favor with pro-Palestinian camps. In a post-pogrom meeting with intelligence heads in Dagestan, Putin didn’t condemn anti-Semitism itself, but merely voiced dissatisfaction with its uncontrolled manifestations.
Objective 3 – Prepare future aggression against other countries.
Present priorities include Moldova and the Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia – the entire western swath of the former USSR. The Kremlin has already embarked on this. Pretexts involve alleged oppression of Russian-speakers (primarily Latvia and Estonia), with Moscow already crying foul over Baltic mistreatment of Russian-speakers, invoking linguistic groups’ right to self-determination.
In the wake of expelling Russian diplomat-spies, Russians are actively infiltrating European countries, especially southern nations, with their agents – creating businesses, NGOs, and more. Signs are emerging that infrastructure is being quietly established to enable large-scale subversive activities (an approach tested during the Soviet era).
Objective 4 – Fomenting conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Balkans.
Russia’s Middle East approaches are well-understood. However, Africa should not be overlooked. The public demotion of Prigozhin doesn’t signify the Kremlin has abandoned his African playbook.
Russia is forming an “expeditionary corps,” leveraging not only Wagner Group remnants, but Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, Foreign Intelligence Service, and FSB. Moscow has tested having pseudo-mercenaries coordinate closely with influential agent networks within local governments, paired with political consultants and spin-doctors (providing a political back-office). Together these aim to shape political landscapes across continents to suit Kremlin interests.
Moscow looks to capitalize on the West’s, and especially France’s, weakening influence in the Sahel and wider Africa – eying natural resources, undermining European access to uranium, oil, and gas by compromising trade partnerships.
Putin’s Ukrainian front
The goals remain unchanged. Putin wants to seize as much Ukrainian territory as possible, as Russians view reclaiming “ancestrally Russian lands” as a priority.
The war has entered a battle of attrition. Signs increasingly suggest the Kremlin is prepared to sustain conflict indefinitely:
- Russia already factors its “special military operation” into 2024-2025 armed forces personnel plans;
- The Kremlin believes it retains sufficient resources (military-technical, economic, human) to continue current Ukraine operations long-term. Moscow simultaneously insists Ukraine’s domestic resources are nearing total depletion;
- Following the FSB’s lead (who see undermining Western military, economic and political support as presently ineffective), the Kremlin plans a strategy change. They view catalyzing Ukraine’s internal destabilization as key to a Russian victory.
Three priority tasks have emerged:
- Pressure all along the front with capturing individual politically and media-significant locations, like Avdiivka;
- Winter strikes on critical infrastructure (power stations, oil refineries, transport hubs) to diminish quality of life;
- Undercut social cohesion by playing on military ambitions and stroking opposition political forces’ egos.
Russia’s goal is to foment a critical mass of discontent toward the current government within Ukraine. For Kremlin strategists, precisely who replaces today’s leadership is inconsequential. They reckon whoever takes power next will flounder, plunging Ukraine into chaos. Russia expects this tipping point, where the West not only withdraws assistance, but urgently petitions Moscow to negotiate a ceasefire.
Such are the thoughts and plans swirling in the Kremlin. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Ukraine battles for her freedom and that of all free nations. In due course, liberty shall defeat tyranny.