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UK intel: Russia depicts its war in Ukraine as conflict with West, shifting rhetoric to excuse its failures

Framing the failing Ukraine invasion as a war with the collective West, Russia aims to prepare the domestic population for extended military losses and declines in economic conditions, per UK intelligence.
Soldiers Russian mobilization
Mobilized Russians. File photo: TASS
UK intel: Russia depicts its war in Ukraine as conflict with West, shifting rhetoric to excuse its failures

In its February 22 intelligence update, the UK Defense Ministry says Russia depicts its war in Ukraine as evolving into a direct conflict with the West, acknowledging extended “military operation” ahead to brace its population for losses and lowered economic conditions long-term.

For many years, Russia has been framing its war in Ukraine as a standoff with the West, portraying Ukraine as a tool of Western ambitions, lacking its own agency, while presenting itself as besieged by enemies and the foremost antifascist power due to its World War II sacrifices, thereby justifying its actions and rationalizing setbacks as part of a “proxy war” with Western powers.

The ministry wrote:

  • On 14 February 2024, Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that while the “special military operation began as an operation against Ukraine, over time it has taken on the form of a war against the collective West, a war when the countries of the collective West, led by the United States, are directly involved in this conflict.”
  • This is broadly consistent with a trend in Russian official rhetoric that seeks to excuse the length of the conflict, and scale of Russian losses through the depiction of the war as a direct conflict with the West.
  • Peskov went on to acknowledge that the ‘special military operation’ “may last a bit longer, but this can’t change the course of things.” This forms part of the Russian official narrative almost certainly aimed at situating the domestic population for a long-term conflict and the associated decline in domestic living standards, while providing reassurance of ultimate Russian victory.

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