What Are Putin’s Objectives in Ukraine?

I have seen multiple claims that Putin’s objective in Ukraine is to conquer and occupy the country and incorporate it into Russia. Putin himself has repeatedly said that his objectives in Ukraine are to demilitarize it and “de-Nazify” it whatever that means.

I tend to agree with John Mearsheimer: Putin’s objectives are to in Dr. Mearsheimer’s words “wreck” Ukraine.

What are Putin’s objectives in Ukraine? Please provide evidence for your claims.

12 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    I cannot believe that you do not know what “denazify” means. Azov Brigade, Right Sektor et al. are neonazi movements that actually dominate Ukrainian politics, despite the fact they only got 1% of the vote when Zelensky ran for President on a peace platform. Their influence is so broad that many regular Ukrainian troops sport swastikas, SS lightening bolts, SS Death’s Head, black sun and other Nazi symbols. [Naziism and other fascist movements were very popular throughout Europe in the 30’s and 40’s.]

    The connection between Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian ultranationalist, and the German Nazis of the 30’s and 40’s is well-documented. Banderista militias were allies of the Germans, and fought alongside them against the Red Army. [So did French, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, Italian and other European troops]

    The problem with Russia’s goals is that they have changed. The initial incursion apparently was intended to force implementation of the Minsk agreements, viz.:



    A tentative agreement was reached in March 2022 at Istanbul. The agreement would have ceded Crimea to Russia, but kept the secessionist provinces in Ukraine. The US/UK sent Boris Johnson to Kiev to force Zelensky to reject it.

    That’s now off the table, and evidently Russia intends to annex some of Ukraine. The annexed territories would appear to include at least Donetsk, Kherson, and Luhansk, all of which have held referenda to join the Russian Federation. However, Medvedev, playing bad cop, has repeated said that Kiev and Odessa are Russian cities, so how much territory Russia will annex is vague.

    There is no question that Russia has the power to annex some or even all of Ukraine. There are persistent rumors that Poland, Hungary, and Romania want their former territories now in western Ukraine to be returned. Putin has hinted that is possible.

    This needless war began when the Obama administration [your favorite] organized the coup d’état in February 2014 that overthrew the legitimate, democratically elected government of Ukraine and that installed the current Nazi-dominated regime. This is actually a US/NATO war against the Ukrainian people.

    By the way, stop attributing the war to Putin. He is not a dictator. He is not Stalin. He is the leader of a majority political party that runs Russia and the war. Public opinion polls indicate that Putin and the war on Ukraine have the support of some 80% of the Russian people.

    If Putin were to go away today, tomorrow there would be a Russian ultranationalist in the Presidency, and the war would likely be expanded beyond Ukraine.

  • I think that “de-Nazify” is used with multiple meanings. One of the meaning is what you described: actual Nazis or neo-Nazis but the other refers to ethnic Ukrainian nationalists.

    The agreement would have ceded Crimea to Russia, but kept the secessionist provinces in Ukraine. The US/UK sent Boris Johnson to Kiev to force Zelensky to reject it.

    IMO that was one of the biggest boners of the conflict whoever deserves the blame. Crimea has never had a majority ethnic Ukrainian population. Furthermore, it’s of such enduring strategic and symbolic importance to Russia I can’t imagine that anyone who was even marginally knowledgeable could fail to realize that insisting on its return to Ukraine was simply a non-starter from the Russian point of view.

    I also think there’s a common misunderstanding of how the Ukrainian government’s acceptance of the Azov Battalion militia provided evidence of the Nazis Putin has been complaining about.

    IMO the complaints about the Wagner Group are legitimate but equally legitimate are complaints about the Azov Battalion.

  • If Putin were to go away today, tomorrow there would be a Russian ultranationalist in the Presidency, and the war would likely be expanded beyond Ukraine.

    I’ve made the same point myself in the past. The reason that Putin remains popular is that he’s doing things that a lot of Russians agree with. Many American commentators can’t bring themselves to believe that.

  • Andy Link

    In the Russian context, de-nazify means removing all anti-Russian political elements. Yes, that includes Azov and the other overtly Nazi-facing elements, but it’s much bigger than that. Russians (and Ukrainians) still have a lot of bad blood from WW2, and Russians consider the “Orange” political elements in Ukraine as Nazi sympathizers at best.

    My view is that Putin wants to make Ukraine a client state – basically make it like Belarus. The initial military strategy for a quick decapitation operation to topple the government supports this thesis.

    Since that is now off the table for the foreseeable future, I think Russia wants to cement its de jure annexation of Crimea and the Donbas as the minimum war goal. That too, seems aspirational at present.

    I continue to think that neither side is able to achieve its goals. This year Russia will have a distinct military advantage, but as this war has shown, actual operations strongly favor the defense. The Russians finally took the small Avdiivka salient after a huge loss of life and material. Like King Pyrrhus, they cannot afford many such victories.

  • steve Link

    Query- Does Crimean never having mostly Ukrainians account for the millions of Ukrainians killed and deported in the 30s and 40s (and earlier) and replaced by Russians?


    People who dont live in Ukraine forget how badly they were treated when Russia ruled them. Agree with Andy that Nazi just means people who oppose Russia. A few are Nazis but they arent taking over the country and running stuff. The did have some support in the 30s and 40s because they did fight the Russians.

    Anyway, that is all nonsense. Putin wants to spread the empire. He has lost some client states, whose economies are much stronger after leaving the Russian sphere, and he cant afford to have the same thing happen with Ukraine which was trying to leave their influence. He needs client states who he can force to buy Russian goods and energy.


  • Never means never. There were relatively few ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea at the time of the 1926 and even fewer at the time of the 1939 census. Russians outnumbered Ukrainians 4:1 in 1926 and 5:1 in 1939. Even fewer in 1850. In the 1795 census Russians outnumbered Ukrainians in Crimea 3:1. There were more Jews in Crimea in 1795 than Ukrainians.

    The ones who really have a legitimate gripe about the Russification of Crimea are the Crimean Tatars who don’t like either the Russians or the Ukrainians very much.

  • Andy Link

    As Dave notes, Crimea was never Ukrainian in any real sense from an ethnic or cultural standpoint. The reason it became part of Ukraine at the fall of the USSR was only because it was administratively moved to the Ukrainian SSR in the 1950’s so that it would attached to the important industrial Donbas region. For better or worse, those internal administrative borders are what became the international borders after the USSR fell apart.

    Historically, this kind of thing isn’t unusual. The Middle East is filled with artificial borders that were administrative organizations of now-defunct empires or were drawn by colonial powers for reasons other than natural, cultural, and social geography.

    You can also look at Western Ukraine, such as the city of Lviv and the surrounding region. This was a Polish city and region before WWII that the USSR annexed after the war. Most Polish residents were “repatriated” to the new borders of Poland, which were not drawn with Poland’s consent.

    I think if there were still a huge Polish population there, we would see some tension between those two countries.

    As much as we might not like to admit it, repatriation and ethnic cleansing can work in the long term. After WW2, there was a lot of that going on – particularly with the Germans, to ensure there would be no claims on foreign territory due to the populations living there, and that has, I think, helped contribute to stability in Europe.

  • steve Link

    So ethnic Russians have been a majority for a relatively short historical period and largely because they have removed or killed others like the Tatars. Got it.


  • That’s what I said. And ethnic Ukrainians have never been a majority in Crimea.

  • Andy Link

    “So ethnic Russians have been a majority for a relatively short historical period and largely because they have removed or killed others like the Tatars. Got it.”

    And the Ukrainians are the ethnic majority in western Ukraine because Stalin and Ukrainian insurgents helpfully purged the Poles from the area.

    This has been what’s been going on across this region for a very long time – conquering, displacement, ethnic cleansing, rinse and repeat. It’s also why the Balkans is such a mess.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    If you read the transcripts of Carlson’s interview with Putin; Putin lays it out pretty clearly.

    Its to enforce the redline on eastward expansion of NATO; and to prevent Ukraine from being used as a subversive or overt weapon again Russia.

    The other aim is to protect the Russophone population in Ukraine from an illegitimate regime in Kiev/Kyiv.

    One may disagree vehemently on the legitimacy of those objectives; but it is the Russian point of view.

  • Those are both objectives I have been pointing out as Russian national interests for years, maybe decades. Said another way they’re not exactly state secrets.

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