NATO’s expansion as a fig leaf for Putin’s true obsession

Our crazy times forge strange alliances. Pope Francis claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “provoked”. With this opinion, he joins the company of left-wing intellectuals like Sahra Wagenknecht and right-wing populists like Alice Weidel. Who could only have imagined that these radically different people would join their forces, spreading the idea that NATO and its expansion are to blame for the “special military operation”?

Here is some basic corpus evidence that NATO’s expansion is nothing but a fig leaf covering up Russia’s own imperialist lust. I collected a corpus of about 850 speeches and public addresses made by Putin since May 2012, when he became the President of Russia after his placeholder Medvedev. I computed the frequencies of all countries, plus some organizations, such as NATO, the EU and the UN, for every year.

The figure below shows the frequencies (per thousand words) of the most popular names, except for Russia itself. Ukraine is by far the most frequently mentioned foreign country in 2022. It was also the leader in 2014, when the Euromaidan revolution took place and President Yanukovych fled to Russia, leaving his personal zoo and other valuables behind. As a reaction, Russia stole the Crimea and started the long-lasting conflict in Donbass.

Frequency of countries and global organizations in Putin’s speeches.

As the world’s most important superpowers, the USA and China are among the top most frequent countries. This is not surprising. Since 2015, Russia has been engaged in the Syrian conflict, hence the high frequencies of Syria in 2015-2017. The lower frequencies of all foreign countries in 2020 and 2021 are most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created many internal challenges.

But most importantly, NATO was not terribly prominent in Putin’s speeches until this year. This means that Putin did not consider NATO life-threatening all this time – not even in 2014, when Ukraine first seriously demonstrated its pro-Western ambitions. NATO’s expansion is an excuse, both for internal consumption, and for anti-establishment and nationalist forces across the globe. It has the same function as the so-called “denazification” of Ukraine, which, by the way, was forgotten quite soon after the invasion, as I showed in this post. Putin’s almost indifferent reaction to Finland and Sweden joining NATO is yet another proof of that. The fact is, Putin’s true and only obsession is Ukraine. He is like an abusive ex-husband, who cannot let his ex-wife go and live her own life.

3 thoughts on “NATO’s expansion as a fig leaf for Putin’s true obsession

  1. Some intellectuals have a wishful thinking that Russia is the good counterbalance to evil USA.
    What bothers me is that these people seem ignore the right of countries to choose their alliance.

    Liked by 1 person

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