“Paradoxes of Russia’s war against Ukraine: Can political science help?”, Yulia Kurnyshova and Andrey Makarychev (CIDOB, Barcelona)

The war against Ukraine launched by Vladimir Putin’s regime on February 24, 2022, from the very beginning raised multiple questions concerning its rationale and goals. Pundits from political science and international relations were tirelessly trying to discern the logic of the invasion and interpret Russia’s ultimate intentions. Not all these attempts were successful, and many questions –including one as simple as “What exactly does Putin want?”– still remain unanswered. 

Any rationalization of Russian aggression is an uneasy task for analysts, and the ongoing war is full of paradoxes. First, it seems paradoxical that Vladimir Putin was preparing for the war months before the invasion, but only a few analysts believed that the war was about to happen. When the aggression started, most of public figures and opinion makers, including think tankers, were shocked and for some time remained speechless.

One of the possible explanations of this phenomenon lies in the dominant perception of the Putin regime as largely performative, investing its limited resources mostly in the symbolic sphere full of groundless storytelling, disinformation and fake news. This school of thought assumes that social world consists of artificial phenomena (representations and appearances) produced by the industry of entertainment and consumed through the media, gaming, and advertisement; the ubiquity of simulacra (virtual, artificially created objects that generate interest and emotions) makes the borderline between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ blurred and uncertain.

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