Image: Weapons training near Kharkiv on Sunday: ‘The last few days have proved that Ukrainians definitely don’t want to live under a new Russian empire.’ Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP (The Guardian)
Less than a week into the war, it seems increasingly likely that Vladimir Putin is heading towards a historic defeat. He may win all the battles but lose the war. Putin’s dream of rebuilding the Russian empire has always rested on the lie that Ukraine isn’t a real nation, that Ukrainians aren’t a real people, and that the inhabitants of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv yearn for Moscow’s rule. That’s a complete lie – Ukraine is a nation with more than a thousand years of history, and Kyiv was already a major metropolis when Moscow was not even a village. But the Russian despot has told his lie so many times that he apparently believes it himself.
When planning the invasion of Ukraine, Putin could count on many known facts. He knew that militarily Russia dwarfs Ukraine. He knew that Nato would not send troops to help Ukraine. He knew that European dependence on Russian oil and gas would make countries like Germany hesitate about imposing stiff sanctions. Based on these known facts, his plan was to hit Ukraine hard and fast, decapitate its government, establish a puppet regime in Kyiv, and ride out the impotent rage of western sanctions.
The unknown fact!
- Yuval Noah Harari is a historian and author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- Courtesy of the Guardian.