Amid a staunch and passionate defense that has slowed the Russian advance to Kiev and global condemnation, Vladimir Putin’s motivation for invading has been subject to speculation: Just what does he hope to achieve by war in Ukraine?
Some have argued that Putin was responding to NATO expansion or was driven by a compelling sense of Russian nationalism. Others maintain he saw an opportunity to revive Cold War Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Still others claim he is simply delusional, an oligarch divorced from reality.
But what if Putin’s decision to invade was based partly on a commonly held assumption that offensive wars of choice, more often than not, will deliver?
It’s worth evaluating if this war is as much about local and regional questions over who controls the eastern Ukraine Donbas region as it is about an unquestioning faith that using armed force is the surest path to achieving one’s political aims.
Some U.S. foreign policy analysts, like the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, contend that American support of NATO’s eastward expansion is just as important in explaining the current crisis in Ukraine.
But as a military historian who served in the U.S. Army for 26 years, I believe a more fundamental question is why policymakers, not just in Russia, have so much faith in war when even small miscalculations can lead so easily to disaster.
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