ISW: Russian officials are promoting an information operation that falsely frames Russia’s war in Ukraine as existential to the continued existence of the Russian Federation
In an interview with TV channel Rossiya-1 on February 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that he does not know if “such an ethnic group as the Russian people can survive in the form in which it exists today” if the West succeeds in “destroying the Russian Federation and establishing control over its fragments.” ISW reports.
Putin accused the collective West of already having plans “set out on paper” for the destruction of the Russian Federation in its current form. Putin also remarked that Russia had to suspend its participation in the START treaty in order to ensure its strategic stability and security in the face of a concerted Western effort to use START to cripple Russia’s strategic prospects.
Putin began to set conditions for the perpetuation of this information operation in his speech to the Federal Assembly on February 21, where he blamed the collective West for using the war in Ukraine to threaten the existence of the Russian Federation.
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev invoked similarly existential sentiments in an essay entitled “Points of No Return” published on February 27 in which he accused the West of fueling the current situation in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union and concluded that “the calm power of our great country and the authority of its partners are the key to preserving the future of our entire world.”
Both Putin‘s and Medvedev’s statements engage with an information operation that frames the war in Ukraine as existential to the continued survival of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, which is likely an attempt to present the war as having higher stakes for Russia and the West than it actually does. Putin likely hopes to set informational conditions to accuse Ukraine and the West of threatening the survival of the Russian Federation in response to Russian military failures and Western support for Ukrainian victories. No prominent Western official has called for the dissolution of the Russian Federation, and Western leaders have been very careful to articulate their aims as being to enable Ukraine to liberate all its territory at most. Putin’s language is designed to fuel support for the war in Russia and stoke fears in the West of the instability that would follow the collapse of Russia to deter Western support to Ukraine and persuade the West to coerce Kyiv into accepting Russian demands.