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UkraineAlert Editor at Atlantic Council

Peter Dickinson

To Putin independent Ukraine poses an existential threat

There was (and remains) a lack of understanding in most Western capitals over the strength of Putin’s obsession with Ukraine.

He firmly believes that Ukraine has been artificially separated from Russia and sees the emergence of a democratic, European Ukraine as a deliberate attempt to spark the next stage of a Russian imperial retreat which began in 1989. In other words, Putin is convinced that preventing the loss of Ukraine is a matter of existential importance for the survival of the Russian state.

Involvement during Russia’s war against Ukraine

Peter Dickinson holds an active civic position, trying to raise awareness on the current state of affairs in Ukraine, giving special attention to the influence and affects of the military actions in Ukraine both on a local and global levels.

Not many countries, including European ones, seemed to expect that Russia would really invade Ukraine. How could you explain this given the track record of Russian military activities in other countries?

Despite the widespread availability of highly accurate intelligence reports regarding Putin’s intention to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a mood of widespread scepticism prevailed right up until 24 February. This was true in Ukraine and in Western capitals. Indeed, the available information strongly indicates that very few members of the Russian establishment felt an invasion was imminent. This scepticism was primarily rooted in the assumption that a full-scale invasion would be disastrous for Russia.

What was the reason for other states to perceive Ukraine as a victim that would not stand against Russia in the first days of the invasion? What went wrong with the Ukrainian brand image in the past, and what lessons can be taken out of this?

Prior to the invasion, Ukraine was probably the most misunderstood country in Europe. Almost all international media coverage of Ukraine since the country first became independent in 1991 was produced by Moscow correspondents whose reports frequently served to perpetuate common Russian stereotypes and negative perceptions of Ukraine. Successive Ukrainian governments neglected the country’s international image and little was ever done to establish a Ukrainian brand among outside audiences.