Conflicts have been a part of human existence since times immemorial. Every conflict has its origins in the psychology of leaders. An analysis of the causes of the Ukraine conflict requires a clear understanding of the worldview of Mr. Putin to discern what caused him to declare war on a neighboring country.
President Putin is a believer in the balance of power politics. He considers the states around Russia and the Baltics to be Russia's traditional sphere of influence. At the 2007 Munich Security Conference, President Putin opposed American unipolarity, stating his clear objections to NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.
President Putin's views on Ukraine can be understood in a long and historically misplaced article he wrote where he proclaimed the unity of the Russian and Ukrainian people. A vision of a Russian empire and a Russian sphere of influence is embedded in his mindset.
In 2008 he punished Georgia for a desire to leave the orbit of Russian influence. In 2014 he pursued this again, having annexed Crimea.
A thorough analysis of his speech declaring an attack on Ukraine explains his insecurity and victimhood where he sees Russia as the victim of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Western hubris.
President Putin considers the NATO expansion to the east as a worsening and more dangerous act every passing year. In recent months the leadership of NATO openly talking about the need to speed up the alliance's infrastructure to the borders of Russia appeared to him an existential threat that he could no longer watch passively.
The problem, as he stated, is not NATO itself; but that in the territories adjacent to Russia, which historically belonged to Russia, he witnesses forces hostile to Russia being created and supported by the West, coupled with the armed forces of NATO countries around Russia, along with weapons being supplied.
He views this as the United States and its allies pursuing a containment policy for clear geopolitical rewards. For him, this is ultimately an existential matter of the historical future of the Russians as a people and a real threat not just to Russian interests but to the very existence of the Russian state. Therefore, as a countermeasure, the Russian state must pursue the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine and take immediate and decisive military action.
Kirby, P., 2022. Why has Russia invaded Ukraine and what does Putin want?. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589> [Accessed 28 April 2022].