RIA Novosti observer Irina Alksnis in a column for Vz.ru claimed that Russia was not guided by historical attachment or a desire to regain areas previously governed by Russia. History has shown that Russia has not looked back after it sold Alaska and agreed to an independent Finland. In invading Ukraine, Russia was motivated by Realpolitik. Ukraine, as a failed state, posed a security threat and in addition offered Russia added bonuses in terms of demographic reinforcement, and an agricultural and industrial resource base. Russia is oblivious to being labeled an aggressor, and it prefers the cynical sincerity of great power politics over the globalist hypocrisy marketed by the West. If in the process of acting on its national interests, Russia is also reunited with some of its historic possessions, then so much the better.
Alksnis' column follows below:
Irina Alksnis (Source: Ukraina.ru)
"In 2014, my colleague visited Odessa for the first time. He returned absolutely smitten with the city, he was in love with it. He spoke almost exclusively in profanities about the 'wetback' Zapadency [i.e. people from Western regions of Ukraine], who had moved there, about the Kyiv authorities and Ukrainian statehood in general.
"And in general, he was sure that Russia should bring Ukraine back, simply because it was ours: Kyiv was the 'mother of Russian cities,' Donbass was the 'heart of Russia,' Nikolayev was the city of Russian shipbuilders, Odessa was 'Southern Palmyra,' Yekaterinoslav (Dnipro), Kharkiv, Kherson, Zaporozhye...
"There is nothing out of the ordinary in such a stance. On the contrary, such arguments are most often heard, when it comes to explaining why Russia needs [war in] Ukraine. [People argue] about three branches of the united Russian people, Little Russia and Novorossia being parts of greater Russia, the regional pearl that Russia established in the place of the Dyke Pole [Wild Fields], every strap of land of which is covered in the blood and sweat of our ancestors. This is ours, period.
"Emotionally, I believe, this resonates with the majority of Russians. But rationally, this point of view seems much less convincing. It works especially badly on representatives of the younger generations. For them, the separate existence of the Russian and Ukrainian states is the usual status quo, while the aforementioned arguments are just remote antiquity from the history textbooks, and bears no clear relation to the modern world.
"Finland, Alaska, and Central Asia were once part of Russia, and even California nearly became Russian land. Where does the divide pass between 'native Russian lands,' which must be necessarily returned to the country, and territories, the loss of which is not unfortunate and can even be considered a blessing?
"Where does such a boundary line run in Ukraine itself? Along the Dnipro, or westward (and if so how much further westward)? Professional and 'arm-chair' experts, prone to geopolitical romanticism, have dozens, if not hundreds of answers, most of which contradict each other.
"However, if one to scrutinize the situation without 'rose- tinted glasses,' it’s quite obvious that romantic and geopolitical revanchism is dangerous for the state. Poland is the clearest example of this. For centuries it has been unable to soothe the pains of a missed chance to become a great power and is frantically trying to 'return what’s belong to it.' Time after time this policy concluded in disaster for the country. Perhaps right now we are witnessing another attempt. Let’s see how it ends this time, but there is a strong suspicion that nothing good will come out of it.
"What’s more, it seems that Russia has repeatedly rebounded successfully from the defeats, tragedies, and disasters that befell it, not least because it has never been obsessed with the idea of regaining what was lost. The country put behind what was past and moved forward. And here is the paradox: as a result, it has often regained what seemed hopelessly lost.
"Naturally, geopolitical romanticism is familiar to us too, but the Russian state doesn’t construct its policies on that basis. For instance, some of the country’s leaders may well have shared dreams about the Hagia Sophia, or Russia's control over the [Black Sea] straits, but they built relations with Turkey based on the actual state of affairs, not on virtual ideological constructs.
"And this is, unconditionally, the correct approach. Ideology-driven approaches, nostalgia, and revanchism make for poor advisors and assistants in national policy. Historical memory and pride in the country's past are the cornerstones, on which we stand, but they should not determine the way we build our future.
"But then the question of 'why does Russia need Ukraine?' requires a different, more pragmatic and reality-anchored answer. And there is one, and a lot has been said about it as well, it’s just that these opinions have been voiced quietly. Thirty years ago, Russia let Ukraine go. It let it go, like many other things in its history as a grand gesture, without demanding compensation for colossal investments and without hiding a knife up its sleeve.
"Over the past decades, Kyiv has shown its failure as a state and, even worse, has allowed the West to turn it into a threat towards Russia. This threat, as recent months have demonstrated, isn’t an illusory one at all and, in fact, is rather impressive. Thus we were simply obliged (like any force with a working instinct for self-preservation) to exercise our right to defend ourselves. And this we did.
"Furthermore, the Ukrainian bundle includes a large number of additional, but most serious, bonuses. First, people [of Ukraine], many of whom are culturally and mentally close to Russians. Considering our demographic problems, this is a valuable acquisition.
"Second, the industrial potential, which is, naturally, greatly degraded, but by virtue of its origin can fit perfectly with Russian industry complex. Third, natural resources, including valuable black earth. There are also the fourth, fifth, sixth and so on. All these gains are calculated under a sober assessment by Moscow that it will be able to afford the necessary financial and other expenditures. So, no romantic nostalgia."
Fertile black earth region (Source: Obrazovaka.ru)
"In response, of course, Russia can be and is being accused of great-power chauvinism, imperialism, aggression, and so on. But as Sergei Lavrov accurately put it, 'Russia is not white and fluffy. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed to show ourselves for who we are.'
"In addition, the days of globalist hypocrisy and lies which took a form of 'humanitarian bombings' and [Colin] Powell's test tubes are becoming a thing of the past. Big-time politics is slowly returning to its traditional cynical sincerity. We are setting an example for the world here, too. As for Ukraine... Russia gave it not just a chance, but carte blanche and the sweetest conditions for independent state-building. It didn’t work out.
"So, now Moscow does what it deems necessary and profitable. And the fact that thereby we are also reclaiming what is ours, is a heart-warming add-on. What else belongs to us, time will tell."
 Vz.ru, June 20, 2024.