In a March 2 interview with Andrei Vandenko for Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency, President Vladimir Putin was asked about the condition of Russia’s army.
Asked who the Russian army would fight, Putin responded: “We are not going to fight against anyone. We are going to create conditions so that nobody wants to fight against us.”
This is highly misleading.
Putin initiated the military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and the subsequent aggression by Russian-backed forces Ukraine’s Donbas region. Although most of the latter territory was recovered by Kyiv, two major cities – Luhansk and Donetsk – remain in the hands of Russian proxies, and the Russian-Ukrainian border along these territories are controlled by Russia.
Also on the orders of Putin, the Russian military became directly involved in the conflict in Syria in 2015 and has since increased its activities there. In 2018, Russia’s Defense Ministry boasted that it had tested over 200 weapons systems on Syria’s battlefields.
United Nations investigators have suggested Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria by repeatedly bombing civilian targets indiscriminately. In 2019, Russia was blamed for the bombing of four hospitals within a 12-hour period.
Russia has also intervened in Libya’s civil war by supporting the Libyan National Army leader General Khalifa Haftar. As many as 200 Russian mercenaries are believed to be assisting and fighting alongside Haftar’s Libyan National Army against the Government of National Accord.
In Georgia, where Russia fought a five-day war in August 2008, Russian forces occupying the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been subtly moving those separatist territories’ border fences deeper into Georgian territory. This has led to cases like that of Data Vanishvili, who woke up to find his house no longer on the territory of his native country, Georgia.
All of these military adventures have taken place on Putin’s watch.